The Amateur Academic’s Canadian History Immersion

We all have something to learn from Canadian history and heritage. From pre-European aboriginal life to the Afghanistan War, Canada’s rich history and culture is a joy to study. The resources included in this guide will help the amateur Canadian historian get started.

Best Books on Canadian History

A History of the Canadian Peoples, 4th ed. by J.M. Bumsted covers Canadian history from its inception to the present day. Special attention is given to modern difficulties including the October Crisis and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In The Penguin History of Canada, Robert Bothwell gives an erudite but accessible recounting of Canada’s history with some emphasis on late 20th century issues.

Desmond Morton’s A Short History of Canada provides an entertaining and informative survey of Canadian history from the First Nations onward.

The Makers of Canada: Index and Dictionary of Canadian History, edited by Lawrence J. Burpee and Arthur G. Doughty, covers the history of Canada before the 20th century and is available online for free from Project Gutenberg.

Best Archives and Source Materials

At Archives Canada, students can access archival networks, digitized maps, documents, photos and exhibits and browse projects made through the Archival Community Digitization Program. Because of Canada’s commitment to bilingualism, many of its resources, including this archive, are available in both English and French.

At the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales, students access digitized book pages, newspapers, handwritten materials, postcards and more that document Québec’s heritage from its founding in 1608 to the present. Although much of the site is translated into English, French is required for accessing some collections.

With Emerging Alberta, the modern history of Alberta is captured in photos, and students may also find links to a wealth of information about Alberta’s and Canada’s history. The University of Calgary also supports Canadian Architectural Archives with over 10,000 images of the “birth of the modern Canadian city.”

At the Gateway to Aboriginal Heritage view thousands of images of Canada’s First Peoples and learn about its diverse aboriginal cultures by exploring their most important objects by cultural area, object type and archaeological specimens.

Those interested in the history of Montréal will enjoy Montréal, 500 Years of History in Archives. Featuring over 700 documents, maps, and unique source materials covering Quebecois history from the establishment of Ville-Marie onward, this is a must-see for anyone interested in Canada’s largest province.

Also known as Acadia and one of the earliest European colonies, many great countries fought for control of Nova Scotia. This turmoil makes interesting study, and students who peruse Nova Scotia’s virtual archives are rewarded with exhibits, genealogical information, Gaelic resources, maps and surveys.

Best Blogs, Interactive Sites and Other Online Resources

The Canadian Encyclopedia, available in French and English, is a comprehensive resource, with contributions from over 5000 scholars and other professionals. This online version of the three-volume printed set has a wealth of useful tools, such as a searchable timeline, games and interactive maps to help students learn about Canada.

The history of Canada’s First Nations is displayed on a multimedia tutorial that spans pre-history through the 19th century. Learn about the culture, religion, myths and major events of aboriginal Canadians including the Iroquois, Blackfoot, Huron, Cree, Siouian, Mi’kmaq and Algonquin.

At the Canadian Military History Gateway, students learn about Canada’s participation in great military events such as the World War I Battle of Passchendaele through an online interactive timeline and reference books.

The Historica-Dominion Institute (HDI) preserves Canadian history with collections and programs it makes available on the internet. Programs include 101 Things Canadians Should Know About Canada and the Canadian Citizenship Challenge.

The University of Manitoba and University of Saskatchewan have partnered with the Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Center to create the Prairie Immigration Experience. With over 15,000 digitized documents, photographs, diaries, recordings and correspondences, this unique site chronicles the Canadian search for a better life.

At the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Center, explore virtual exhibits, watch videos, view photographs and other online images and learn about the history of the Northwest Territories with an interactive timeline.

At the Virtual Museum of Canada (VMC), tour 600 virtual exhibits and view thousands of images without leaving your seat. Although the museum covers science and the arts as well, history buffs will find plenty to enjoy, such as The Canoe.

A number of unique online exhibits are available through the Yukon Department of Tourism and Culture including an Asian History of the Yukon and the Klondike Gold Rush in northwestern Canada in the late 1890s.

Best Literature From and About Canadian History

Margaret Atwood’s Survival, written in 1972, explores the Canadian archetype of survival in the wilderness.

A Journey from Prince of Wales’ Fort in Hudson’s Bay to Northern Ocean written by Samuel Hearne in 1795, is considered a classic of northern exploration literature.

Written in 1993, with Green Grass, Running Water, Thomas King weaves cultural myth with modern life to tell the stories of the lives of five Blackfoot in a small town in Alberta.

Margaret Laurence wrote a series of novels about a fictional town in Manitoba. The Stone Angel, published in 1964, is one of the most well-known and tells the story of an aging protagonist looking back on her life.

Lucy Maud Montgomery ‘s Anne of Green Gables, written in 1908, tells the story of an orphan adopted to work on a farm in Prince Edward Island and her triumph over adversity.

W.O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen the Wind, written in 1947, marks the beginning of modern Canadian fiction with the introduction of Brian O’Connal, Canada’s Huckleberry Finn.

Penned in 1945, The Tin Flute (Bonheur d’occasion) by Gabrielle Roy vividly portrays Quebec society as it transformed from the Great Depression into World War II.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau is considered one of the people most influential in incorporating bilingualism into Canadian culture, and Federalism and the French Canadians, written in 1968, reflects his agenda.

Whether you prefer photographs, videos, virtual exhibits or interactive timelines, there is an online resource to help every type of learner study Canadian history. Take advantage of the wealth of information, manuscripts, books and maps available for free on the web to develop a deeper understanding of the history and culture of Canada.

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