Imperial Dreams and Colonial Realities: British Views of Canada 1880-1914
Published by: University of Toronto Press
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Sales Date: 1988-12-15
Published: December 1988
278 Pages, 6.14 x 9.21 in
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In the Age of New Imperialism, Canada figured prominently in British imperial dreams and public debate. She was, after all, 'the eldest daughter of the Empire,' a favourite destination for emigrants, and still new enough to be interesting to explorers and adventurers. At the same time, she was becoming proudly independent, and in a constant state of dalliance with her vibrant neighbour to the south. British journals such as Fortnightly Review and Nineteenth Century carried hundreds of articles on the colony, British travellers such as R.M. Ballantyne wrong voluminously about it, and politicians like Disraeli and Gladstone debated its future.
The nine stereotypical British views presented here show how great was the gulf between imperially motivated illusions and harsh Canadian realities. Juvenile readers, raised on the Boy's Own Paper and Chums, pictured Canada as a 'wild and woolly West'; aristocratic hunters, like the Earl of Dunraven, saw mainly a 'sportsman's paradise'; those who read emigration literature were led to expect a rosy future of wealth and comfort. Other Britons were fascinated by 'quaint Quebec' and by the 'noble red man,' while still others saw the country as a place to invest or own a farm of one's own. Canada also appeared as a land badly in need of the culture and refinement an Englishwoman could impart, though in reality she often ended up as a domestic servant.
Using a vast array of sources, including such long-lost treasures as 'Castaways in the Frozen North' and ‘The Silk-robed Cow,’ R.G. Moyles and Doug Owram explore the British idea of Canada in the heyday of empire. They discover close links between the romantic images and the British ideal of imperialism, the dream of a vast empire steeped in British tradition and Christian values. At the root of the stereotypes lie questions of imperial unity, colonial loyalty, emigration policy, and Canadian independence.
Moyles and Owram present an entertaining series of misimpressions and moralistic condescension. They tell us much about the power of the imperial dream and the gap between truth and rhetoric.