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 Featured Title
Retail Nation
Department Stores and the Making of Modern Canada
Donica Belisle  

$87.00 Hardcover
Release Date: 2/15/2011
ISBN: 9780774819473    

$34.95 Paperback
Release Date: 7/1/2011
ISBN: 9780774819480    

320 Pages


About the Book

Winner, 2012 Pierre Savard Award, the International Council of Canadian Studies.

Shortlisted, 2012 John W. Dafoe Book Prize, J. W. Dafoe Foundation

Honourable Mention, 2012 Sir John A. Macdonald Prize, Canadian Historical Association

The experience of walking down a store aisle -- replete with displays, advertisements, salespeople, consumer goods, and infinite choice -- is now so common that we often forget mass retail barely existed a century ago.

Retail Nation traces Canada's transformation into a modern consumer nation back to an era when Eatonís, Simpson's, and the Hudsonís Bay Company fostered and came to rule the countryís shopping scene. Between 1890 and 1940, department stores revolutionized selling and shopping by parlaying cheap raw materials, business-friendly government policies, and growing demand for low-priced goods into retail empires that promised to meet citizens' needs and strengthen the nation. Some Canadians found happiness and fulfillment in their aisles; others experienced nothing more than a cold shoulder and a closed door. The stores' advertising and public relations campaigns often disguised a darker, more complicated reality that included strikes, union drives, customer complaints, government inquiries, and public criticism.

This vivid account of Canadian department stores in their heyday showcases them as powerful agents of nationalism and modernization. But the nation that their catalogues and shopping experience helped to define -- white, consumerist, middle-class -- was more limited than nostalgic portraits of the early department store suggest.

About the Author(s)

Donica Belisle has a PhD in Canadian studies and is an assistant professor of history at the University of Regina. Her website can be found at

Table of Contents

Introduction: Canadian Consumer Society

1 Rise of Mass Retail

2 Creating Modern Canada

3 Fathers of Mass Merchandising

4 Crafting the Consumer Workforce

5 Shopping, Pleasure, and Power

6 Working at the Heart of Consumption

7 Criticizing the Big Stores

Epilogue: Canadian Institutions?





"Retail Nation constitutes an important contribution to the history of the development of mass consumption in Canada in the late nineteenth and twentieth century. ... Belisle explores fully and intelligently the unequal relations of class, race and gender [department stores] embodied, and an important part of the analysis deals with the gendered relations between the stores, their employees and their customers. The book is written with verve, a secure knowledge of the relevant literature and much careful research, and sets a historiographic benchmark for the study of Canadian consumer society."
-- Sir John A. MacDonald Prize Committee, 2012, Canadian Historical Association

Sample Chapter

Front Matter and Introduction [PDF]

Related Topics

History > Canada
Women's Studies

Other Ways To Order

In Canada, order your copy of Retail Nation from UTP Distribution at:

UTP Distribution
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Toronto, Ontario
M3H 5T8

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Fax orders: 1(800)221-9985 or (416)667-7832

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