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Social Science Popular Culture

Symbols of Canada

edited by Michael Dawson, Catherine Gidney & Donald Wright

Between the Lines
Initial publish date
Oct 2018
Popular Culture, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2018
    List Price

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From Timbits to totem poles, Canada is boiled down to its syrupy core in symbolic forms that are reproduced not only on t-shirts, television ads, and tattoos but in classrooms, museums, and courtrooms too. They can be found in every home and in every public space. They come in many forms, from objects—like the red-uniformed Mountie, the maple leaf, and the beaver—to concepts—like free healthcare, peacekeeping, and saying “eh?”.

But where did these symbols come from, what do they mean, and how have their meanings changed over time? Symbols of Canada gives us the real and surprising truth behind the most iconic Canadian symbols revealing their contentious and often contested histories.

With over 100 images, this book thoroughly explores Canada’s true self while highlighting the unexpected twists and turns that have marked each symbol’s history.

About the authors

Michael Dawson is Professor of History at St where he teaches courses on Canadian History, the global history of sport and tourism, and the comparative history of national identity and popular culture in Canada, New Zealand and Australia.In 2014 he was elected to the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

Michael Dawson's profile page

Catherine Gidney is a professor of history at St. Thomas University. She writes about youth culture and students in revolt over everything from vending machines to curfews to war. She is the author of Tending the Student Body: Health, Youth and the Rise of the Modern University, 1900-1960 and A Long Eclipse: The Liberal Protestant Establishment and the English-Canadian University Campus, 1920-1970.

Catherine Gidney's profile page

Donald Wright is an assistant professor in the Department of History and the Centre for Canadian Studies at Brock University.

Donald Wright's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Sharp, insightful and deeply funny: At once celebrating and critiquing symbols within Canadian identity, contributors are invariably witty and sometimes barbed, creating a rich, quick and satisfying reading experience.

Ottawa Life Magazine

Symbols of Canada is a path breaking book. It unravels the real origins and cultural significance of national symbols such as the “Mountie” or the Maple Leaf that are widely popular but little understood. This book will prove informative not only for Canadians but for anyone interested in the issue of national identity.

John Bodnar, Department of History, Indiana University

“What do timbits, the beaver and the blue beret all have in common? They are all iconic symbols of Canadian identity and they are all subjects of this amusing, insightful book. Along with poutine, totem poles, roll up the rim and plenty more. Pop culture meets serious history. What better way to understand the origins of our national dreams, eh?”

—Daniel Francis, author of Selling Canada: Three Propaganda Campaigns that Shaped the Nation

Nations exist through their symbols. Dawson, Gidney, and Wright have drawn together an impressive array of scholars to reveal – with insight, flair, shrewd judgement, humour, and unexpected serendipity – how Canadian national symbols do their work.

Richard White, Department of History, University of Sydney

Symbols of Canada challenges us to think about why particular stories, activities, landscapes, and events are invested with national meaning. From colonialism to consumerism, the contributors to this collection deftly connect the past with the present, and demonstrate how national symbols are made, re-made, and sometimes forgotten.

James Opp, professor of history, Carleton University and co-editor of Placing Memory and Remembering Place in Canada

The beaver may be a rodent, the north merely a compass point, and the paternity of poutine still undecided but these, among many, signs and symbols define, sometimes divide, and frequently distinguish Canadians. While worthy of any library, this insightful, informative and entertaining collection proves that Canadiana, demystified, de-mythed and de-kitsched, can go “coffee table”. Solid and original scholarship, superb illustrations, concise and punchy writing combine with (sometimes self-deprecating) humour.

Jane Koustas, professor of modern languages, Brock University

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