From Interdependence to ‘Modern’ Individualism: Families and the Emergence of Liberal Society in Canada



This article canvasses the two leading trajectories in the historiography of Canadian families: the demographic and the social and state regulatory. It also critically assesses the dominant historiographical view of the liberal order and the family which sees the latter largely as a sphere of economic relations. I also advance new theoretical departures and advocate the use of previously untapped sources such as familial correspondence, personal diaries, and legal records which will allow historians to explore the cultural directions of family life. These, I argue, will enable historians to recover alternate views of the relationship of public and private beyond conventional definitions of separate spheres which hitherto have relied too heavily on the gendered division of labour.