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Happy Canada Day to our friends across the border! And for our American readers who may not be aware, Canada Day, celebrated on July 1st, marks that date Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada were united into a single country in 1867. The Constitution Act granted Canada a great deal of autonomy and independence, but it did not become fully independent until 1982, the same year July 1st became the official holiday. Canada Day celebrations would not become popular or widespread in Canada until the early twentieth-century, evidence of Canadians’ complex and fascinating issues of identity and memory. Several Khronikos bloggers have explored these issues from the perspective of American historians and we offer those posts to you again in celebration of Canada Day.
During a recent trip to Ottawa, Laura Secord was simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. Although firmly enshrined a the heroine of the War of 1812 for her role at the Battle of Beaver Dams, the true Laura Secord is hard to find. Although most easily recognized as a purveyor of fine chocolates, in the Canadian capitol celebrating the bicentennial of the War of 1812, Secord’s image is everywhere. Throughout the capital, banners hang from street signs commemorating each of the provinces, Queen Elizabeth’s jubilee, and the heroes of the War of 1812. Laura Secord and Queen Elizabeth II are the only women included. At the Canadian War Museum, Secord is the lone women amongst the relics of manly conflict, including the tunic Isaac Brock expired in, a piece of the charred White House, and various weapons. Like Dolley Madison in the United States, Laura Secord has become the token women of the War of 1812 in Canada.
Memory and Identity in the Legacy of the War of 1812: National Identity and Historical Memory, Rachel A. Snell
The legacy of the American Revolution is essential to understanding late nineteenth and early twentieth century constructions of national identity in English Canada. Historians often fail to remember that the American Revolution created not one nation, but two. The Loyalists who fled the American republican experiment in the 1770s and 1780s provided a foundation for the development of later Canadian national identity that would be based on Canada’s relationship with Great Britain. In English Canada, this Loyalist influence created “bastions of a British North American identity built on the precepts of Loyalism: strong support for the Crown and British institutions, and a rejection of American republicanism.” The durability of this national identity is proven by its longevity. Into the early twentieth century, many Canadians defined their national selves based on their relationship with Great Britain.
Memory and Identity in the Legacy of the War of 1812: Defining National Identity for Canadian Women, Rachel A. Snell
Women “have no past, no history . . .” penned Simone de Beauvoir in 1949 in a statement that revealed a basic truth about the study of the past. The efforts by women in both English Canada and the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century suggest the significance of history in defining national identity. In both countries, where popular historical memory of the past shaped definitions of national identity, the exclusion of women from historical narratives justified women’s limited public role. The relationship between history and identity forced women who sought a more public role to seek ways to insert women into the historical narrative. These efforts, including the rediscovery and rehabilitation of Laura Secord as a feminine counterpart to Isaac Brock’s sacrifice and loyalty in Canada and the efforts to establish continuity with figures such as Betsy Ross and Dolley Madison in the United States, emphasized women who made historical contributions without overstepping their womanly duties as wives and mothers. As women at the turn of the century increasingly sought a more public role in both Canadian and American society, these figures that elevated women without threatening men were essential. As women sought to increasingly extend women’s appropriate public action, the actions of their foremothers legitimated those activities.
To study borders and their associated borderlands is to be constantly reexamining not just the shifting locations of boundaries but also their ever-changing meanings for the people and places affected by them. While the maintenance of precise borderlines is an important part of defining the modern nation state as we know it, the boundaries between empires in the eighteenth century were much more hazy. Despite the lack of any clear line on a map, the proximity and crossings between empires could yield dramatic consequences not only for imperial officials but also for the everyday lives of ordinary colonists. The French raid on Saratoga, which occurred in November 1745 during the War of the Austrian Succession (or King George’s War) provides a case study for the ways in which the meaning of borders could quickly change (or even end) the lives of those along them.
The “borderlands” concept has been one of the most exciting and promising trends in the field of history in recent years. While much historical work has been done that takes national boundaries as a given, a recent wave of scholarship has focused on people, regions, economies, culture, and politics that transcend one or more national boundaries. The subjects of these studies literally cross borders. This two part series examines the migration and settlement of Mormons north of the American border in the frontier region of southeastern Alberta in the closing years of the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth century. It explores the reasons why people crossed borders, how such borders were perceived, and the persisting ties between people on either side of the forty-ninth parallel.
On November 4, 1779, Irish men and women gathered at College Green in Dublin to celebrate the birthday of King William III. The event was traditionally commemorated with parades, illuminations, speeches, and toasts; this year, the celebration featured a demonstration by the newly formed Irish Volunteer militia. The Volunteers, raised to take the place of British forces engaged with colonial rebels in North America, marched, fired weapons, and hung signs expressing radical political demands on William’s statue at College Green. The demonstrations of November fourth represented the beginning of the Irish Volunteers’ significant role in the struggle for Irish political rights within the British Empire between 1779 and 1785. During this period, Volunteers supported radical Irish politicians to win trade concessions, as well as a degree of legislative independence, from the British Parliament and King George III. The Irish revolutionary struggle must be understood within the context of the American Revolution. As many historians have documented, the Irish revolutionaries were certainly influenced by the example of the Americans, and the interest was not one-sided. The portrayal of the Irish Volunteer movement in Massachusetts newspapers from 1780 to 1785 illuminates the unity of purpose revolutionaries across the Atlantic felt as free citizens of the world.
More information about the history and celebration of Canada Day can be found here.
Image Credit: www.canada-day.ca