The Structure of Canadian History // Review

Article excerpt

THE STRUCTURE OF CANADIAN HISTORY. J.L. Finlay and D.N. Sprague. Scarborough: Prentice Hall Canada, 4th ed. 1993.

COLONIES: CANADA TO 1867. D.J. Bercuson, K. Abel, D.H. Akenson, P.A. Baskerville, J.M. Bumsted and J.G. Reid. Toronto: McGraw - Hill Ryerson, 1992.

NATION: CANADA SINCE CONFEDERATION. J.L. Granatstein. I.M. Abella, T.W. Acheson, D.J. Bercuson, R.C. Brown, H.B. Neatby. Toronto: McGraw - Hill Ryerson, 3rd. ed. 1990.

ORIGINS: CANADIAN HISTORY TO CONFEDERATION. R.D. Francis, R. Jones, D.B. Smith. Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Co., 2nd ed. 1992.

DESTINIES: CANADIAN HISTORY SINCE CONFEDERATION. R.D. Francis, R. Jones, D.B. Smith. Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Co., 2nd ed. 1992.

THE PEOPLES OF CANADA: A PRE - CONFEDERATION HISTORY. J.M. Bumsted. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1992.

HISTORY OF THE CANADIAN PEOPLES: BEGINNINGS TO 1867. M. Conrad, A. Finkel C. Jaenen. Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman, 1993.

HISTORY OF THE CANADIAN PEOPLES: 1867 TO THE PRESENT. A. Finkel, M. Conrad with V. Strong - Boag. Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman, 1993.

John Lutz, University of Victoria

When you think about it, textbooks for Canadian history courses represent the canon of Canadian history. Co - authored by carefully balanced teams of prominent scholars each synthesizing research in their fields of expertise, the texts either portray the forefront of contemporary scholarship or the scholarship of those who make a virtue out of deliberately and determinedly avoiding the new literature. From either point of view these are the flagship books of the profession.

Textbooks usually outsell all other history books. Good ones, used well, also will be read more than the others. Moreover, they will be read by large numbers who will go through life without ever reading any other book on their national history. The texts, or the faded memory of them, will be used by many for the rest of their lives, to locate current events in their historical context.

Yet, despite their importance, survey texts rarely get reviewed in academic journals. This lack of scholarly attention is more glaring now that there is more choice between texts than ever before, and a wide divergence in what is considered to be the fundamentals of Canadian history. In what follows, five teachers and a student of Canadian history review the current texts, all two - volume sets with the exception of Finlay and Sprague's single volume, The Structure of Canadian History.(f.1)

Gerald Friesen, History Department, University of Manitoba was asked to put the texts in the context of debates around "Canadian culture." Christian Laville, from the Department de didactique, Faculte des sciences de l'education, Universite Laval was asked to consider the pedagogical effectiveness of the texts. Gail Cuthbert Brandt, principal of Renison College, University of Waterloo, takes a more general look but focuses particularly on the degree to which the texts reflect current feminist scholarship. Historian Kathryn McPherson of York University asks whether the texts promote critical thinking and enhance political awareness, as well as reflecting current debates in social history. Brian Young of McGill University's History Department focuses his attention on the treatment of Quebec in the texts. Finally, Jamie Disbrow tells us how students at the University of Victoria and at Camosun College in Victoria, where she took history at the undergraduate level, responded to the different texts.

1. These reviews arise from panel presentations at the 1994 annual meeting in Calgary of the Canadian Historical Association.

Gerald Friesen, University of Manitoba

Several forces contributed to the sudden appearance of four textbooks within a decade and the various editions of a fifth. These forces include publisher, author, market and idea (a new "intellectual agenda"). Indeed the phenomenon can be compared to the publication of the Creighton, Mclnnis and Lower texts in the 1940s, and the subsequent Careless and Morton volumes along similar lines. …