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Canada in Foreign Eyes

Some of the most astute observers who have paid Canada serious attention at various points in her development were those from abroad. These observers were able to be “objective” because they had no stakes in the practical affairs of a country in which they were not born and bred. It is a longstanding tradition that the new countries that were born of European exploration and colonization have been of intense interest to certain observers in the Old World. And so the parade of European journalists and scholars to the new lands seeking to learn of the new ways of life evolving across the seas proceeds even unto this day. Tocqueville’s trip to America is the most famous instance of this tradition of “research” expeditions from Old Europe. Martineau, Dickens, Trollope, Wilde, Lawrence and Churchill are amongst the other names that come to mind in this connection. Canada was no exception here to a tradition of foreign “visitorship” which included America, Australia, South Africa and other countries. She too has been visited by observers from France, Britain and perhaps most interestingly the United States. In this latter case observers from an “Old New Country” were seeking knowledge about a “New New” Country. There is no set of eyes like a fresh set of eyes and whatever the vantage point of time and place the foreign observer inhabits he or she is bound to see things that remain invisible to the native observer not least because of their familiarity. “Outsiders” are often in a position to present some of the best and most insightful commentaries on a community. Visitors like Lord Durham, Andre Siegfried, James Bryce, Edmund Wilson and Seymour Martin Lipset have contributed some of the best and most important discussions of the phenomenon which is Canada.

Links and Readings

  • Brimelow, Peter The Patriot Game
  • Bryce, James.  Canada: An Actual Democracy
  • Gatenby, Greg. The Wild is Always There: Canada through the eyes of foreign writers, (Random House,1994).
  • The Very Richness of That Past: Canada through the eyes of foreign writers, (Vintage Canada,1996).
  • Lipset, Seymour Martin. Continental Divide (New York: Routledge,1990)
  • Revolution and Counterrevolution:Change and Persistence in Social Structures (Transaction Publishers, 1988)
  • Siegfried, Andre. The Race Question in Canada
  • Wilson, Edmund. O Canada: An American's Notes on Canadian Culture, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux , 1963)