Despite the example of others, Canadian historical writers have not experimented with the source-book method of historical presentation. For students of European, British, or American history, for example, there are many volumes of selected readings chosen to illustrate general or specific aspects of historical development. These have long been used to supplement both textbook and monographic material.
Any senior high school teacher or university lecturer knows the value of sending students to primary sources. Most such teachers also face the intractable problems of survey courses and restricted library facilities. It is true that with very small classes, intensive courses, and very good libraries it is both possible and desirable for students to uncover primary sources for themselves. For most students, however, because of the breadth of their courses or the paucity of their library holdings, this ideal is never reached. It is primarily to these students that this volume is addressed. It is our hope that the reading public and honours students may also find the book useful, since it incorporates a considerable amount of material which is either difficult to locate or has not previously been published. It may also fill a particular need of extra-mural students. We hope that this book will be of assistance in the work of students and teachers of Canadian history and that it may whet the appetite of the general reader.
In the following pages we have brought together selections from the various kinds of source material upon which historians base their narratives and analyses. Without grouping all the selections around specific problems, we have chosen some of the main themes of Canadian history and endeavoured to illustrate them by readings taken from state papers, letters, diaries, travellers' accounts, legislative debates, records of proceedings, periodicals, memoirs, books of opinion—virtually all the categories of writing available to the historian. In our choice of material we have been guided by three main purposes: to convey something of the complexity of historical sources; to suggest the breadth and drama that characterize the Canadian historical scene; and to examine a number of problems in considerable detail. With these purposes in mind we have tried to make this volume a means by which courses based on textbooks and limited outside reading may be considerably enriched; a means also whereby the ordinary reader may look behind what the historians have said about Canada.
No single volume, whether textbook or readings, can hope to 'cover' the history of any nation, and we are under no illusion that we have done the impossible. Partly because of spatial limitations a number of themes have been either ignored or touched upon only lightly. We . . .