Instructor: Dr. Beth A. Robertson

Course Description

How did Canada come to be and how do we tell its history? Whose voices have been amplified or silenced along the way? How did the people involved in the making or undoing of this national narrative experience the world around them? This course will consider these questions and more as we explore the history of the geographical and cultural space we now recognize as Canada from pre-European contact to the twentieth-first century.

One of the central aims of the course will be to grapple with Canada’s past of colonization and nation-state building, with a dedicated focus on the communities of people who experienced and navigated these complex historical processes. Deeply considering the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, this course will begin with exploring different origin stories to introduce the numerous First Nations’ cultures, languages, belief systems and peoples who have inhabited the land before and after European arrival and colonization. The course will proceed on that foundation, interweaving the histories of diverse people that have contributed to, contested and reshaped this idea and place of Canada. The course will take careful account of the historic and ongoing relationships between Indigenous peoples and European settlers, the origins of New France and British colonization, resource extraction and its consequences on the environment, the rise of industrialization and institutionalization, the roles of women and gender in nation-state building, the economy and transnational trade, the contested politics of Confederation, the World Wars, broader social movements, as well as Canada’s political position at home and on the world stage during the Cold War period and beyond.

The course will consist of one three-hour class period per week. Each class will include a lecture, with significant time being dedicated to discussion, small groups and/or class activities. Each student is expected to participate in all portions of the class to the best of their ability. The course will progress roughly chronologically, with an emphasis on particular themes. After an introductory historiographical overview, the first semester will explore the pre-contact era up until the mid-nineteenth century. The second semester will begin with a discussion of Confederation and continue on to the turn of the twenty-first century.