Cover: Lessons in Legitimacy: Colonialism, Capitalism, and the Rise of State Schooling in British Columbia, by Sean Carleton. Photo: a historical photograph of a building with a sign that reads Public School. Standing in front of the building is a group of school children and several teachers.
294 pages, 6 x 9
30 b&w photos, 4 maps
Release Date:15 May 2023
Release Date:15 Sep 2022
Release Date:15 Sep 2022
Release Date:15 Sep 2022

Lessons in Legitimacy

Colonialism, Capitalism, and the Rise of State Schooling in British Columbia

UBC Press

Between 1849 and 1930, colonial, provincial, and federal governments assumed greater responsibility for education in what is now British Columbia, using schooling as a strategy to catalyze and legitimize the development of a capitalist settler society.

Lessons in Legitimacy brings the histories of different kinds of state schooling for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples – public schools, Indian Day Schools, and Indian Residential Schools – into one analytical frame. Schooling for Indigenous and non-Indigenous children and youth had distinct yet complementary functions in building British Columbia. Students were given lessons in legitimacy that normalized settler capitalism and the making of British Columbia, first as a British colony and then as Canada’s westernmost province.

Sean Carleton combines insights from history, Indigenous studies, historical materialism, and political economy to present different histories of education for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples together. In the process, this important study reveals how an understanding of the historical uses of schooling can inform contemporary discussions about the role of education in reconciliation and improving Indigenous–settler relations.

Historians, Indigenous studies scholars, and those in the field of education history will find this work illuminating, as will educators and general readers with an interest in schooling’s role in truth and reconciliation.


  • 2023, Runner-up - Lieutenant Governor’s Historical Writing Awards
  • 2023, Winner - Clio Prize (British Columbia), Canadian Historical Association
Carleton’s multilayered approach offers a crucial and insightful perspective on the history of schooling – one that is sensitive to the spaces between state power and the paradoxical nature of the colonial project in Canada. Alex Gagne. York University, BC Studies
His contribution is imperative to both understanding education in British Columbia and improving schooling for Indigenous and all students. Sara Florence Davidson, Simon Fraser University, Historical Studies in Education

Sean Carleton is an assistant professor of history and Indigenous studies at the University of Manitoba. He has published in Historical Studies in Education, History of Education, Settler Colonial Studies, and BC Studies.

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