Colonization and Community: The Vancouver Island Coalfield and the Making of the British Columbian Working Class


320 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-2402-9
DDC 971.1'203




Reviewed by Ann Turner

Ann Turner is the financial and budget manager of the University of
British Columbia Library.


This scholarly study of immigration to the Nanaimo area in the latter
half of the 19th century examines the living and working conditions of
the expatriate British coal miners both before and after they left the
old country for the promise of the new world. Why did they leave
Britain? Did their subsequent life in one of Britain’s most remote
colonies meet or disappoint their expectations? What standards, beliefs,
and traditions did they bring with them, and how did these influence the
evolving working-class culture in the colony even up to the present day?

To answer these questions the author has done considerable original
research in the archival records of the period and produced new
compilations of statistical and demographic data to inform his
conclusions. He presents a vivid picture of the workplace and home lives
of the workers and their families in the colony, including their
economic hardships and ongoing clashes with government and corporate
authority, the church, the Native population, and other immigrant
groups. Extensive endnotes identify sources and provide additional
detail. The author’s systematic approach to the questions surrounding
the Nanaimo immigrant workers contributes to migration studies in
general, and adds insight and new quantitative information to the social
and economic history of British Columbia.


Belshaw, John Douglas., “Colonization and Community: The Vancouver Island Coalfield and the Making of the British Columbian Working Class,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,