Instructors: Professor Bruce Elliott (fall) and Professor Norman Hillmer (winter)

Course Description and Objectives

This course explores major themes in and debates about the shaping of Canada and its peoples, including the experience of Indigenous peoples and their interactions with settler society.

The history of pre-Confederation Canada is the story of colonialism as it was experienced in several very different European dependencies in North America.  The fall term therefore is organized as a study in comparative colonial experience.  As we probe these differences, we also explore the encounters between existing Indigenous and settler populations and successive waves of incoming peoples whose ever greater numbers radically altered the economies, societies, and politics of the colonies that would come together to make up Canada.  Political union changed the context of these relationships by gradually merging these colonies and, after 1867, adding a federal level of jurisdiction.

The winter term will continue the history of Canada into the twentieth-first century.   The lectures, although broad-based, will have seven recurring themes and points of concentration: war, immigration, women and gender, national politics, Quebec, Indigenous peoples, and international impulses. Lecture outlines will be handed out before each session, and lectures will be informed by a strong argument, which will be just that – an argument, open to discussion and debate, both of which will be encouraged during and after class and in the discussion groups. Students will be asked at the beginning of the winter term what subjects that they would particularly like to know more about, and a vigorous attempt will be made to accommodate these wishes.

Through this course, students will gain a greater appreciation of history as an academic practice and gain greater confidence in their critical abilities.  They will be exposed to genres of historical writing such as political, economic, and cultural history, and the history of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and race.  They will learn to analyze readings for argument, interpretation, and evidence, and, we hope, will come to realize that ‘traditional’ narratives of Canada’s past represent specific points of view and are continually challenged by various alternate narratives.  Research and writing skills will be developed through a series of writing assignments under the guidance of tutorial assistants and instructors.

Course Format and Evaluation

The lectures are not intended to provide in themselves a complete or coherent narrative, but they do form the structural backbone of the course.  Some lectures will provide an overview of a broad theme or attempt to characterize an era; other lectures will focus in depth upon particular historical problems or subjects, or provide insight into changing perspectives on the topics at hand. Readings will provide insight into significant themes and issues, and the interpretations of particular historians.  Students will explore these interpretations further in discussion group sessions, and in written assignments and examinations.  Students may also be expected to take advantage of the multiplicity of cultural institutions in Ottawa by exploring current museum exhibitions as part of their course assignments.