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Privatizing the Mind: The Sundering of Canadian History, the Sundering of Canada

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Abstract

The writing of Canadian history during the past twenty-five years has been characterized by an intense degree of specialization which has replaced older Canadian historians’ concern for explaining the nature of the country. A declining sense of Canada as a national entity underlies much of our current political and constitutional malaise. The Liberal nationalism of the 1960s and 1970s was an inadequate replacement for the more deeply-rooted vision of the country that a well-developed sense of history might offer. Without becoming nationalist mythologizers, and remembering the need to understand the country in its pluralism and diversity, Canadian historians might usefully remind themselves that their subject, after all, is Canada.

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... The debate between national and regional historians gained momentum in the 1990s as P.A. Buckner has shown in an article in Acadiensis in 2000. In the debate, the national historians accused the regional historians and social historians of contributing to the destruction of the Canadian state by enhancing provincial demands or by outrageously specializing the general field of Canadian historiography as women's history, labor history, urban history, and aboriginal history (Bliss, 1991;Granatstein, 1998). Some have called for the pendulum to swing back by arguing for the need to understand and interpret the whole, in other words "the national experience" rather than regional or sector-based fragments (Owran, 1997). ...
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... This is what alienated Canadian historians such as Bliss, McNaught, and Jack Granatstein, committed as they were to a national historiography that might highlight accomplishment and advance as expressed in a singular progressive state. 16 Metaphorically, 1968 did nothing if not interrogate/destabilize this national, collective, accomplishment. It pivoted against the flattening, homogenizing reduction of history to a study of power's achievements. ...
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