By the Road: Fordism, Automobility, and Landscape Experience in the British Columbia Interior, 1920-1970

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Bradley, Ben
Canada , Roads , Automobile , Automobility , Landscape , Modernity , British Columbia , Environment , Public History , Fordism
This dissertation examines how popular experiences of nature and history in the British Columbia Interior were structured by automobility – the system of objects, spaces, images, and practices that surrounded private automobiles and public roads. The Fordist state poured massive resources into the provincial road network during the period 1920 to 1970, and in the process created new possibilities for leisure and for profit. Motoring was a new, very modern way of experiencing BC, and also an important economic engine. Making the province’s highways and the landscapes that were visible alongside them look appealing to the motoring public became a matter of concern for many different parties. Boosters, businesses, and tourism promoters who stood to benefit from increased automobile travel often cultivated roadside attractions and lobbied the state to do the same. Starting in the early 1940s, the provincial government established numerous parks along the Interior highway network: the two examined here are Manning and Hamber parks. Beginning in the late 1950s it did the same with historical sites: Barkerville, Fort Steele, and several others are examined here. These and other parks and historic sites were established, developed, and managed as roadside amenities, and were used to deliver lessons about nature and history to the motoring public ‘by the road.’ Drawing on a wide range of examples from across the BC Interior, including both successes and failures, this thesis examines how the motoring public’s common landscape experiences were shaped by state-built infrastructure and by various groups’ efforts to manage, manipulate, and modify the landscapes that were visible by the road.
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