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Little Wanderers: A Literary History of the British Home Children in Canada


Between 1869 and 1948 as many as 118,000 children came to Canada under a British program of child migration. Many of these “Home Children” journeyed to Canada from the UK in search of a better life, far from poverty and discrimination in the old world. But why was migration viewed as a reasonable solution to urban poverty in the first place, and why was Canada the selected destination for these displaced youth? This special exhibit, “Little Wanderers,” seeks to answer these questions by surveying influential literature from the period. The exhibit features texts by prominent social reformers documenting the dire situation of the working-class and poor people in the Victorian city. It also includes nineteenth-century education and adventure fiction for children—works that often celebrate colonialism as a means to self-reform and social belonging. Literature by late-nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century Canadian authors also represents the colony as a place for discovery and growth. “Little Wanderers” concludes with a selection of texts specifically depicting the experiences and reception of the Home Children in Canada, including the legacy of these young migrants in their adoptive country.

Curated by Dr. Brooke Cameron, Associate Professor of English, and Alicia Alves, PhD Candidate in English. Special thanks to Kim Bell, Jacques Talbot, and Debbie Jardine in W.D. Jordan Special Collections. 

This project was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Counsel of Canada Insight Development Grant.  

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