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138 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Edgar-André Montigny and Lori Chambers, editors. Ontario since Confederation: A Reader University of Toronto Press 2000. xi, 457. $70.00, $29.95 In the recent battles between national and social historians over what constitutes real Canadian history, the history of the provinces (and other regions of Canada) has been largely ignored. For those determined to restore the primacy of the nation state the history of the provinces is (quite literally) provincial, while those who champion workers, women, and people of colour have not found the province a very useful framework for addressing matters of class, gender, and race. All this, however, may be changing. Given the size, breadth, and general quality of this new collection of essays, perhaps the history of Ontario is making something of a comeback. Ontario since Confederation: A Reader contains twenty-one essays that address a wide range of issues. Focused rather loosely around state and society, the collection brings together work on Native peoples, labour, agriculture, education, class formation, gender, the family, politics, and public policy. The only conspicuous lacuna is religion and culture, a rather surprising omission given the strength of religion in Ontario life, the role of the churches in the state system, and the high quality of scholarship being done in this area. Most of the essays are written by younger scholars and are drawn from dissertations or recently published monographs. The quality of the contributions is uneven, but the overall standard is quite high, and in a few cases the essays are truly outstanding. Like a good church picnic there is lots to choose from, the dishes are fresh, and the portions generous B and there is the danger of feeling rather full afterwards. How well the collection will work as a reader, however, is uncertain. Unfortunately, the organization of the volume does not lend itself readily to teaching the history of Ontario B for example, there is no overview of the writing of Ontario history or bibliographical guide to the existing literature. At the same time, however, the essays do offer students handy distillations of the central ideas of larger studies, always a useful resource for those who never have the time to sift through the complete monograph. One is also left with an unsettling questions. After reading over 450 pages of text, what really defines the history of this province? What forces have shaped Ontario life; how is this region different from other regions; how does Ontario relate to the larger systems of which it is a part? Or simply, why is this a region? In a very thin and unsatisfactory preface the editors do their best to dodge these important questions, and however fascinating the essays few of the contributors even consider the broader significance of their project. (WILLIAM WESTFALL) John Douglas Belshaw. Colonization and Community: The Vancouver Island Coalfield ...


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