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Canadian History

By kirs10n
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tagged: Canada, History
Books that have to do with Canadian History that I have read
A History of Canada in Ten Maps

A History of Canada in Ten Maps

Epic Stories of Charting a Mysterious Land
also available: Paperback

Winner of the 2018 Louise de Kiriline Lawrence Award for Nonfiction
Longlisted for the 2018 RBC Taylor Prize
Shortlisted for the 2018 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction
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 wor …

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If I’ve learned anything about maps, it’s that each one tells a story. The maps reproduced in this book were made by First Nations, Scandinavian, French, English, Scottish, Canadian, and American car­tographers. Together they tell the story of the land that came to be called Canada. They remind us that there was nothing at all inevitable about the country’s borders or geography. The familiar image of Canada’s geographic outline—which today occupies such a conspicuous chunk of the world, nearly the whole northern half of an entire continent—might have looked very different. Indeed, it might not have existed at all. That such a vast and diverse land—or really, many lands—ever came to be united in a single state called Canada, with the shape that now seems so familiar, is only one of a whole range of possibilities.
In the beginning, on the earliest maps, “Canada” was not the immense extent of land and sea it comprises today. Originally, “Canada” referred merely to the land on either bank of the St. Lawrence River—territory that was to become the heart of the French Empire in the New World. As the French colonists spread, so too did the name Canada—and by the end of the seventeenth century, “Canada” was being used on maps to indicate everything from the upper Great Lakes to northern Acadia.
By the time of Confederation in 1867, Canada had come to signify the land between Lake Superior in the west and Nova Scotia in the east. Within a few more years the map of Canada had been redrawn to stretch all the way west—across the grasslands of the interior and the snowy peaks of the Rockies to the rainforests of the Pacific coast. By the dawn of the twentieth century the map of Canada had continued to expand northward to the desolate reaches of the High Arctic, beyond even where the Inuit lived. And by the mid-twentieth century Canada had expanded farther still to encompass Newfoundland as well as the mountainous wilderness of Labrador—giving the country its modern shape. Some 9,984,670 square kilometres in all, an immense area nearly larger than the whole of Europe combined, with borders on three of the world’s five oceans and more coastline than any other country. Accurately mapping such a vast part of the globe took centuries, per­sistent effort, and ingenuity—the final 1:50,000 scale topographic map of the last bit of Canada’s Arctic was completed only in 2012. As for the undersea bed of Canada’s maritime waters, there are parts that still remain uncharted.
Most of that mapping was accomplished peacefully, but national borders are more often than not forged in war—and Canada’s are no exception. Though few would probably guess it from how peaceful life now seems in Canada, there is hardly a place anywhere in the southern part of the country that hasn’t seen some battle or other—battles that sometimes resulted in the redrawing of maps. Canada was for centuries the battleground of empires. The Iroquois Wars, King William’s War, the War of Spanish Succession, the War of Austrian Succession, the Seven Years’ War, the American War of Independence, and the War of 1812 were all major conflicts that saw blood spilled in part over who was to rule Canada. During this turbulent era many hundreds of pitched battles were fought on Canadian soil and much of the country­side was laid waste.
Nearly every Canadian settlement, farm, and town from the Detroit River east to Lake Ontario was plundered or torched by marauding American armies and their turncoat Canadian collaborators between 1812 and 1814. Upper Canada’s colonial capital, York, was pillaged and burned in April 1813 by American troops under the command of the explorer Zebulon Pike, who was killed in the attack when he was crushed by falling debris from an explosion. The Americans torched the provincial legislative assembly, which included the colonial library. Niagara-on-the-Lake shared the same fate in 1813, in the midst of a December blizzard that left survivors destitute and later prompted bitter reprisals from Canadian colonial forces—who bayoneted much of the American garrison they took by surprise at Fort Niagara, and then, in revenge for their lost homes, burned towns on the American side of the Niagara River. The following year American troops retaliated, again invading Upper Canada and burning the town of St. Davids as the start of a final bloody campaign that saw thousands of casualties in hard-fought battles at Lundy’s Lane, Chippawa, Fort Erie, and Cook’s Mills. Two and a half years of war had transformed much of Upper Canada into a charred, smouldering wasteland. Hundreds of Canadians were killed or wounded in the fighting at a time when the colony’s population numbered only 75,000—a casualty rate comparable to what the country suffered in the World Wars. The memories left were bitter and deep.
This is not the PG-13 version of Canada’s past taught in schools. Canada’s history was nothing if not bloody. For the better part of a hundred years the French and their aboriginal allies, especially the Wendat, warred with the powerful Iroquois Confederacy of Five Nations—and that war had roots in conflicts that dated back even before the French settlements. Quebec City has been attacked and laid siege to numerous times—the bloodiest of which left much of the city
in ruins. Montreal was nearly wiped out by an Iroquois attack in 1660; the city was later fought over by British and French armies, and endured occupation by an American force in the Revolutionary War. Nearly every town in southern Quebec—the heart of Old Canada—was the scene of some violent raid or skirmish between English colonists and Canadien settlers or Iroquois warriors. Newfoundland’s English settlements were laid waste in a brutal campaign between 1696 and 1697 by the Canadien pirate and adventurer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and his Canadien troops, and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick saw inter­minable wars involving colonial New Englanders, Acadians, British and French regulars, and Mi’kmaq and other First Nation warriors—to say nothing of piracy in the offshore waters. Rival fur empires clashed in the Northwest with wholesale slaughter at places like Seven Oaks; the French and British battled on the seas of Hudson and James Bays; the Inuit fought repeatedly with their Dene and Cree rivals, who were also at war with each other; and the Great Plains warfare between the Sioux, Blackfoot, Plains Cree and other First Nations raged for centuries. In a single day in 1870, a Blackfoot war party killed three to four hundred Cree on the banks of the Belly River near Lethbridge, Alberta—the final battle in a conflict that had lasted off and on for centuries. The Métis were locked in a long-running feud with the Assiniboine, and on the Pacific coast, large-scale raiding and warfare was the norm among the Haida, Tlingit, Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuxalk, Nuu-chah-nulth, Coast Salish, and other First Nations, which persisted right up until the late nineteenth century. In southern Ontario, the largest aboriginal nation, the Neutral or “Chonnonton,” as they called themselves, were annihilated in warfare with the Iroquois Confederacy, as were other First Nations. Rebellion erupted in Upper and Lower Canada in 1837, with fighting on the streets of Montreal and Toronto and forgotten skirmishes in little out-of-the-way places like Saint-Denis and the Short Hills. In Lower Canada, the fighting was more bitter and protracted—culminating in the bloody battle at Saint-Eustache and the burning of a Catholic church with rebels trapped inside it. The following year, 1838, saw violent border clashes with American marauders on the St. Lawrence, Niagara, and Detroit rivers as well as on Pelee Island; many feared these violent episodes would spark renewed war with the United States. Further war scares occurred when tensions flared between loggers in the forests of New Brunswick and Maine—the so-called Aroostook War—and on the Pacific coast in 1859 in a dispute over the St. Juan Islands. On the very eve of Confederation were the Fenian raids at Ridgeway and elsewhere; shortly afterward came violent clashes between Métis and Canadian settlers as the new Dominion sought to expand westward, as hap­pened again on a larger scale in 1885. Many of these border wars and conflicts were fought for land, and for much of the time it seemed probable that the map of Canada would be completely redrawn—if not altogether erased. It is the faded, sometimes torn or water-stained maps featured in this book that reveal much of the cut-and-thrust of this violent history.
Out of this chaos and disorder emerged in 1867 a new polity, the Dominion of Canada, which was much smaller than the country we know today. It included just four provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and two new creations, Ontario and Quebec, which were carved out of the original colony that had been called Canada since the days of the French Empire. Gradually, the map of Canada grew larger—through diplomacy, political union, land acquisition, and military force, and by dispatching explorers on official expeditions to seek unknown lands in the uninhabited wastes of the High Arctic. It was for a long while a rather uncertain thing—Canada could easily have shared the fate of Mexico, losing much of its territory to American territorial expansion.
That Canada escaped American conquest was not through lack of interest on the United States’ part—the Americans launched full-scale military invasions in 1775–76 and again in 1812–14. For nearly the whole of the nineteenth century the Canadian–American border remained militarized; dozens of border fortifications like Fort Lennox, Fort Ingall, Fort Henry, and Fort Mississauga testify to this era of occasional violent clashes and other tense incidents that threatened war. Even as late as 1901, American president Theodore Roosevelt was prepared to use force to redraw the border to his liking. Roosevelt planned to dispatch troops to Alaska to settle a simmering border dis­pute over the Alaskan panhandle if an international committee didn’t rule in the United States’ favour—which it did, though Canada refused to accept the decision. In the 1920s the Canadian military, led by veterans of the grim battlefields of the Western Front, still had secret plans and classified tactical maps to fight the United States in the event of another invasion. Canada’s borders, in other words, were for over a century contested spaces—forged in war and conflict, sub­ject to change, and with an unfriendly and much larger nation on the opposite side.
Empires have come and gone in Canada. Cultures have flourished and vanished. Communities have bustled then turned into ghost towns. Maps have been drawn and redrawn. It is the nature of human creations that nothing lasts forever; culture and politics are always in a state of flux. But in political terms, 150 years is a surprisingly long time—few political settlements endure that long. Indeed, though we are accus­tomed to think of Canada as a “young country,” the reality is that as a constitutional nation-state, which is what Confederation at its core was about, Canada easily ranks as one of the world’s oldest.14 Few people in 1867 predicted that Canada would last as long as it has—many believed the union would fall apart amid infighting and that annexation by the United States was inevitable. But this book is not about celebrating the past 150 years. It is about taking a look at what led up to 1867 through the maps that have come down to us and the stories they tell.

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A Little History of Canada

A Little History of Canada

also available: Paperback eBook
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"If only this were the textbook we had in high school, Canadian history might have been more interesting." -National Post, praise for the previous edition

On a blustery night in December 1775, a snowstorm saved Canada from American invasion, the attackers unprepared for Quebec's northern climate. Throughout his concise history, award-winning author H.V. Nelles reminds us of such fateful events, whether strategic or happenstance, that have shaped Canada as we know it today.

Beginning with the earl …

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The Beaverton Presents Glorious and/or Free

The Beaverton Presents Glorious and/or Free

The True History of Canada

A hilarious tour through Canada's history, from the nation's most trusted news source: The Beaverton.

There is a new media empire in Canada--and unlike others, it is honest about being "fake news." Its satirical headlines have been misinforming Canadians across the country and the world, using parody to shine a light on the nation. What started as an immensely popular online newspaper led to a hit TV show delivering biting commentary on Canadian culture, politics, and the biggest news stories. No …

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