Grandmother Andre told stories in front of a campfire. Elizabeth Goudie wrote a memoir in school scribblers. Phyllis Knight taped hours of interviews with her son. Today's families rely on television and video cameras. They are all making history.
In a different approach to that old issue, 'the Canadian identity,' Gerald Friesen links the media studies of Harold Innis to the social history of recent decades. The result is a framework for Canadian history as told by ordinary people. Friesen suggests that the common peoples' perceptions of time and space in what is now Canada changed with innovations in the dominant means of communication. He defines four communication-based epochs in Canadian history: the oral-traditional world of pre-contact Aboriginal people; the textual-settler household of immigrants; the print-capitalism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; and the screen-capitalism that has emerged in the last few decades. This analysis of communication is linked to distinctive political economies, each of which incorporates its predecessors in an increasingly complex social order.
In each epoch, using the new communication technologies, people struggled to find the political means by which they could ensure that they and their households survived and, if they were lucky, prospered. Canada is the sum of their endeavours. "Citizens and Nation" demonstrates that it is possible to find meaning in the nation's past that will interest, among others, a new, young, and multicultural reading audience.
'Gerald Friesen elevates the debate over the character of national history to a higher plain in this thought-provoking, insightful, and at times brilliant book. Friesen not only answers why the old history no longer resonates in the minds of so many Canadians, but also proposes means by which to restore history in an era dominated by the screen capitalism.'
'[Citizens and Nation is an engaging and evocative book, written for the general reader as well as the academic... The significance of this book rests in its unique treatment of the Canadian identity, as it places the common people at the centre of the story and demonstrates the pivotal role they have played in shaping Canadian institutions and values. Friesen's version of Canadian history is not about grand and monumental acts, but about the people who managed to survive, provide for their families, engage with their communities and see the value of their own traditions. He looks to the least powerful, at least in conventional terms, for the clues to what makes Canada a nation.'
'This is a book which must be read by anyone seriously interested in Canadian (however you define it) history.'