image of the book cover of Prairie West as Promised Land

The Prairie West as Promised Land

Edited by R. Douglas Francis and, Chris Kitzan

$54.95 CAD / $56.95 USD

486 pages, 12 illustrations

6 x 9 inches

Hardback: 1552382303

Paperback: 978-1-55238-230-1

Library PDF: 978-1-55238-432-9

August 2007

Buy Now

Bringing together some of the best-known Prairie Historians, The Prairie West as Promised Land examines the ways the Canadian West has been presented and perceived as a place of unbridled opportunity and unlimited profit.


So the emblem of the West / Our bright Maple Leaf is bless’d  / To its children of the goodly open hand; / All the nations of the earth / Are now learning of its worth / And are flocking to this wealthy, promised land. – The Sugar Maple Tree Song, 1906


In 1906, the Sugar Maple Tree Song was just one example of the rhapsodic pieces that touted the Prairie West as the “promised land.” In the formative years of agricultural settlement from the late nineteenth century to the First World War, the Canadian government, along with the railways and other Prairie boosters, further developed and propagated this image within the widely distributed promotional literature that was used to attract millions of immigrants to the Canadian West from all corners of the world.

Some saw the Prairies as an ideal place to create a Utopian society; others seized the chance to take control of their own destinies in a new and exciting place. The image of the West as a place of unbridled prosperity and opportunity became the dominant perception of the region at that time. During the interwar and post-World War II eras, this image was questioned and challenged, although not entirely replaced, thus showing its pervasive influence.

This group of essays, which includes contributions from some of the best-known Prairie historians as well as some of the most promising new scholars in the field, explores this persistent theme in Prairie history and makes an important contribution to the historiography of the Canadian West.

About the Editors

R. Douglas Francis is a professor of history at the University of Calgary. He has published extensively in the areas of Canadian and western Canadian intellectual and cultural history.

Chris Kitzan manages content creation for Library and Archives Canada’s Web Content and Services Division. Formerly a curator at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Chris has more than fifteen years experience authoring historical productions, exhibitions, and publications for both academic and popular audiences.

With Contributions By:  R. Douglas Francis, Chris Kitzan, Doug Owram, Laurence Kitzan, Matthew Wangler, David Hall, Sarah Carter, Anthony W. Rasporich, Bill Waiser, Randi Warne, Bradford J. Rennie, Catherine A. Cavanaugh, Steve Hewitt, George Melnyk, Michael Fedyk, and Brett Fairbairn  

Praise for The Prairie West as Promised Land

The variety of angles from which the theme is approached, combined with the authority of the authors, make this a potentially seminal volume for those with interests in the history and culture of Canada during the first half of the twentieth-century.

—Angela Smith, British Journal of Canadian Studies

A fine contribution.

—Mary Ellen Kelm, The Canadian Historical Review 

Table of Contents

R. Douglas Francis and Chris Katzen

Section I: Visions of the Promised Land

The Promise of the West as a Settlement Frontier
Doug Owram

Adventures in the Promised Land: British Writers in the Canadian North West, 1941-1913
Laurence Ktizan

Canada’s Rocky Mountain Parks: Rationality, Romanticism, and a Modern Canada
Matthew Wrangler

Clifford Sifton’s Vision of the Prairie West
David Hall

Section II: Settling the Promised Land

“We Must Fam to Enable Us to Live:”The Plains Cree and Agriculture to 1900
Sarah Carter

Utopian Ideals and Community Settlements in Western Canada, 1880-1914
Andrew W. Rasporich

“Land I Can Own:” Settling in the Promised Land
Bill Waiser

Section III: Envisioning the Prairie West as a Perfect Society

The City Yes, The City No: Perfection by Design
Anthony W. Rasporich

Land of the Second Chance: Nellie McClung’s Vision of the Prairie West of Promised Land
Randi Warne

The Kingdom of God on the Prairies: J.S. Woodsworth’s Vision of the Prairie West as Promised Land
R. Douglas Francis

“A Far Green Country Unto a Swift Sunrise:” The Utopianism of the Alberta Farm Movement, 1909-1923
Bradford J. Rennie

Section IV: A Promised Land for the “Chosen People”

“No Place for a Woman:” Engendering Western Canadian Settlement
Catherine A. Cavanaugh

Preaching Purity in the Promised Land: Bishop Lloyd and the Immigration Debate
Chris Katzen

Policing the Promised Land: The RCMP and Negative Nation-Building in Alberta and Saskatchewan in the Interwar Period
Steve Hewitt

Section V: Readjusting the Vision of the Promised Land in the Modern Era

Uncertain Promise: The Prairie Farmer and the Post-War Era
Doug Owram

The Artist’s Eye: Modernist and Postmodernist Visualizations of the Prairie West
Michael Fedyk

From Farm to Community: Co-Operatives in Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1905-2005
Brett Fairbairn

Notes on Contributors