Finding Background Information - Canadian History

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.
REF: 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], this official compendium of statistical information and interpretive essays was released annually until quite recently, but now appears only once every two to three years. Along with Historical Statistics of Canada (see below) it is 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.
REF: HA744.S81

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 [plans are apparently being made to resume publication], 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.
REF: FC2.C37

Canadian Encyclopedia. 2nd edition
This four-volume set has won praise for the generous scope of its coverage, and remains the only reasonably up-to-date (1988) national encyclopedia. It can generally be counted on to provide at least a brief, helpful introduction to most of the personalities, places, concepts, and events which are of national historic significance. If the subject of your interest does not warrant a full entry, the exceptionally comprehensive index in volume four should be consulted to determine if reference to the topic has been made in other entries. A significant short-coming is that most entries provide few, if any, suggestions for further reading/research.
[WWW access at]
REF: 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.
REF: FC164.C35 1994

Canadian Parliamentary Guide
This work, published annually since 1901 (a similar work, The Canadian Parliamentary Companion, shelved under the same call number, was published from 1862 to 1900) is an indispensable resource for Canadian political history. It provides riding-by-riding results for the most recent federal and provincial elections (along with tabular summaries of the results of all previous provincial and federal general elections), and a description of key elements of the federal government (e.g. Royal Family, Governor General, Privy Council, House of Commons, Senate) and judiciary (e.g.. Supreme, Federal and Tax courts), along with biographical sketches of every current MP and office holder. Similarly, descriptions of the structure of provincial and territorial governments and biographical sketches of their current members are also provided. Information is arranged by jurisdiction, beginning with federal institutions, followed, in alphabetical order, by chapters for each province, then for each territory, and, finally, for the judiciary. A name index to the biographical sketches appears at the back of each volume, as do a number of useful appendices (e.g. Canadian diplomats abroad, a directory of contact information for all provincial and federal politicians).

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.
REF: Z1365.B66 1996

Collins Dictionary of Canadian History, 1867 to the Present [1987]
This work largely succeeds in its stated aim of providing, "an easy to use and easy to read ... guide to the people, institutions, and events that shaped this country," although it is, in parts, extremely concise and opinionated, impairing its usefulness and reliability as a reference tool. The alphabetically- arranged entries are generally very brief, and provide no bibliographies or "further reading" suggestions (although a brief note on sources for the volume as a whole is appended). A helpful feature is the introductory chronology of major events in Canadian politics, economics, science and technology, culture, and sports, and the generous appendices, which provide a wealth of historical data in easy to read lists, maps, and tables.
REF: FC23.B47 1988

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.
REF: 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. [WWW access at]
REF: 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.
REF: 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.
REF: FC24.F58 2005

Historical Atlas of Canada
A superb reference tool, 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. The only significant short-coming of this magisterial work is the lack of an index, which can make specific information difficult to locate, although each volume has a detailed table of contents.
REF.OSZ. 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 above): 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]
REF: HA746.U7 1983 and Government Documents: CS11-516E

Horizon Canada
A series of thematic articles, compiled in ten volumes, which collectively aim to provide an illustrated popular history of Canada. Although not a scholarly work -- no bibliographies or notes on sources are provided -- this compilation does provide a useful introductory survey to a broad and eclectic range of historical topics and personalities. A detailed index to all the volumes is provided in volume ten, making it easy to locate specific information.
REF: FC149.H67 1987

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.
REF: FC164.G63 1998

Online Resources for Canadian Heritage
A fairly comprehensive and well-organized listing of "Internet resources pertinent to Canadian heritage in the disciplines covered by the Canadian Museum of Civilization," including the history of Canada and its peoples. The "History" and "Geography and Local History" sections are especially helpful. Simple keyword searching of the Museum of Civilization site, including this section, is available. The quality of the sites linked to varies significantly, and lack of annotations for the links and of an effective subject schema for organizing them promise plenty of wasted time and frustration.

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.
REF: FC23.O94 2004

Source-book of Canadian History: Selected Documents and Personal Papers
An interesting, if dated, compilation of excerpts from documents reflecting significant events and trends in Canadian history, from the first European "discoveries" to debates over Canadian identity in the 1950s. The excerpts, each introduced by a brief interpretive essay, are arranged in ten thematic parts, from "The discoveries," to "Some recent views on 'the Canadian question'." There is a very pronounced focus on politics and government, and an almost-total absence of documents discussing the history of natives, women, and ethnic minorities. For a more up-to-date and inclusive compilation, see Documenting Canada (above). A detailed table of contents and name/subject index greatly enhance the volume's accessibility.
REF: FC18.R4 1967

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.
REF: 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: 14-January-2010