UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mutual enlightenment in early Vancouver, 1886-1916 Hunt, Alfred Ian


This thesis examines the social and intellectual history of an apparently disparate group of voluntary associations and their members in Vancouver, British Columbia, 1886-1916. These associations sought to educate their own members, and often the general community, in the arts, in history, in science, in public affairs, and in matters of physical, vocational, and moral welfare. Vancouver's Art, Historical and Scientific Association, its natural history and literary societies, and its YMCA are central to the discussion. These associations' educational practices embodied a form of "intentional mutual enlightenment." The term refers to the non-formal education of adults through voluntary associations. Primarily through social, economic, intellectual, and political inferences from historical evidence, the thesis explains the meaning that "mutual enlightenment" had for participants. It pays attention to the contexts of late Victorian and Edwardian intellectual thought, and of British Columbia social and economic development. The thesis describes and explains both the reasons—stated and structural—for participants' involvement, and the social, political, and economic functions of the mutual enlightenment associations. To get at those reasons, the study examines interrelationships between ideas and their social circumstances, and how these inter-relationships gave rise to mutual enlightenment. Further, it examines mutual enlightenment (1) through an analysis of ten exemplar voluntary associations, (2) through a study of the ambient social structure and its reflection of and support for mutual enlightenment associations, and (3) through a conceptually satisfying definition of "intentional mutual enlightenment." The argument is this: the context largely determined, and now explains the nature of mutual enlightenment. Vancouver's social, political, and economic arrangements, and its residents' ideas, manners, tastes, and values accounted for the objectives, programmes, and membership of mutual enlightenment associations. Vancouver's intellectual climate and cultural forms had been imported primarily by middle-class residents from their original homes and homelands, mainly from Great Britain, or from Britain as modified through Central and Eastern Canadian experience.

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