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One of the most revealing things about national character is the way that citizens react to and report on their travels abroad. Oftentimes a tourist's experience with a foreign place says as much about their country of origin as it does about their destination. A Happy Holiday examines the travels of English-speaking Canadian men and women to Britain and Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It describes the experiences of tourists, detailing where they went and their reactions to tourist sites, and draws attention to the centrality of culture and the sensory dimensions of overseas tourism.
Among the specific topics explored are travellers' class relationships with people in the tourism industry, impressions of historic landscapes in Britain and Europe, descriptions of imperial spectacles and cultural sights, the use of public spaces, and encounters with fellow tourists and how such encounters either solidified or unsettled national subjectivities. Cecilia Morgan draws our attention to the important ambiguities between empire and nation, and how this relationship was dealt with by tourists in foreign lands. Based on personal letters, diaries, newspapers, and periodicals from across Canada, A Happy Holiday argues that overseas tourism offered people the chance to explore questions of identity during this period, a time in which issues such as gender, nation, and empire were the subject of much public debate and discussion.