Islands are places that foster a unique sense of place-attachment and community identity among their populations. Scholarship focusing on the distinctive values, attitudes and perspectives of ‘island people’ from around the world reveals the layers of meaning that are attached to island life. Lowenthal writes: ‘Islands are fantasized as antitheses of the all-engrossing gargantuan mainstream-small, quiet, untroubled, remote from the busy, crowded, turbulent everyday scene. In reality, most of them are nothing like that. …’ 1 Islands, for many people, are ‘imagined places’ in our increasingly globalised world; the perceptions of island culture and reality often differ. Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, in eastern North America, a locale with a rich history of class struggle surrounding its former coal and steel industries, provides an excellent case study for the ways that local history, collective memory and cultural expression might combine to combat the ‘untroubled fantasy’ that Lowenthal describes.