Historians have long engaged in passionate debate about collective memory and national identity. Alan Gordon focuses on one national hero - Jacques Cartier - to explore how notions about the past have been passed from generation to generation in English- and French-speaking Canada and used to present particular ideas about the world. Nineteenth-century celebrations of Cartier reflected a new understanding of history that accompanied the arrival of modernity in North America. This sensibility, in turn, influenced the political and cultural currents of nation building in Canada. Cartier may have been a point of contact between English and French Canada, but the nature of that contact, as Gordon shows, had profound limitations.