Ring Around the Maple
A Sociocultural History of Children and Childhoods in Canada, 19th and 20th Centuries
The story of growing up in a Canada eager to make a modern identity of its own.
Ring Around the Maple is about the condition of children in Canada from roughly 1850 to 2000, a time during which “the modern” increasingly disrupted traditional ways. Authors Cynthia R. Comacchio and Neil Sutherland trace the lives of children over this “long century” with a view to synthesizing the rich interdisciplinary, often multi-disciplinary, literature that has emerged since the 1970s.
Integrated into this synthesis is the authors’ new research into many, often seemingly disparate, archival and published primary sources. Emphasizing how “the child” and childhood are sociohistoric constructs, and employing age analytically and relationally, they discuss the constants and the variants in their historic dimensions. While childhood tangibly modernized during these years, it remained a far from universal experience due to identifiers of race, gender, culture, region, and intergenerational adaptations that characterize the process of growing up.
This work highlights children’s perspectives through close, critical, “against the grain” readings of diaries, correspondence, memoirs, interviews, oral histories and autobiographies, many buried in obscure archives. It is the only extant historical discussion of Canadian children that interweaves the experiences of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children with those of children from a number of settler groups.
Ring Around the Maple makes use of photographs, catalogues, advertisements, government publications, musical recordings, radio shows, television shows, material goods, documentary and feature films, and other such visual and aural testimony. Much of this evidence has not to date been used as historical testimony to uncover the lives of ordinary children. This book is generously illustrated with photographs and ephemera carefully selected to reflect children’s lives, conditions, interests, and obligations. It will be of special interest to historians and social scientists interested in children and the culture of childhood, but will also appeal to readers who enjoy the "little stories" that together make up our collective history, especially when those are told by the children who lived them.