History Ph.D. Dissertations


Institutions of Integration: The Incorporation of Frontiers in Modern Democracies, 1864-1912

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Tiffany Trimmer (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Rebecca Mancuso (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Edmund Danziger (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Stephen Ortiz (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Irina Stakhanova (Committee Member)


The purpose of this study was to compare the cultural and political incorporation of the western frontiers of Canada and the United States in the late nineteenth century. The work examined the process of territorial integration (the transplantation of cultural and national identity from the state core into the peripheral frontier) in two geographically similar yet politically divergent democracies in the late nineteenth century. To accomplish this, the perspectives of both state authorities and frontier residents were explored through the use of personal memoirs, newspaper articles and editorials, formal reports from state agents, as well as official governmental records and legislative debates. Documents reveal that while law enforcement institutions were frequently chosen by the government to accomplish the task of cultural colonization, in every case the de facto objectives of these institutions transformed from enforcing the will of the national core to advocating for the needs of frontier residents. Since national identity in the late nineteenth century was based almost exclusively on a single ethnic identity, that of Anglo-Saxon Protestants, national governments could not afford to alienate these settlers politically. Therefore, the government consciously catered to the desires of its white Protestant settlers, even when conforming to popular dictates meant overriding the advice and judgment of law enforcement institutions. In the power relationship between the core and frontier, frontier residents occupied a greater position of power and agency. The historical differences between the United States and Canada, however, along with divergent geographic constraints, led the two countries to create two starkly different methods of accomplishing the same task.