Canadian Royalists

Visiting a country with a different relationship to history than one's own is a kind of time-travel, thinks Linda Colley on a recent lecture tour to the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

For those who don't know – and most Britons and Americans seem not to – Edmonton is very new. Located in territory controlled by the Hudson's Bay Company until 1870, the town only emerged in the 1890s; it only became a city in 1904 and did not acquire its current dimensions until the 1960s. Understandably, perhaps, the brevity of Edmonton's past means that its citizens are obsessed with it. The city's preservation programme for ancient buildings is one of the most active and effective in the world; the buildings preserved are the kind of pre-1914 tenements or 1920s office-blocks which the British unthinkingly demolish every week. The city's local history museum is exemplary; but to European eyes, its holdings jump disconcertingly from the fossil bones of dinosaurs, to a handful of Indian artefacts, to some carefully-cherished consumer durables of the Victorian period – when history (for Edmonton) really began.

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