Ontario Since Confederation: A Reader
Terry A. Crowley is a professor of history at the University of Guelph,
and the former editor of the journal, Ontario History. He is the author
of Agnes Macphail and the Politics of Equality and Canadian History to
1967, and the co-author of The College o
This hefty volume on Ontario’s history reveals the variety of locales
in which contemporary historians labor and the impact that women
historians are having on the discipline. It is concerned less with
Ontario as a province or region and more with Ontario as a place in
which people have forged their identities as they lived their lives. The
book focuses on women, the family, minorities, and ethnic groups.
Politics receives scant attention, while economic history is ignored.
There is little on Northern Ontario apart from an article on Aboriginal
lands and natural resource exploitation.
The theme of state and society that the editors have taken as their
organizing idea is sufficiently broad to accommodate diversity. Articles
deal with women in agriculture, African-Canadian women, lesbians, and
sex education in relation to unwanted pregnancy in Toronto during the
1970s. The family is examined through contributions on Victorian
middle-class manners and morals, maternal and child medical welfare,
assistance to disabled World War I veterans, illegitimate children, the
Depression, and the recreation movement in Brantford after 1945. Ethnic
groups are represented through essays on discrimination against Chinese
Ontarians and petroleum development at the Wikwemikong First Nation.
Politics enters through studies of the rhetoric of skilled Anglo-Saxon
workingmen during the 1870s, Liberal premier Oliver Mowat and patronage,
and the Ontario CCF. The state apparatus is covered in articles on the
family and public institutions during the Victorian era, education
during the 1890s, controlling sewage to improve Great Lakes water
quality in the 1950s, and the poverty debate after World War II.
This volume allows readers to think about the ways in which the state
and its functions have developed and altered since Confederation.
(Unfortunately, this focus is too often viewed only from the vantage of
white Southern Ontarians.) Like most thought-provoking books, it raises
more questions than it answers.