In the province of history: The making of the public past in twentieth-century Nova Scotia

Ian McKay*, Robin Bates

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportBook

54 Scopus citations


Nova Scotia's captivating natural beauty and important place in the history of North America and the Atlantic world make it a premier tourist destination for visitors from around the world. From re-enactments at the Halifax Citadel, monuments to the Explosion of 1917 and Pier 21, and postcards of Peggy's Cove and Cape Breton, the province has cultivated a thriving tourism industry that relies on constructing and marketing the history of the area. In the Province of History studies Nova Scotia's long-standing initiatives to attract visitors, the ways in which the region's history has been presented and misrepresented, and the extent to which even the province's residents have become tourists in their own lives and towns. Using archival sources, novels, government reports, and works on tourism and heritage, Ian McKay and Robin Bates look at how state planners, key politicians, and cultural figures such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, long-time premier Angus L. Macdonald, and novelist Thomas Raddall were all instrumental in forming "tourism/history." The authors argue that Longfellow's 1847 poem Evangeline - on the brutal British expulsion of Acadians from Nova Scotia - became a template a new kind of profit-making history that exalted whiteness and excluded ethnic minorities, women, and working class movements. A remarkable look at the intersection of politics, leisure, and the presentation of public history, In the Province of History is a revealing account of how a region has both used and distorted its own past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherMcGill-Queen's University Press
Number of pages481
ISBN (Print)9780773537040
StatePublished - May 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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