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Travel Guide 2   >   Canada   >   History


Canadian History

According to Inuit and First Nations tradition, Canada has been inhabited since the dawn of the time. However, the archaeological evidence discovered to date suggests circa 24,500 BC for the earliest people in Yukon, and 7,500 BC for southern Ontario.

The earliest contact with Europe, is believed to have occured around 1000 AD when Vikings from Greenland are known to have reached, and built a small settlement at, L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, although they only stayed their for a relatively short period. It is uncertain if this settlement is Leif Erikson's legendary "Vinland", or was perhaps a stopping point on the way to Vinland.

The next Europeans to reach Canada were Basque cod fishermen and whalers, who arrived in the area in the late 15th century, and who established a number of fishing outposts in Labrador and Newfoundland. In 1497, John Cabot landed in Canada (probably Newfoundland or Cape Breton Island), and claimed the area for King Henry VII of England. Portuguese and Spanish expeditions are also known to have also explored the region, but it was the French who were the first to move inland and to set up permanent colonies (beginning in 1534). Soon afterwards, the British also began to establish colonies in Newfoundland, southern Nova Scotia and the Hudson Bay area.

In 1608, the French established Quebec City, and it became capital of the colony of New France (French: Nouvelle France). Although the colony was successful at trading, especially the fur trade, the population of New France remained low (just 60,000 in 1759), because of low immigration, little support from the mother country, and constant wars with the Iroquois (who were supported by the British in an attempt to weaken the French).

Britain and France went to war several times in the 18th century, and many battles were fought in Canada. The British usually had the upper hand in the fighting in Canada, because of their superior navy, greater financial resources, and the fact that they controlled territory both to the North (in the Hudson Bay) and to the South (in the 13 Colonies) of the French-controlled areas. As a result in 1763, following the Seven Years' War (known in the United States as the "French and Indian War"), France ceded nearly all its remaining territory in North America to Britain.

The first half of the 19th century was no easy ride for British rule in Canada. In the War of 1812, an attempted US invasion was thwarted, and rebellions against the colonial government took place in 1837. Following these rebellions, a British government report, the Durham Report, recommended responsible government be granted, and the union of Upper and Lower Canada. The union was achieved in 1840, and in 1867 a Canadian federation was formed, the Dominion of Canada.

During 1840s, agreement was reached with the United States to place the border at the 49th parallel, thus paving the way for Canada's westward expansion. Colonies were founded in British Columbia and Vancouver Island in 1848 and 1849 respectively (the two colonies were united in 1866). Manitoba joined the Dominion of Canada in 1870, British Columbia in 1871, and Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1905.

Canada participated in both World Wars on the Allied side. In World War I, Canada was legally at war as soon as Britain declared war. By World War II, the legal position had changed - the 1931 Statute of Westminister granted Canada effective independence (although some Constitutional ties with Britain remained), and Canada made a separate declaration of war on Germany, a week after Britain.

After World War II, Canada expanded once again when Newfoundland joined the country (Newfoundland was previously a British colony) after a closely fought referendum. Canada became a key member of the western alliance, joining NATO, sending troops to fight in the Korean War (1950 to 1953), and participating in a joint air defense system with the United States (NORAD).

Since the 1960s, Quebec has played an increasingly important role in Canadian politics, although not without controversy (including some demands for independence), and even violence. The main result of these changes has been increased recognition of the distinct and unique culture of French Canada. Another constitutional change, one that took place in 1982, was "Patriation", the removal of the remaining powers that the British parliament had to legislate for Canada.

Here are some books about the history of Canada:

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Books about Canadian History

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A Short History of Canada: Seventh Edition

By Desmond Morton

McClelland & Stewart
Released: 2017-08-29
Paperback (432 pages)

A Short History of Canada: Seventh Edition
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A fully updated edition of the Canadian classic.

Most of us know bits and pieces of our history but would like to be more sure of how it all fits together. The trick is to find a history that is so absorbing you will want to read it from beginning to end. With this expanded, seventh edition of A Short History of Canada, readers need look no further.
     Desmond Morton, one of Canada's most highly respected historians, is keenly aware of the ways in which our past informs the present, and in one compact and engrossing volume, he pulls off the remarkable feat of bringing it all together -- from the First Nations before the arrival of the Europeans, to Confederation, to Stephen Harper's prime ministership, to Justin Trudeau's victory in the 2015 election. His acute observations on the Diefenbaker era, the effects of the post-war influx of immigrants, the Trudeau years and the constitutional crisis, the Quebec referendum, the rise of the Canadian Alliance, and Canada under Harper's governance, all provide an invaluable background to understanding the way Canada works today and its direction in years to come.

Penguin History of Canada

By Robert Bothwell

Penguin Canada
Released: 2007-10-30
Kindle Edition (612 pages)

Penguin History of Canada
Product Description:
Canada is in many ways a country of limits, a paradox for a place that enjoys virtually unlimited space. Most of that space is uninhabited, and much of it is uninhabitable. It is a country with a huge north but with most of its population in the south, hugging the U.S. border. An uneasy and difficult country, Canada has nevertheless defied the odds: it remains, in the 21st century, a haven of peace and a beacon of prosperity. Erudite yet accessible and marked by narrative flair, The Penguin History of Canada paints an expansive portrait of a dynamic and complex country.

Rise to Greatness: The History of Canada From the Vikings to the Present

By Conrad Black

McClelland & Stewart
Released: 2014-11-11
Hardcover (1120 pages)

Rise to Greatness: The History of Canada From the Vikings to the Present
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Masterful, ambitious, and groundbreaking, this is a major new history of our country by one of our most respected thinkers and historians -- a book every Canadian should own.
     From the acclaimed biographer and historian Conrad Black comes the definitive history of Canada -- a revealing, groundbreaking account of the people and events that shaped a nation.
     Spanning 874 to 2014, and beginning from Canada's first inhabitants and the early explorers, this masterful history challenges our perception of our history and Canada's role in the world. From Champlain to Carleton, Baldwin and Lafontaine, to MacDonald, Laurier, and King, Canada's role in peace and war, to Quebec's quest for autonomy, Black takes on sweeping themes and vividly recounts the story of Canada's development from colony to dominion to country. Black persuasively reveals that while many would argue that Canada was perhaps never predestined for greatness, the opposite is in fact true: the emergence of a magnificent country, against all odds, was a remarkable achievement. Brilliantly conceived, this major new reexamination of our country's history is a riveting tour de force by one of the best writers writing today.

Canada: An Illustrated History: An Illustrated History, Revised and Expanded

By Derek Hayes

Paperback (296 pages)

Canada: An Illustrated History: An Illustrated History, Revised and Expanded
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From the early days of exploration and settlement to Canada's participation in space exploration and the 2015 federal election, this illustrated history conveys the drama and scope of the nation. Through accessible commentary and a wealth of images, both well-known and obscure facets of Canadian history are presented in this splendid compendium.

Read about Canada's first newspaper, the Halifax Gazette, which, in its first iteration, was a single sheet of paper. Find out which Canadian bridge collapsed not once, but twice. Discover the nation's history of crime and punishment, firefighting, the 25-cent and $50,000 bills, Prohibition, early aviation, and much, much more. Here also are the tales of a myriad of individuals who shaped Canada: the famous, the infamous, the popular and the unknown. Hayes details stories of First Nations, separatists and statesmen, astronauts and inventors, motorists, mail carriers, fur traders, photographers and politicians.

More than 450 illustrations accompany the text, including 200-plus photographs, 50-plus paintings and drawings (many by Canadian artists) and 35 historic maps, as well as posters, stamps, cartoons, stained glass and tapestries. Canada: An Illustrated History is a visual experience every Canadian can enjoy.

Canada: Canadian History: From Aboriginals to Modern Society - The People, Places and Events That Shaped The History of Canada and North America

By William D. Willis

Released: 2017-06-29
Kindle Edition (78 pages)

Canada: Canadian History: From Aboriginals to Modern Society - The People, Places and Events That Shaped The History of Canada and North America
Product Description:


Canada is known all over the world due to its undying commitment to multiculturalism and its social and ethnic diversity. In a time when these values were unspoken of, Canada was the first country to embrace an official multiculturalism policy.
Nevertheless, the path that Canada followed to become the powerful nation it is today was like a labyrinth, filled with challenges and obstacles.

Starting from Canada’s first inhabitants and explorers, this brief book will offer you a comprehensive overview of Canada’s history, as it presents the key events that altered the course of this nation, irrevocably.

The following aspects are included in the book:
* The coming of the Aboriginal peoples to Canada.
* The first Viking expedition to Canada led by Leif Eriksson.
* The initial European explorations that took place during the 15-16th centuries and how these laid the grounds for the colonization movement that followed afterward.
* Canada’s role and place in the world today.
* The primary elements that shape the Canadian culture and what makes it so distinctive.
* Main places to visit in Canada: some sights and attractions that shouldn’t miss from your itinerary if you want to understand
* Canada's culture and uniqueness.

Only when you aim at learning about a country’s history could you fully grasp its culture and evolution. That’s what makes this book the perfect resource for those who want to enlarge their knowledge of Canada.

Canada is a country that seems to relish unlimited space. It is dynamic, unique and complex, being much more than a multicultural society; it is also a multinational one. The details pointed in this book link Canada’s past and present to its potential future.

I challenge you to broaden your comprehension of Canada and get this book today! This beautiful country is unexpectedly intriguing once you get to learn more about it.

The Kids Book of Canadian History

By Carlotta Hacker

Kids Can Press
Paperback (72 pages)

The Kids Book of Canadian History
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Canada has a rich and fascinating history. In this informative overview, kids will discover the people, places and events that have shaped our country. Featuring fact boxes, mini-profiles, maps, a timeline and more, this title in the acclaimed Kids Book of series offers a comprehensive and engaging look at Canada's development, change and growth.

Kids can read about
? the potlatch ceremonies of the west coast Aboriginal people
? the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway
? the battle of Vimy Ridge in World War I
? the role of Canadian women in World War II
? the establishment of Nunavut, Canada's newest territory, and more ...

A History of Canada in Ten Maps: Epic Stories of Charting a Mysterious Land

By Adam Shoalts

Allen Lane
Released: 2017-10-10
Hardcover (352 pages)

A History of Canada in Ten Maps: Epic Stories of Charting a Mysterious Land
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Longlisted for the 2018 RBC Taylor Prize

Shortlisted for the 2018 Louise de Kiriline Lawrence Award for Nonfiction

The sweeping, epic story of the mysterious land that came to be called “Canada” like it’s never been told before.

Every map tells a story. And every map has a purpose--it invites us to go somewhere we've never been. It’s an account of what we know, but also a trace of what we long for.

Ten Maps conjures the world as it appeared to those who were called upon to map it. What would the new world look like to wandering Vikings, who thought they had drifted into a land of mythical creatures, or Samuel de Champlain, who had no idea of the vastness of the landmass just beyond the treeline?
Adam Shoalts, one of Canada’s foremost explorers, tells the stories behind these centuries old maps, and how they came to shape what became “Canada.” 

It’s a story that will surprise readers, and reveal the Canada we never knew was hidden. It brings to life the characters and the bloody disputes that forged our history, by showing us what the world looked like before it entered the history books. Combining storytelling, cartography, geography, archaeology and of course history, this book shows us Canada in a way we've never seen it before.

A Concise History of Canada (Cambridge Concise Histories)

By Margaret Conrad

Brand: Cambridge University Press
Released: 2012-05-28
Paperback (346 pages)

A Concise History of Canada (Cambridge Concise Histories)
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Margaret Conrad's history of Canada begins with a challenge to its readers. What is Canada? What makes up this diverse, complex, and often contested nation-state? What was its founding moment? And who are its people? Drawing on her many years of experience as a scholar, writer, and teacher of Canadian history, Conrad offers astute answers to these difficult questions. Beginning in Canada's deep past with the arrival of its Aboriginal peoples, she traces its history through the conquest by Europeans, the American Revolutionary War, and the industrialization of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to its prosperous present. As a social historian, Conrad emphasizes the peoples' history: the relationships between Aboriginal and settler, the French and the English, the Catholic and Protestant, and the rich and poor. She writes of the impact of disease, how women fared in the early colonies, and of the social transformations that took place after the Second World War as Canada began to assert itself as an independent nation. It is this grounded approach which drives the narrative and makes for compelling reading. In the last chapter, the author explains the social, economic, and political upheavals that have transformed the nation over the last three decades. Despite its successes and its popularity as a destination for immigrants from across the world, Canada remains a curiously reluctant player on the international stage. This intelligent, concise, and lucid book explains just why that is.


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