Sager, Eric



Phone number: (250) 721-7401
Department: History

Research description:

- Canadian family history
- Labour history
- Historical censuses

Expertise Profile
Our understanding of how families, households and income distributions change in Canada over time relies on historical census data, says historian Eric Sager.

Dr. Sager's major research focus is on the history of inequality, more specifically on the history of gaps between rich and poor in Canada in the 20th century.

As Director of the Canadian Families Project, he led a team of researchers who prepared a database from the population census of Canada for 1901. The team studied many aspects of households and families in the past, including the family economy, single-parent families, fertility decline, the elderly, and inequality.

Dr. Sager was also a member of the Canadian Century Research Infrastructure Project, which developed computerized samples from the censuses from 1911 to 1951.

Dr. Sager adds that census data is a powerful resource for understanding the family economy and how people coped with poverty in the past. Examining the solutions they came up with may help us to understand what solutions worked in the past and what did not work.

"There's always a history to these problems," he says. "In a way, history is like memories, which are a cure for amnesia. Without them, we're steering ourselves in the dark."

Dr. Sager also studies how economists, politicians and others understood inequality in the past. Who discovered the "problem" of inequality, and what solutions did they recommend?

He has discovered that Canadian economists in the first half of the twentieth century were very concerned about inequality as a moral and social problem. Inequality, therefore, is not a recent discovery among "Occupy Wall Street" protesters in recent years. It has a long history, both as a reality and as a perceived problem.

In his teaching seminar, students dig into their own family history, conducting interviews and sketching their genealogical trees to see how their families fit into the larger historical context.

Related Links
Dr. Sager's Faces of UVic Research video:

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