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History Post-confederation (1867-)

Becoming Vancouver

A History

by (author) Daniel Francis

Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd.
Initial publish date
Sep 2021
Post-Confederation (1867-), Western Provinces, City Planning & Urban Development
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2021
    List Price

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A brisk chronicle of Vancouver, BC, from early days to its emergence as a global metropolis, refracted through the events, characters and communities that have shaped the city.

In Becoming Vancouver award-winning historian Daniel Francis follows the evolution of the city from early habitation by the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, to the area’s settlement as a mill town, to the flourishing speakeasies and brothels during the 1920s, to the years of poverty and protest during the 1930s followed by the long wartime and postwar boom, to the city’s current status as real-estate investment choice of the global super-rich. Tracing decades of transformation, immigration and economic development, Francis examines the events and characters that have defined the city’s geography, economy and politics.

Francis enlivens his text with rich characterizations of the people who shaped Vancouver: determined Chief Joe Capilano, who in 1906 took a delegation to England to appeal directly to King Edward VII for better treatment of Indigenous peoples; brilliant and successful Won Alexander Cumyow, the first recorded person of Chinese descent born in Canada; L.D. Taylor, irrepressible ex-Chicagoan who still holds the record as the city’s longest-serving mayor; and tireless activist Helena Gutteridge, suffragist and Vancouver’s first woman councillor.

Vancouver has been called a city without a history, partly because of its youth but also because of the way it seems to change so quickly. Newcomers to the city, arriving by the thousands every year, find few physical reminders of what was before, making a new history like Becoming Vancouver long overdue.

About the author

Daniel Francis is an historian and the author/editor of more than twenty books, including five for Arsenal Pulp Press: The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture , National Dreams: Myth, Memory and Canadian History, LD: Mayor Louis Taylor and the Rise of Vancouver (winner of the City of Vancouver Book Award), Seeing Reds: The Red Scare of 1918-1919, Canada's First War on Terror and Imagining Ourselves: Classics of Canadian Non-Fiction. His other books include A Road for Canada, Red Light Neon: A History of Vancouver's Sex Trade, Copying People: Photographing British Columbia First Nations 1860-1940, The Great Chase: A History of World Whaling, New Beginnings: A Social History of Canada, and the popular Encyclopedia of British Columbia. He is also a regular columnist in Geist magazine, and was shortlisted for Canada's History Pierre Berton Award in 2010. Daniel lives in North Vancouver, BC.

Daniel Francis' profile page


  • Short-listed, Basil Stuart-Stubbs Book Prize
  • Short-listed, George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature

Editorial Reviews

"Finally! The definitive history of Vancouver. Daniel Francis’s Becoming Vancouver is a necessary and long over-due book and a must have for any Vancouverite who truly wants to understand their city."

Eve Lazarus, author of <i>Vancouver Exposed: Searching for the City’s Hidden History</i>

"Francis shows Vancouver as a city of conflict – not between classes or neighbourhoods but between ideals and values, the things that run to the core of a community. If it has been difficult to find the soul of Vancouver it is because it is one that is torn and uncomfortable with itself. Vancouver emerges from these pages as a more complex place populated by characters who struggle to do the right thing."

John Belshaw

"Daniel Francis has written the first complete, chronological history of Vancouver in a half-century, bringing the story up to date with engaging accounts of Indigenous life, politics, entertainment and crime that show the city in all its flawed glory."

Michael Kluckner, author of <i>Vanishing Vancouver, Toshiko, </i>and <i>Here & Gone</i>

"In the long human narrative of the place, the rise of what we now call Vancouver, itself now part of an even vaster emerging megalopolis that arcs around the Georgia Basin, is a mere blink. Before it was conceived in frenzy of greed, colonial imperialism, escapist dreams, utopian idealism, despair, grief and dashed hopes, it had been home to powerful First Nations for longer, arguably, than the new British colonists had occupied their own homeland. Becoming Vancouver, a new history of the origins of Canada's third largest city, frames its raucous, sometimes unpleasant, occasionally tragic or triumphant, always dramatic story within the context of that larger, often understated past. It's just one of the insights that brings a different take to this lyrical, accessible, exciting and, above all, thoroughly enjoyable history of what's become the brash, supercharged engine of British Columbia. Daniel Francis is one of the province's literary treasures. This remarkable book is affirmation of his deserving place on the bookshelf of anyone who cares to know where they come from and why."

Stephen Hume

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