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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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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.

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 ...

The Illustrated History of Canada: A Canadian Classic, Now Completely Revised

Brand: Key Porter Books
Paperback (621 pages)

The Illustrated History of Canada: A Canadian Classic, Now Completely Revised
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"This book presents the sweep of Canadian history, and a grand sweep it is."
- Montreal Gazette (on an earlier edition)

First published in 1987, The Illustrated History of Canada was the first comprehensive, authoritative one-volume chronicle of Canada from its earliest times.

Today, The Illustrated History of Canada is fully updated and includes contemporary material on the rise of small government, the recognition of Native land claims, and Canada's role in the post-Cold War.


By Mike Myers

Released: 2016-10-22
Hardcover (304 pages)

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In this instant national bestseller, comedy superstar Mike Myers writes from the (true patriot) heart about his 53-year relationship with his beloved Canada.

Mike Myers is a world-renowned actor, director and writer, and the man behind some of the most memorable comic characters of our time. But as he says: "no description of me is truly complete without saying I'm a Canadian." He has often winked and nodded to Canada in his outrageously accomplished body of work, but now he turns the spotlight full-beam on his homeland.
     His hilarious and heartfelt new book is part memoir, part history and pure entertainment. It is Mike Myers' funny and thoughtful analysis of what makes Canada Canada, Canadians Canadians and what being Canadian has always meant to him. His relationship with his home and native land continues to deepen and grow, he says. In fact, American friends have actually accused him of enjoying being Canadian—and he's happy to plead guilty as charged.
     A true patriot who happens to be an expatriate, Myers is in a unique position to explore Canada from within and without. With this, his first book, Mike brings his love for Canada to the fore at a time when the country is once again looking ahead with hope and national pride. Canada is a wholly subjective account of Mike's Canadian experience. Mike writes, "Some might say, 'Why didn't you include this or that?' I say there are 35 million stories waiting to be told in this country, and my book is only one of them."
     This beautifully designed book is illustrated in colour (and not color) throughout, and its visual treasures include personal photographs and Canadiana from the author's own collection. Published in the lead-up to the 2017 sesquicentennial, this is Mike Myers' birthday gift to his fellow Canadians. Or as he puts it: "In 1967, Canada turned one hundred. Canadians all across the country made Centennial projects. This book is my Centennial Project. I'm handing it in a little late. . . . Sorry."

A Concise History of Canada (Cambridge Concise Histories)

By Professor Margaret Conrad

Brand: Cambridge University Press
Released: 2012-09-20
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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