Towards a History of Canadians: Transcultural Human Agency as Seen Through Economic Behaviour, Community Formation, and Societal Institutions


  • Dirk Hoerder


Social history approaches to Canadian history have expanded the master narrative to encompass a comprehensive story. Within social history, a perspective taken from common people’s life-writing changes interpretation in similar ways as community and life-course approaches have done. People’s own life projects were at first based on economic mutualism in the local community, which, over time, gave way to a slowly imposed capitalist economy. However, the mail-order business and its relation to the earlier local economy, based on trust rather than an abstract market, constituted an important factor in the emergence of Canadian society. Nineteenthcentury immigrants, like their predecessors from the dynastic states of France and the United Kingdom, came from pre-national, many-cultured societies and found a feeling of belonging in their participation in institution-building in a decentralized civic society. The historic dynastic states, comprised of many peoples, provide historical and conceptual antecedents that can help us understand the state and society of Canada.