Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 3, Summer 2009, pp. 245-246


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


This collection of eighteen essays explores the "ways in which the Prairie West was identified as a Promised Land in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries." In one variant, western Canada became a place where individuals could escape from the stresses of urban and industrial society in Europe or the United States and find a land of natural abundance, full of God's bountiful riches that would be bestowed on those worthy of living there, the "Chosen People." This imaginary construct, Doug Owram points out, was first advanced by those who lobbied successfully for Canada to acquire Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company. A later proponent, Chris Kitzan argues, was George Exton Lloyd, an Anglican clergyman who helped establish an all-British settlement in what is now Saskatchewan in 1903 and in the 1920s endlessly warned Canadians that the West's British character was being undermined by a flood of immigrants from central and eastern Europe who could never be assimilated.

Western Canada also came to be imagined as a region where it would be possible to create the ideal or perfect society. This notion was most strongly espoused by those influenced by the Social Gospel, such as Nellie McClung and]. S. Woodsworth, as the essays by Randi Warne and Douglas Francis make clear. But it also found expression in a wide variety of utopian communities (and city plans), as Anthony Rasporich demonstrates in his two contributions to this collection. In anQther essay, Bradford Rennie argues that utopian ideals also inspired the agrarian reform movement in Alberta, giving rise to Henty Wise Wood's notion of "group government" in 1919 and the creation of the Alberta Wheat Pool in 1923.