Becoming British Columbia: A Population History

TitleBecoming British Columbia: A Population History
Publication TypeMiscellaneous
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsMcDonald, RAJ
ISBN Number0700-3862
KeywordsBook reviews, Geodemographics, History, NONFICTION, Sociology

He approaches this "systematic" analysis of British Columbia's population not through "a highly technical exercise in statistics" (16) but rather through a careful analysis of available sources, including the obvious state-generated data as well as unexplored primary sources such as church records and undertakers' registers. Especially important is 's case study of the household structure and demographic makeup of two communities, Nanaimo and Kamloops, from 1881 to 1901. The latter work has generated important new insights on nuptiality, and especially the fact of remarriage under "frontier" conditions; on fertility, including the high fertility rate in the coal mining community of Nanaimo compared to the ranching and transportation centre of Kamloops; and on mortality in a male-dominated resource-based province, which he argues convincingly was "distinct (to British Columbia) in several respects." (164) His insightful discovery of a "shockingly high" infant mortality rate in Nanaimo, a relatively prosperous mining community, stands out with particular clarity. Indeed, the three chapters on "Sex Ratios and Nuptiality," "Fertility," and "Mortality," which offer new empirical insights about BCs population history, constitute the heart of the book. For instance, a convincing case is made for fuller appreciation of the effect that the Great War had on the province's population development through the inter-war years. In the chapter on fertility Belshaw draws on one of the big ideas in the field of population history known as the "fertility transition" - the beginning of a general decline in fertility rates in modernizing, industrializing societies starting around the middle of the nineteenth century - and asks whether this "transition" applies to an emerging settler society such as British Columbia.