Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Jonathan Vance

Second Advisor

Roger Hall

Third Advisor

J. Rodney Millard


This is a study of how British Columbia and British Columbians contributed to the discussion of Canadian national identity between 1858, when the Fraser River gold rush precipitated the establishment of the Colony of British Columbia, and 1958, when the Social Credit government undertook a large-scale celebration of the centennial of that proclamation. I contend that the process of integrating British Columbia into Canada- politically, socially, and culturally - challenged eastern Canadians to rethink what it meant to be Canadian, and that British Columbians, through their participation in the project of nation-building, redefined Canadian nationalism through reference to regional experience. While affirming the importance of the national context to the development of British Columbia culture, I also demonstrate the utility of applying region as a category of analysis in the study of Canadian nationalism. This thesis is divided into two sections. Chapters one through three examine how perceptions of British Columbia in eastern British North America evolved over the period between 1858 and the beginning of the twentieth century, and how these shifting perceptions were related to changing conceptions of Canada. The remaining five chapters explore how British Columbians used and reformulated the rhetoric of Canadian nationalism through their participation in patriotic voluntary societies; through poetry, fiction, literary criticism, and vernacular historiography; and through celebrations of national holidays and commemorative pageantry. While this study approaches the problem of nation-building in British Columbia from a variety of perspectives, several themes recur. One is the way in which British Columbians were integrated into national networks, whether as supplicants for federal patronage in the 1870s or as participants in the activities of national voluntary organizations during the 1920s and 1930s. Another is the changing role of print capitalism in conditioning both eastern perceptions of British Columbia and British Columbians’ perceptions of their place in Canada, from the democratic news-gathering of the gold rush, through the professionalization of travel writing in the late nineteenth century, to the efforts of British Columbia writers to gain access to the eastern publishing market during the interwar years. Most significantly, the thesis identifies a persistent in belief in the inevitable prominence, even pre-eminence, of British Columbia within the Canadian community, stemming from its position on the Pacific Seaboard and its connections with the rest of the Pacific Rim.



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