Finding Background Information - Canadian History


Historical Atlas of Canada
A visually-impressive resource, arranged in three volumes. Volume one spans from prehistoric times to 1800, volume two from 1800 to 1891, and volume three examines the twentieth century, up to 1961. Each volume is arranged as a series of map "plates" examining a particular theme (e.g. "The Changing Work-force") or locale (e.g. "Ottawa: The Emerging Capital"), supported by statistical graphics, illustrations, and interpretive essays. A detailed note on information sources is provided for every plate at the back of each volume. A significant short-coming of the work, the lack of an index, has been somewhat addressed with the keyword searching of the e-book editions (below).
Volume 1 e-book link   /
Volume 2 e-book link    /
Volume 3 e-book link
Print location -- Reference Oversize: G1116.S1H5 1987

Historical Statistics of Canada. 2nd edition
Covering the period from Confederation to the mid-1970s, this volume is a useful complement to the Canada Year Book (see below): although Year Book issues typically provide more detailed information and interpretive/analytical essays, Historical Statistics presents many years' worth of data in a single table. The 2001 Year Book, for example, only provides statistics on forest fires for a single year (1997), whereas Historical Statistics gives forest fire data for every year from 1908 to 1975. The tables are organized into broad topical chapters, ranging from "Population & Migration" to "Justice", and a detailed subject index is provided at the back of the volume.

[Free Web version at:]
Print location -- Reference: HA746.U7 1983 and Government Documents: CS11-516E

Oxford Companion to Canadian History
Featuring more than 1,600 signed entries from over 500 experts in the field, this 2004 publication filled a long-standing need for a single-volume companion to Canadian history and is a great resource for a concise, readable introduction to any one of a huge variety of historical topics. The alphabetically-arranged entries cover prominent historical figures, events, places, concepts, and even catch-phrases (e.g. "corporate welfare bums), and all regions of the country and historical eras are represented. The single-volume format imposes certain limitations: the longest of the entries run to no more than two pages, and no bibliographies/source notes or illustrations (beyond a few helpful maps at the back of the volume) are provided. Off-setting this are the comprehensive scope of coverage, and the generally excellent quality of the entries. The book also has thorough name and subject indexing and cross-referencing.
E -book link
Print location -- Reference:  FC23.O94 2004

Britain and the Americas : culture, politics, and history
This three-volume set deals with, "the four prime areas of British Atlantic engagement (Canada, the Caribbean, the United States, and Latin America)", and the historical, political, and socioeconomic trends of Britain's impact on the Americas, and the influence of these nations, in turn, on contemporary Britain. The topical entries are presented in an intuitive A-Z arrangement, with a detailed index at the end of vol. 3. Entries range in length from half a page to 5 or 6 pages: all entries are signed and have a references list. "See also" cross-referencing helps link related entries.
Print location -- Reference: E18.75 B75 2005

Canada Year Book
First published in 1906 [a virtually identical series, the The Statistical Year Book of Canada -- Call # REF: HA744.S8 -- was published from 1886 to 1905], and discontinued with the 2011 edition, this official compendium of statistical information and interpretive essays was released annually for much of its history, but latterly appeared only once every two to three years. Along with Historical Statistics of Canada (see below) it remains an essential source of quantitative data on the Canadian population, government, and economy. There is a detailed index at the back of each volume, important for pinpointing specific information. Year Book volumes were originally dense, dry bricks of text and tables, but more recent editions are lavishly illustrated, and provide plenty of plain-language interpretation and analysis of the statistical data presented. Canada e-Book is an electronic counterpart.
Online access via Statistics Canada (archived page):
Print location -- Reference: HA744.S81 (* 2011 issue only; older issues in Stacks)

Canadian Annual Review [of Politics and Public Affairs]
Published annually from 1901 to 1938 as The Canadian Annual Review of Public Affairs, from 1960 to 1970 as The Canadian Annual Review, and from then until 1994 as The Canadian Annual Review of Politics and Public Affairs, each volume of this work provides an extremely useful collection of "year-in-review" essays, analyzing key developments in government and society at both the federal and provincial level. Although the format of this work changed over time, a typical volume also provides a chronology of events of note in the year under review and brief obituaries of prominent individuals who died in that year. Most volumes have both a name and a subject index. The publication schedule has experienced many delays in recent years: the most recent volume, covering the year 2008, was only published in 2015.
2008 volume e-book link  * most volumes back to the 1960s can accessed through one of the Library's e-book collections; please contact the History liaison librarian for assistance
Print location -- Reference: FC2.C34  / FC2.C35  / FC2.C37

Canadian Encyclopedia. []
The last print edition of this pioneering work was published in 1988, but an online edition, hosted by the Historica Foundation (famous for its Heritage Minutes) is regularly updated. Most entries -- the Encyclopedia uses the term "articles" -- are signed, and the date of original posting and updated are recorded; longer entries (articles) will usually offer at least a few suggestions for further reading, and point to relevant external websites and related articles in the Encyclopedia. The writing style and presentation of much of the Encyclopedia's content cannot be considered scholarly -- the general aim is for broad appeal, with a particular focus on K-12 students -- but it provides a useful starting point for researching many Canadian topics.
Print location -- Reference: FC23.C36 1988

Canadian History: A Readers Guide
This two-volume collection of bibliographic essays provides an extremely comprehensive survey of the "best" available writing on Canadian history. The first volume deals with writing on the period between the arrival of the First Nations and Confederation, while the second looks at writing on Canadian history from Confederation to the early 1990s. Each essay provides a scholarly evaluation of key books and articles on a particular subject (e.g. "British North America in Imperial Context") or region (e.g. "Quebec since 1867"). At the back of each volume, there is subject index and an index of authors whose works are discussed.
Print location -- Reference: FC164.C35 1994

Canadian Reference Sources: An Annotated Bibliography
Published with the participation of the National Library of Canada's Reference and Information Services, this remarkable work has a lengthy chapter (pp 201-379) on sources for "History and Related Subjects". The chapter's four main sections -- biographies, genealogy, heraldry, and history -- are, in turn, divided into a number of subsections, and entries are arranged alphabetically by author's name (or title, if no individual author/compiler is credited for a work) within each subsection. The naming and arrangement of the subsections is rather confusing, but a running header at the top of each page, and thorough name, title, and subject indices at the back of the volume, make this work easy to navigate, with a little practice. Each numbered entry provides a brief descriptive annotation on the scope and content of the work discussed, as well as complete bibliographic information and the Library of Congress and Dewey call numbers, making this a useful tool for navigating (and evaluating) any library's reference collection.
E-book link

Dictionary of Canadian Biography []
Canada is fortunate to have several important reference works freely available online, and the most impressive of these is surely the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (DCB). Now containing roughly 8,500 biographical essays of individuals from all walks of life, from the year 1000 through to the 1930s, the DCB stands at 15 volumes, organized chronologically by the date of death (or last significant activity) of the people profiled. The essays, written by carefully-chosen subject experts, are detailed and thoroughly researched, and contain comprehensive notes on sources: a portrait / photo of the individual profiled is provided (where available). The online version of the DCB encompasses the text of all 15 print volumes to date, plus seleted biographies from forthcoming volumes. Careful cross-referencing of essays allows the reader to readily find connections between individuals.
Print location -- Reference: FC164.C35 1994

Documenting Canada: A History of Modern Canada in Documents
One of the few compendiums of Canadian historical documents that is reasonably up-to-date: coverage extends from Confederation to 1991 (A Source-book of Canadian History, discussed below, provides excerpts from pre-Confederation documents). The documents, arranged chronologically, are mostly key pieces of pieces of legislation (e.g. 1987's Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act) or legal decisions (e.g. 1988's Supreme Court Ruling on the Morgentaler abortion case). Each document is introduced with a brief essay explaining its historic significance.
Print location -- Reference:FC18.D63 1992

Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples
An excellent source of historical and contemporary information, consisting of 119 signed, scholarly essays on Canadian ethnic groups, arranged alphabetically from Aboriginals to the Welsh. The essays are superbly detailed, providing discussion and analysis (supported by suggestions for further reading) on virtually all major aspects of an ethnic group's existence, including: origins, arrival and settlement, economic and social/family life, culture, education, intergroup relations and group maintenance (although treatment of small, diffuse, or recently established ethnic groups is, naturally, less detailed). The encyclopedia concludes with a statistical table showing the population size and distribution, by province, of each of the ethnic groups discussed. The encyclopedia is well cross-referenced, but, unfortunately, lacks an index.
Print location -- Reference: FC104.E56 1999

Facts About Canada, Its Provinces and Territories
A useful "facts at a glance" compendium of contemporary and historical information on Canadian provinces and territories. Especially helpful are the detailed historical chronology and lengthy reading list (including many history texts) provided in each province's entry.
Print location -- Reference: FC23.W44 1995

Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates. 3rd edition
The core of this volume is a lengthy and detailed chronology of Canadian history, ranging from the geological formation of the country, through the time of the First Nations, and up to the end of 2003. Most of the entries are presented in a day-by-day format, and range in length from a short sentence to long paragraphs, depending on the importance and complexity of the events occurring on that date. For general trends and facts and figures not well-served by the dated entry format, each year concludes with an "Also in [Year]" listing. The range of the volume's scope and content are remarkable (no province, region, or field of human endeavour - from sports, through arts, to politics - appears to have been neglected), and the chronological presentation is a great service for anyone wishing to see what was happening in Canada at a given point in time. A detailed name/subject index also makes this a useful ready-reference source. The main drawback of the work is the uneven quality of the entries, some of which provide either too much or too little detail for a work of this type or are marred by spelling and grammatical errors.
Print location -- Reference: FC24.F58 2005

Introducing Canada: An Annotated Bibliography of Canadian History in English
An interesting complement to Canadian History: A Reader's Guide (see above), this single-volume work provide critical annotations of key texts on a variety of Canadian historical themes (e.g. "Native Aspects of History," "External Relations and Military History"). Each thematic section is introduced by a brief essay and divided into sub-sections (typically "General Works," followed by an assortment of more specific topics), with annotations arranged alphabetically by author/editor name within each sub-section. This arrangement can make an annotation for a particular book difficult to find, especially since there is no title index. Fortunately, however, an author index and a subject index are provided at the back of the volume.
Print location -- Reference:  FC164.G63 1998

Wars of the Americas : a chronology of armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere
This two-volume set examines military campaigns and battles in the Americas, in chronological order from 1492 to the early 2000s. Volume One covers the era of "Discovery and Conquest (1492-1572)" through to the years of the "High Tide of Empire (1700-1777)"; volume two covers "Independence (1775-1825)" to the "Modern Era (1939-Present)". Within each era, the progress of wars and military operations are described in detail with entries on the events of a particular month or date. The length of entries varies from a few sentences to several pages, depending on the amount (and complexity) of military activity occuring at any time. Individuals entries do not have bibliographies or list of references, but each volume has a fairly detailed bibliography of general works for a given era, and for each of the wars/campaigns occuring therein. In addition to the bibliography, the back of each volume has a glossary, a geographic (country) index, and a detailed name/subject index.
Print location -- Reference: E18.75 M374 2008


Created by: Simon Lloyd, B.A., M.L.I.S.
Special Collections Librarian
Phone: 902-566-0536
Date Created: 16-September-2002
Date Revised: 30-September-2020