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History British Columbia (bc)

Lessons in Legitimacy

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

by (author) Sean Carleton

UBC Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2022
British Columbia (BC), Social History, Indigenous Studies, History
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2022
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2022
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2023
    List Price

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Between 1849 and 1930, government-assisted schooling in what is now British Columbia supported the development of a capitalist settler society. Lessons in Legitimacy examines state schooling for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples – public schools, Indian Day Schools, and Indian Residential Schools – in one analytical frame.


Schooling for Indigenous and non-Indigenous children and youth functioned in distinct yet complementary ways, teaching students lessons in legitimacy that normalized settler capitalism and the making of British Columbia. Church and state officials administered different school systems that trained Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to take up and accept unequal roles in the emerging social order.


Combining insights from history, Indigenous studies, historical materialism, and political economy, 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.

About the author

Sean Carleton is an assistant professor in the Department of History and the Department of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba. His research examines the history of colonialism, capitalism, and schooling in Canada.

Sean Carleton's profile page


  • Runner-up, Lieutenant Governor’s Historical Writing Awards
  • Winner, Clio Prize (British Columbia), Canadian Historical Association

Editorial Reviews

"His contribution is imperative to both understanding education in British Columbia and improving schooling for Indigenous and all students."

Historical Studies in Education

"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."

BC Studies