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Reviewed by:
  • 'A Happy Holiday': English Canadians and Transatlantic Tourism, 1870-1930
  • Jane Nicholas (bio)
Cecilia Morgan . 'A Happy Holiday': English Canadians and Transatlantic Tourism, 1870-1930. University of Toronto Press. xxiv, 462. $90.00, $37.95

In this richly detailed and finely argued book, Cecilia Morgan reveals the intersections of identity, nation, and empire in English (and largely Protestant) Canadians' experiences with transatlantic tourism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Morgan argues that tourism is 'useful in exploring a range of issues, the most central and recurring one being the role it played in forging and sharpening middle-class identities and perceptions.' Morgan is careful, however, to tease out the fractured nature of this group's identity along gender, race, class, and regional lines, and pays close attention to ambivalences. The intersections of gender and other aspects of identity are especially well documented. Male tourists, for example, more frequently ventured into London's East End where they gazed upon the English working classes and reaffirmed their own classed and racialized identities, although women were not wholly excluded from these activities on East End streets. Morgan also notes that women could perform the lost, solo female tourist and appeal to masculine authority for assistance, while simultaneously revealing a distinct sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency in their travels and writing.

Despite the multiplicity of reactions to various places and sites among tourists, overseas travel, especially to Britain, provided this privileged group of Canadians an opportunity to contemplate wider issues of identity, nation, and empire as modern subjects. In a section on imperial pageants, for example, Morgan contrasts the experiences of two Canadians, one who brims with optimism thinking about the events, while another experiences an acute sense of disappointment watching the 1911 Festival of Empire parade. Experiences were just as varied inside the Crystal Palace where the Canadian exhibits could be satisfying [End Page 591] or disconcerting in their representation of Indigenous performers or portrayal of aspects of the Canadian landscape. More than just events, however, Morgan shows how these experiences and reactions formed an important avenue where travellers could reflect upon, criticize, and potentially shore up modern subjectivities. Embroidered with first-person accounts from almost fifty unpublished sources, including travel diaries and letters home, as well as published reports appearing in Canadian newspapers and periodicals, Morgan's 'A Happy Holiday' teases out aspects of the sensuous history of tourism - what travellers saw, smelled, heard, and even tasted. This forms part of what Morgan calls the 'theatre of tourism,' which engages with the performance of tourism and the sensuous pleasures (and perils) tourists encountered, from theatres and shopping to the experience of London traffic and 'noisy' Italian cities. Taken together, then, Morgan's study of tourism is also about modernity and how English Canadians sought to make sense of their typically welcomed, but often dislocating, experiences with it. Travellers found that their overseas experiences could challenge or confirm their stereotypes about other people (the English working class, orphans, and 'degraded' European women, for example) as well as their own notions of Canadian or imperial progress. As English-Canadian men and women maintained and eschewed stereotypes about the people and places they visited, they often found themselves confronted as (and sometimes offended by) being seen as 'colonial cousins' unable to meet white, British, middle-class standards. Despite, perhaps, feeling a sense of belonging to a great 'white' empire, travellers were often confronted with contradictions and disappointments, and these are well documented throughout the book.

'A Happy Holiday' is divided into nine chapters organized by destination, theme, and chronology. The first eight deal with transatlantic tourism to places in Great Britain and Western Europe from the 1870s to the First World War. The ninth chapter discusses the changes and continuities in English Canadians' experiences overseas in the 1920s. Although Morgan finds the balance in favour of continuity in the 1920s, there were changes, and a significant one was the automobile, as it allowed tourists largely to dictate their own travel schedule, afforded them more privacy, and had them speeding through the landscape as highly mobile flâneurs, at least until they ran out gas, blew a tire, or steered off...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 591-592
Launched on MUSE
2010-08-07
Open Access
No
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