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History Pre-confederation (to 1867)


A Short Illustrated History of Its First 12,000 Years

edited by Ron Williamson

James Lorimer & Company Ltd., Publishers
Initial publish date
Jun 2008
Pre-Confederation (to 1867), Americas
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2008
    List Price

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In this illustrated history of Toronto, Peter Carruthers's preface introduces the theme of Toronto as a middle ground: geographically a meeting point between Canada's vast natural resource wilderness, such Atlantic Ocean seaports as New York and Montreal, and the sprawling continental Midwest, and since prehistory, a place of meditation and exchange between different cultures and peoples. With the stage thus set, Robert MacDonald's first chapter takes us back 12,500 years, in its description of the geological and ecological history of the area's ancient landscape.

Ronald F. Williamson then pieces together the little-known archaeological record that tells us about the lives of the aboriginal people who made temporary camps and villages along the river valleys and lakeshore.

Carl Benn describes the colonial transformation of York at the edges of the great struggles for empire during the 1700s, and its growth into the most important urban, institutional, cultural and commercial centre in Upper Canada during the early 19th century.

Christopher Andreae transports us to its age of industry, the century of technological and industrial evolution between the first local railway's start in 1851 and World War II's end.

Finally, Roger Hall brings Toronto into the twenty-first century, analyzing the forces that saw the city shuck its staid and sanctimonious image as a good place (in Northrop Frye;s words) to mind your own business and emerge as a vigorous, multicultural metropolitan centre that continues to re-invent itself.

About the author

Editor Ron Williamson teaches anthropology at the University of Toronto.

Ron Williamson's profile page


  • Winner, Heritage Toronto Award of Merdit

Editorial Reviews

Andrew Stewart, heritage consultant, Toronto, Ontario, has some ideas for the Toronto history lover on your list:

"My nomination would be Toronto: An Illustrated History of Its First 12,000 Years edited by Ronald F. Williamson (Lorimer, 2008).

I suggest this book for several reasons:

* It is a comprehensive popular history that fills a gap in the existing literature about Toronto. In particular, it treats, seriously, the entire history of this place on the north shore of Lake Ontario, and not just the post-1750 history of Toronto. In other words, it gives equal treatment (in terms of scholarship and pages) to aboriginal (precontact) history instead of treating it as an afterthought (or before-thought). Some important information and images relating to precontact history derived from consultant archaeology -- not otherwise seen by most people -- is made available.

* It is written by scholars, writing in an accessible format and is well-edited to assure flow and consistent voice.

* It is beautifully layed-out and well-illustrated; nicely designed to be a modestly-sized and priced book (not an expensive weighty tome) -- making it even more attractive to a wider readership, including schools. Eminently giftable.

PS, despite the pitch, I had nothing to do with the book. I am simply a grateful reader -- one with a serious interest in the history of Toronto who recognizes a good thing."

"This is a good scholarly work for collections dealing with history, urban development and planning, urban geography, urban studies of all kinds, and for collections that are strong in anthropological studies. The Illustrations and maps provide an important part of the book, making it also interesting for adult readers."

Baseline (ALA) Vol. 29, No. 6

" accessible and enjoyable read, equally suited to both scholars and schoolchildren. ... With inspired text and a myriad of inviting photographs, paintings and images, Toronto: An Illustrated History of Its First 12,000 Years breathes life into the history of the city, creating images of past events on modern street corners and inviting the reader to imagine the city as it was without compromising everything Toronto is today."

Arch Notes 14 (1)

"It is a comprehensive popular history that fills a gap in the existing literature about Toronto."

"All in all, a rapid, highly readable and thoroughly reliable work, a wonderful reminder of how present is Toronto's past and how important it is to the city's future."

Ontario Historical Society Bulletin

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