Canada and the End of Empire


328 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-0915-9
DDC 971.06





Edited by Phillip Buckner
Reviewed by John R. Abbott

John Abbott is a professor of history at Laurentian University’s Algoma University College. He is the co-author of The Border at Sault Ste Marie and The History of Fort St. Joseph.


Fad and fashion drive the research interests of historians as surely as
they dictate the outfits that models flaunt on the runways of Paris, New
York, and Milan. While it matters very little whether bared knees or
ample bosoms are in or out, it matters a great deal when scholars choose
to ignore an elemental feature of Canadian political culture because
they find it irrelevant, socially unprogressive, or politically
incorrect. As late as the mid-1960s, most English-speaking Canadians
assumed that Canada was part of “Greater Britain” and therefore a
“British nation.” The majority of these found this both a
comfortable and a comforting situation. Now, within the space of two
generations, that is no longer the case. This singular assemblage of
essays in recent imperial history, skilfully introduced and edited by
Phillip Buckner, examines the contexts and causes of this significant
but largely ignored alteration in the nature of Canadian political
culture during the decades following 1945.

Eighteen historical pathologists probed the entrails of this imperial
cadaver and submitted their conclusions. When did it die? What was its
relationship with its “mother” in the decades before death? What
roles did the Suez Crisis, Britain’s dalliance with Europe,
Anglo–Canadian economic friction, America’s low-key but omnipresent
antipathy toward the imperial connection and her powerful cultural and
economic magnetism, curriculum changes in the schools, the definition of
Canadian citizenship, the elimination of monarchical symbols, and the
adoption of the maple leaf flag individually and collectively play in
terminating Canada’s existence as a British nation?

For many English-speaking Canadians 60 and over, the answers offered by
the contributors illuminate the very texts of their lives, and help to
explain why they lost the world that they treasured. For their children
and grandchildren, Buckner’s volume offers an opportunity to
understand why the same old people can be so inexplicably quaint,
irritating, and passionate about matters that seem no longer to matter.


“Canada and the End of Empire,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,