The experiences and lives of immigrants from the 1830s to the 1990s are explored through their life writing.
The birth of Canada as a society and a nation has often been told from the narrow perspective of the "founding nations." These versions have left little room for the everyday experiences of a wide variety of individual immigrants who have had to adjust old-world lifestyles to the promising but harsh and drastically different environments of the city's urban neighbourhoods or the farmland's lonely expanses.
Dirk Hoerder shows us that it is not shining railroad tracks or statesmen in Ottawa that make up the story of Canada but rather individual stories of life and labour - Caribbean women who care for children born in Canada, lonely prairie homesteaders, miners in Alberta and British Columbia, women labouring in factories, Chinese and Japanese immigrants carving out new lives in the face of hostility.
Hoerder examines these individual experiences in Creating Societies, the first systematic overview of the total Canadian immigrant experience. Using letters, travel accounts, diaries, memoirs, and reminiscences, he brings the immigrant's experiences to life. Their writings, often recorded for grandchildren, neighbours, and sometimes a larger public, show how immigrant lives were entwined with the emerging Canadian society.
Hoerder presents an important new picture of the emerging Canadian identity, dispelling the Canadian myth of a dichotomy between national unity and ethnic diversity and emphasizing the long-standing interaction between the members of a different ethnic groups.