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  • The Other Quiet Revolution: National Identities in English Canada, 1945–71
  • Jennifer A. Stephen
Jose E. Igartua . The Other Quiet Revolution: National Identities in English Canada, 1945–71. University of British Columbia Press. viii, 278. $34.95

Susan Trofimenkoff once suggested that Quebec's Quiet Revolution was neither quiet nor revolutionary – dubbing it, instead, a 'noisy evolution.' [End Page 393] Igartua has struck a similarly intriguing turn of phrase, as the title of the book suggests. The 'other' is a placeholder for the two interrelated strands that comprise Igartua's thesis. The first concerns English Canada's 'quiet revolution' that began with Mackenzie King's move, at the urging of Paul Martin Sr, to position Canadian citizenship and a distinct Canadian national flag as the central planks in the Liberal campaign for the postwar federal election. This strategy, argues Igartua, signalled the opening phase of what would became the rapid transformation of national identity across English Canada. From a national identity grounded in an idealized British – and thus ethnic – political culture and shared historical destiny, English Canada, like Quebec, would move to adopt a more civic conception of nation. The second strand concerns the other meaning of 'other' in its discursive sense – those 'not of the breed' as Igartua aptly puts it. Both themes figure centrally in this rich, carefully researched. and compelling study.

Igartua contends that English Canada experienced a cultural and political revolution during the same period as did francophone Quebec, even if historians have largely focused on the latter. Hegemonic precepts of unifying foundational 'Britishness' as the anchor and origin of Canadian national identity – being 'of the breed' – dissolved in the face of deepening civic nationalism. In the face of increasing heterogeneity within any given classroom in Canada, Igartua contends, an assumed shared British heritage was to become increasingly untenable. In short, where an ethnic and racial conception of national identity had served political and cultural elites through to the Second World War, a civic conception of Canada would emerge at mid-century to respond to the twentieth-century challenges confronting postwar Canada, not least of which was the sovereignist movement in Quebec and civil rights struggles in the United States.

Igartua draws on a close reading of polling data, editorial columns from national English-language dailies, such government reports as the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, school curricula, and history texts in a chronological study that is critically informed by sociological and political theory. His engagement with current debates in the historiography also propel and enrich a narrative that opens a dialogue between past and present. For example, Igartua offers an incisive interrogation of leading history textbooks in use immediately after the war. The reader may readily discern just how closely contemporaneous debates within the historiography were reflected in the creation myths of Canada as conveyed to young scholars of the baby boom era. The tight narrative of Canada's 'birth,' however, could not hold in an increasingly diverse age. In the move to incorporate a civic-based approach to nation within the curriculum, Igartua speculates, 'One might argue that this is where Canadian history was killed.' [End Page 394]

Canada's position in the postwar international order figures centrally in this study: the Suez Canal crisis, which challenged Canada's presumptive 'Ready, Aye Ready' status as Britain's ally in perpetuity; Diefenbaker's rather ill-natured effort to advance the interests of the commonwealth against Britain's 'selfish' move to abandon the favoured commonwealth trade partners in order to join the European Common Market; the Gouzenko Affair and the politics of Cold War; and, last but not least, the acceleration of immigration through the 1950s and 1960s, both in magnitude and diversity among countries of origin. Although Canada–US relations are not a central focus for Igartua, nor, with the exception of the Suez Canal crisis, is the issue of Canada's place within an increasingly fractious and uncertain international order, the international context merits closer attention for further examination of the questions Igartua poses. After all, various articulations of nation, national identity, and nationalism do not take place within a vacuum; such identities are neither forged solely within, nor constrained by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 393-395
Launched on MUSE
2008-06-04
Open Access
No
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