"A choke of emotion, a great heart-leap": English-Canadian Tourists in Britain, 1880s-1914

Cecilia Morgan


Many English-Canadian travellers to Britain at the end of the nineteenth and beginning
of the twentieth century arrived with preconceived notions of themselves as
“Canadians” and as members of the British Empire, as well as of the historical and
cultural landscapes through which they would move. While their diaries and letters
are strikingly similar in terms of places seen and attractions experienced, this repetition
did not preclude some revisioning, or at least questioning, of the well-known
script. They encountered, and to varying degrees were performers in, some of the
more obviously staged dramas of imperialism in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain.
Coronation celebrations, Victoria’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees, royal funerals,
and imperial and colonial exhibitions enabled tourists to reflect on their own
Canadian identity as well as their relationship to the imperial centre and to other
members of the Empire. Also, while English-Canadian men and women shared many
similar experiences as colonial tourists, their participation in and reactions to these
presentations of empire and history demonstrate the importance of gender in how
meaning is shaped.

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