Instructor: Professor James Opp and Professor John Walsh

Introduction: This course addresses a wide range of issues in Canadian Social and Cultural History divided into three distinct but also overlapping aspects of “social” life: A) At Home, B) At Work, C) At Play.  These divisions do not represent impermeable historical categories, but they allow us to narrow our focus and make the course more manageable. Interweaving these themes is a strong analytical attention to questions of gender, class, ethnicity / race, sexuality, and space, the threads that tie the course together. While it is impossible to cover every aspect of Canada’s social history, we delve deeply into selected areas that will offer a sense of how the texture of everyday life has changed between the beginning of the nineteenth century and the end of the twentieth.

Another central objective is to introduce students to the methodological and conceptual issues involved in doing social-cultural history. In this vein, we discuss many of the problems and issues facing social and cultural historians and how they have sought to overcome these over time (especially since the 1990s).

Class Format: We meet once / week in a three-hour block.  The normal distribution of time will be split between lectures (mostly) and in-class discussions, workshops, and break-out groups based on the examination of historical documents, images, and films.  As this course only meets once a week, a strong emphasis will be placed on both attendance and participation in discussions.

Aims and Goals: The content of this course allows students to put their contemporary social and cultural lives into some broader context, and to appreciate the deep power relationships that have historically formed them. The course also provides a mentored learning experience of how to plan and manage a significant research project, a skill that translates well to a wide range of academic and professional work. Finally, there is a unique focus in the course in learning how to give historical, deconstructive “readings” of a wide range of visual culture – advertising, photography, film, and, occasionally, comic books.

Assessment: Each section of the course will culminate with a written exam.  In addition, the written assignments are laddered by design to reflect the course themes and also build specific research and communication skills. The final paper will require researching and using primary source documents.  Because this course is divided into “thirds” over an eight-month period, no exam will be held in the December exam period.

Text:  James Opp and John C. Walsh, eds., Home, Work, and Play: Situating Canadian Social History 3rd ed. (Oxford University Press, 2015).  Please note the third edition is 65% different from the second edition and 95% different from the first edition.  It is therefore critical to have the correct version! It will be ordered for sale at Haven Books (at the intersection of Sunnyside Ave. and Seneca St., two blocks from campus) but it is also available at all major online booksellers.

Questions? Please email