Scribes of stories, tellers of tales : the phenomenon of community history in Saskatchewan
Massie, Merle Mary Muriel
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This thesis is the first scholarly study of community history from the perspective of the communities involved in the process. In Saskatchewan, over one thousand professionally printed community-history books have been produced, in addition to the uncounted books locally copied and circulated. Each of the professional hardcover books sold an average of 800 copies, making community history, with more than 800,000 books in circulation, a popular genre in Saskatchewan. This paper analyzes 209 community histories published from 1949 to 1993 from across Saskatchewan to determine such issues as the gender and number of workers involved, the average length of the books, and their contents. Interviews with twenty-eight persons who had experience on community-history committees provide excellent supportive information on the role of women in community history, the process of a community-history project, and insights into the connection between a community history and its target audience. This study of the phenomenon of community history in Saskatchewan argues that academic historians, to date, have misunderstood the role, purpose, and success of community history. It contends that community history serves the dual purpose first, of collecting and preserving the community story in a published format, and, second, of inspiring an accompanying oral tradition. Through an examination of the initial idea, the process, the workers, the finished product, and the community response, this thesis concludes that community history should be seen as a contribution to a community's recreation, identification, reaffirmation and pride, rather than a contribution to the traditional historical field.