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The experience of walking down a store aisle – replete with displays, salespeople, and infinite choice – is so common we often forget retail has a short history. Retail Nation traces Canada’s transformation into a modern consumer society back to an era – 1890 to 1940 – when department stores such as Eaton’s ruled the shopping scene and promised to strengthen the nation. Department stores emerge as agents of modern nationalism, but the nation they helped to define – white, consumerist, middle-class – was more limited, and contested, than nostalgic portraits of the early department store suggest.