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The Search for a New National Identity

The Rise of Multiculturalism in Canada and Australia, 1890s–1970s


Jatinder Mann

This book explores the profound social, cultural, and political changes that affected the way in which Canadians and Australians defined themselves as a «people» from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s. Taking as its central theme the way each country responded to the introduction of new migrants, the book asks a key historical question: why and how did multiculturalism replace Britishness as the defining idea of community for English-speaking Canada and Australia, and what does this say about their respective experiences of nationalism in the twentieth century? The book begins from a simple premise – namely, that the path towards the adoption of multiculturalism as the orthodox way of defining national community in English-speaking Canada and Australia in the latter half of the twentieth century was both uncertain and unsteady. It followed a period in which both nations had looked first and foremost to Britain to define their national self-image. In both nations, however, following the breakdown of their more formal and institutional ties to the ‘mother-country’ in the post-war period there was a crisis of national meaning, and policy makers and politicians moved quickly to fill the void with a new idea of the nation, one that was the very antithesis to the White, monolithic idea of Britishness. This book will be useful for both history and politics courses in Australia and Canada, as well as internationally.
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7 “Anglo-conformity” and “Incorporation into the Anglo-Celtic Culture”: A Comparison of Assimilation Policies in Canada and Australia, 1890s–1960s


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“Anglo-conformity” and “Incorporation into the Anglo-Celtic Culture”

A Comparison of Assimilation Policies in Canada and Australia, 1890s–1960s

Policies of assimilation were adopted in Canada and Australia during what may be called the “nationalist era.” Towards the end of the nineteenth century modern English-speaking Canada and Australia came to define their national identities based on the myth of British race patriotism. This was reinforced and complemented by an emphasis on preserving both countries as white nations. They then both received mass non-British migration and consequently assimilation policies were adopted to incorporate these migrants into the Anglo-conformist (adherence to the Anglo-centric culture in Canada) or Anglo-Celtic cultures.

Britishness and Whiteness

Britishness or British race patriotism formed the foundation of the national identities of both English-speaking Canada and Australia. From a wide range of speeches, parliamentary debates, and newspaper articles in the two nations, we can see how in this period both English-speaking Canada and Australia saw themselves as members ← 195 | 196 → of a worldwide British race. A prime illustration of this is Empire Day—which, although a Canadian invention, was the annual focal point for both nations in their celebration of being “British.” Canada and Australia both experienced industrialisation in the late nineteenth century. As a consequence of this there was rapid change and associated social trauma. English-speaking Canadians and the Australian colonists along with other Western societies at the time sought emotional security...

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