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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A spatial history of Canada : archives, knowledge, and geography Dyce, Matthew


This dissertation asks how environmental information about the Canadian northwest was gathered, transmitted, and stored in the post-Confederation period (1867-present). It pays particular attention to the way objects such as photographs, maps, images, documents, and other material objects were employed to overcome the disparate geography of settlement. My key argument is that producing a unified model of Canada depended on employing both objects able to convey landscapes and subjects able to decode them geographically. To demonstrate this claim, the dissertation provides an interpretive method for studying the historical geography of Canada called spatial history, which I employ in two ways. The first argues that various actors and institutions worked to tie European newcomers to the land by entwining historical and geographical knowledge of Canada. I emphasize the cooperation between archives, government bureaus, and schools and universities in fashioning ‘spatial histories’ of modern Canada. The second focuses on how objects were used to transmit knowledge between different these different scales and sites. Here I show how the ‘spatial histories’ told by objects required users to adopt new means of seeing and interpreting landscapes, and in turn adopt new understandings of self, citizenship, and belonging. The case studies that make up the dissertation are joined by a set of themes that resonate in the spatial history of Canada: archives, visualization, environmental knowledge, state formation, the history of Canadian geography, historical commemoration, public memory, and regionalism.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada