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Thomas, Lewis G.

Edited by Patrick A. Dunae. Edmonton. University of Alberta Press, c1986. 217pp, paper $9.95, ISBN 0-88864-095-1. (Western Canada Reprint Series). CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by R. Wieler

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May

Alberta has a distinct place in Canadian history. The province's geography, natural resources, history, settlement patterns, and boom and bust cycles have helped to set the story of the province apart. Ranchers' Legacy, by noted Alberta historian Lewis G. Thomas, is a collection of ten essays, edited and introduced by Patrick Dunae, that comment on the unique development of the province from the late nineteenth century to the 1980ís.

Essays in the first part of the book examine the lives and influence of a small minority of Albertans, the ranchers, who played a significant role in creating a base for the development of the province. Lewis comments on the elitist nature of the early ranchers, who came mainly from eastern Canada or Britain, and examines their lifestyle, attitudes, political influence, religion and clubs, and love of the outdoors. The author argues that the conservative attitudes of the ranchers, along with the considerable influence of the church and North West Mounted Police made the history of early Alberta very different from the wild and egalitarian West described in the writings of Frederick Jackson Turner.

Two essays in the book trace the development of the ranching communities of Millarville and Okotoks, The author has many interesting observations on the operation of the ranches, relations with the natives, the obsession with horses, and the gradual movement of the ranchers into the cities. In two excellent essays at the end of the book, "History and Fiction" and "Alberta 1905-1980: The Uneasy Society." the author summarizes his theories of the factors that have contributed to Alberta's distinct history. He disputes the myth that Albertans are a provincial, inward-looking people, mainly concerned with local issues. Thomas suggests that the economic and cultural development of the province has made its residents and political leaders aware of the importance for Alberta of national and international events. He applauds the degree of tolerance for minority groups in the province, and comments on the appreciation of cultural differences among Albertans.

The book is attractively bound and is well illustrated with many pictures and maps. It is useful as a resource book for teachers and students of Canadian history or geography.

R. Wieler, Glenlawn C.I., Winnipeg, Man.
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