British History is Their History: Britain and the British Empire in the History Curriculum of Ontario, Canada and Victoria, Australia 1930-1975

Stephen J Jackson


This article investigates the evolving conceptions of national identity in Canada and Australia through an analysis of officially sanctioned history textbooks in Ontario, Canada and Victoria, Australia. From the 1930s until the 1950s, Britain and the British Empire served a pivotal role in history textbooks and curricula in both territories. Textbooks generally held that British and imperial history were crucial to the Canadian and Australian national identity. Following the Second World War, textbooks in both Ontario and Victoria began to recognize Britain’s loss of power, and how this changed Australian and Canadian participation in the British Empire/Commonwealth. But rather than advocate for a complete withdrawal from engagement with Britain, authors emphasized the continuing importance of the example of the British Empire and Commonwealth to world affairs. In fact, participation in the Commonwealth was often described as of even more importance as the Dominions could take a more prominent place in imperial affairs. By the 1960s, however, textbook authors in Ontario and Victoria began to change their narratives, de-emphasizing the importance of the British Empire to the Canadian and Australian identity. Crucially, by the late 1960s the new narratives Ontarians and Victorians constructed claimed that the British Empire and national identity were no longer significantly linked. An investigation into these narratives of history will provide a unique window into officially acceptable views on imperialism before and during the era of decolonization.


British Empire; Britishness; Canada; Australia; National Identity

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ISSN: 2340-7263

DOI prefix: 10.14516/ete


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