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Good book on Canadian history?


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#1 of 22 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted January 05 2007 - 04:44 AM

I'm starting to do some research on Canadian history. This is a surprising topic to me as an ignorant American. I got a stack of Canadian history books out of the local library here, and read as a first pass the "Canadian History for Dummies" by Will Ferguson (2nd ed, 2005). Apparently Ferguson is a humorous political commentator so I'm not sure how good is his grasp of history.

American history is pretty straight-forward: we tossed out the Brits, took all the Indians' land, and became fabulously wealthy. The Canadians did none of these things, and their history is much more confusing to a foreigner.

Posted Image

I hadn't realized that the Canadians had only ditched the Red Ensign (UK merchant fleet flag) for the Maple Leaf flag when I was about 6 years old. I hadn't realized that the Canadians needed to get permission from the British Parliament for any amendments to their own Constitution, and that the Meech Lake accord was primarily an attempt at solving this problem. There is much I need to learn.

So if anyone has some suggestions for subsequent reading, please let me know.
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#2 of 22 OFFLINE   streeter

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Posted January 05 2007 - 05:35 AM

There's a history to Canada?
Seriously - is there a section of Suggested Reading in Ferguson's Dummies book? It's an awfully broad topic, so I imagine most of what you'll find will be of the college textbook variety.
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#3 of 22 OFFLINE   Greg Dorsey

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Posted January 05 2007 - 06:31 AM

Check out Peter Newman's Empire of the Bay. It's an excellent account of the Hudson Bay Company and its role in shaping the nation.

#4 of 22 OFFLINE   Andrew Pratt

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Posted January 05 2007 - 08:44 AM

There's some really neat stuff that went on up here but unfortunately many college text books stick to the boring stuff of the waves of immigration and leave out the more interesting tid bits.

#5 of 22 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted January 05 2007 - 09:02 AM

Here it is:

Fur, trappers, French, Indians, big fight, British rule, God Save the Queen, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, the instigator rule, poutine, Molson, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, secessionists and that Olympic Pairs Figure Skating scandal.

Thhhhhat's all folks!! Posted Image

#6 of 22 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted January 05 2007 - 11:35 AM

Quote:
There's some really neat stuff that went on up here but unfortunately many college text books stick to the boring stuff

For example, I hadn't realized that Ontario was once just the western part of Quebec. After so many of the "treasonable loyalists" (there's an oxymoron for you) were pushed out of post-revolutionary America and settled in then-western-Quebec, it was decided to partition Quebec into a French Speaking half (Quebec) and an English Speaking half (present day Ontario) along the line of the Ottawa River.

Along similar lines, the present First Nation people have told Quebec that, if they leave Canada, they won't get to take the northern part of present-day Quebec with them. The First Nation people claim this northern portion, containing all the mineral resources and hydro power, for themselves.

And here I thought there was contention between Northern California and Southern California. Posted Image

I guess I'm concerned...Idaho has a border with Canada. Are they going to invade us and steal all our potatoes so they can make poutine?
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#7 of 22 OFFLINE   Edwin-S

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Posted January 05 2007 - 03:00 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Nicholls
I guess I'm concerned...Idaho has a border with Canada. Are they going to invade us and steal all our potatoes so they can make poutine?

Nah! We get all our poutine potatoes from PEI.

CBC aired a 30 hour documentary called CANADA:A People's History a while back. It is available in four box sets of three DVDs each. The box sets aren't cheap though. You might want to look into it. I wish I could comment on the series quality but I can't, since I'm a Canadian that finds Canadian history boring......except for a book about Vimy ridge, written by Pierre Berton, which I thought was pretty good.

I lose all interest in Canadian history as soon as the subject of the CPR and the "The National Dream" is brought up. I used to work for a railroad and I have absolutely no interest in reading or watching anything about Canadian railroads or railroading......even ones that were instrumental in the formation of Canada.

Edit: Corrected mispelling of Berton's last name.
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#8 of 22 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted January 06 2007 - 04:22 AM

The Wikipedia historical map is useful:
http://commons.wikim...._evolution.gif
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#9 of 22 OFFLINE   Francois Caron

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Posted January 07 2007 - 03:47 AM

Definitely check out Wikipedia. I've read many of their Canada/Quebec history threads a few months ago and was surprised at the accuracy and impartiality of the well documented articles.

#10 of 22 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted January 12 2007 - 06:35 AM

Francois,

I'm glad to get an opinion on the veracity of the Wikipedia articles. As it is mostly unmoderated, I tend to discount many things in Wikipedia. The prime problem however is that it's hard to curl up in a chair with Wikipedia as you would with a paper book.

One of my goals in researching Canadian history is to better understand the tale of the Quebec separatists. I would especially like to find a book showing how an independent Quebec would function as a nation.

I thought I had found such a book while searching around on Amazon: "Free at Last: Quebec 2007" by author Ron Coleman. It arrived in the mail yesterday and I stayed up most of the night reading it.

Oh boy. This is a political tale that would do Al Franken or Ann Coulter justice. It posits that much of the separatist movement is backed and funded by the CIA under a plan of George Bush to grab most of Canada. Posted Image After Quebec votes for separation, the US ambassador hands the prime minister the following note.

Quote:
Dear Prime Minister:

We here in America have been closely observing the internal dissention within our historic and close neighbor with increasing concern. In the interests of National Security, we are unable to continue to stand idly by. As a result, we have made prelimiary overtures to most of the provinces in terms of their accepting Statehood within the United States of America. The results of those initial probes have been very encouraging.

On the other hand, we recognize the desire and need for Quebec to be free, and we are prepared to ensure that this occurs without recrimination and the turmoil, and potential violence, which your proposed negotiations would entail. I am aware that this is your preferred course of action as well, and that you are prepared to allow Quebec to achieve nationhood. Consequently, I would like to propose a summit between us, as early as possible, in order to agree on the road ahead. Meanwhile, with your permission, I would like you to approve the visit to the provincial and territorial capitals of our Ambassador in order that specifics can be discussed with their leaders.

I recognize that this may seem un-neighbourly, but I assure you that it is the best solution to Canada's internal problems and our security concerns. I further assure you that the United States will not take advantage of any government or group and we have no intention of using force. We will not, however, allow you to use force.

Yours Respectfully,
[George W. Bush] President of the United States

I am quoting this letter as it best gives the flavor of this book. Hopefully I have prevented others from purchasing this book if they were seeking information. However, as a work of entertainment it is quite a good read.
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#11 of 22 OFFLINE   Francois Caron

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Posted January 13 2007 - 02:55 AM

Dennis,

I just read the first chapter on Amazon and a synopsis of the book from the publisher's Web site. And all I can say is yikes! The author sure has something up his ass! Posted Image Although the first chapter of the book does have some accurate information on recent historical events (Joe Clark losing his government because of a bad budget for example), his interpretations of the reasons and influences for what has occurred in Canadian history and what is about to happen sounds a lot like the ramblings of an individual who believes everything in our lives is all part of a grand series of conspiracies orchestrated by foreign covert government operatives.

Sorry man. I just don't buy your conspiracy theories. And you can keep your aluminum foil hat. Posted Image

There's been a lot of books written on what could happen if Quebec becomes an independent nation. The only common thread I can see from all of them is that if Quebec does separate, upcoming events will most likely show that all these authors' predictions will be off the mark by a mile (or 1.6 kilometers Posted Image ). How can anyone truly predict what's about to happen some twenty or even ten years from now? Quebec alone has a population of about 6 million individuals. Can anyone truly predict how each and every one of them will react to upcoming events or how their lives will change in the future? Hell, I'm not even sure what's about to happen six months from now in my own life!

That's probably why I loved all those Wikipedia articles on Canadian and Quebec history. The articles truly attempt to deliver the facts without inventing all kinds of crazy theories about what has happened and what is about to happen. It covers our history with better information and more clarity than all my old school history textbooks have ever given me.

EDIT: Just a quick item on Canadian and U.S. relations. In the movie "Die Hard", when Hans Grüber was naming the terrorist groups that he wanted released from various jails in the world, one of them was a terrorist organization known as "Liberté Québec". In a Montreal theater, people laughed out loud when they heard that and even cheered at the mere fact that a Hollywood film of all things could even conceive that we could ever possibly foster a home-grown terrorist organization! It was as if the United States acknowledged our existence for one fleeting second! For us who are constantly exposed to American events and culture on a daily basis, the simple mention of Canada by the U.S. is such a rare event, we don't care if it's related to a bad thing! You've noticed us! You've actually noticed us! Posted Image

#12 of 22 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted January 13 2007 - 04:17 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Francois Caron


EDIT: Just a quick item on Canadian and U.S. relations. In the movie "Die Hard", when Hans Grüber was naming the terrorist groups that he wanted released from various jails in the world, one of them was a terrorist organization known as "Liberté Québec". In a Montreal theater, people laughed out loud when they heard that and even cheered at the mere fact that a Hollywood film of all things could even conceive that we could ever possibly foster a home-grown terrorist organization! It was as if the United States acknowledged our existence for one fleeting second! For us who are constantly exposed to American events and culture on a daily basis, the simple mention of Canada by the U.S. is such a rare event, we don't care if it's related to a bad thing! You've noticed us! You've actually noticed us! Posted Image

Uhhh, you do know Hans Gruber was purposefully being absurd, don't you? Posted Image

#13 of 22 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted January 13 2007 - 04:56 AM

Francois,

And you can't blame this book on the Americans...Ron Coleman is an honest-to-god Canuck. He's a retired colonel in the RCAF.

There are several issues I'm trying to research as a foreigner, and am having little luck finding the right books. Other examples are the future of the monarchy in the UK, and whether the UK should stay in or pull out of the EU. It's difficult as a foreigner to understand these issues. Most books on the topics presuppose knowledge of the issue and are generally political hatchet jobs. At least in the case of UK membership in the EU I've found a book written by faculty at the business school at Cardiff University: "Should Britain Leave the EU?" by Patrick Minford, et al. It's on my stack of books to read.
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#14 of 22 OFFLINE   MikeH

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Posted January 13 2007 - 05:35 PM

Quote:
conceive that we could ever possibly foster a home-grown terrorist organization

umm, October 1970?

#15 of 22 OFFLINE   Francois Caron

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Posted January 14 2007 - 05:37 AM

Quick replies.

- Yes, I know that in the movie, Grüber was simply stalling for time. But that doesn't change the fact a Hollywood movie actually added the name of a fictitious Canadian terrorist group in the list!

- Yes, I know the author is Canadian. I've read his bio. However, there appears to be a lot of people like him in this country on both sides of the fence, all of them having their own half-assed views and opinions on the direction this country is heading.

- I'm well aware of the events of the October Crisis. I've read up on the subject for many years. But how many Americans know that back in 1970, separatist terrorists were planting bombs in mailboxes and kidnapping politicians, Canada was under a form of martial law, the police arrested and detained many Canadian citizens for weeks with no charges and no trial, and the Canadian army patrolled the streets of Montreal?

What I'm saying is that Canada is not necessarily the sweet, innocent, trustworthy country that the world may believe we are. We've had rough times in our history, and we'll probably encounter more of them for as long as the two solitudes continue to exist. But with accurate and impartial information on our history now readily available on the Internet, for once our stories can be told in near total neutrality with no single person attempting to impose their opinions and views on everyone in the process.

#16 of 22 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted January 24 2007 - 04:32 AM

Well I finished another book and have begun another.

I read another fairly inflammatory book by Mordecai Richler entitled "Oh Canada! Oh Quebec!". I wonder if Francois lists him in the half-assed views category. I notice that there are many nearly-new used copies on Amazon for $0.01US each. Posted Image I notice that Wikipedia states this: "After the publication of Oh Canada! Oh Quebec, Pierrette Venne, a future Bloc Québécois MP, called for the book to be banned. Daniel Latouche compared the book to Mein Kampf."

I'm part way into "The Illustrated History of Canada" 2nd ed. 2002. This tome is edited by Craig Brown and has various sections written by no fewer than seven Canadian historians. The most recent period (1945-present) is covered by Desmond Morton who comes highly recommended. Apparently this Desmond Morton is the son of the Desmond Morton who was so crucial in preparing Churchill to carry on the fight in WWII.

I see lots of people who should know better chime in with their opinions:
http://www.timesonli....562780,00.html .
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#17 of 22 OFFLINE   Francois Caron

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Posted January 24 2007 - 11:06 AM

Mordecai Richler was not what you would call a crackpot, but as indicated in the Wikipedia article, he did have an uncanny knack to piss off just about everyone including both Canadian and Quebec nationalists and his own Jewish community.

It's been a bit too quiet around here since he passed away...

I should pick up a copy of the book at the library. Through all the ruckus, I've actually never read it. Posted Image

Dennis, here's another suggestion. "The Anglo Guide to Survival in Quebec" by Josh Freed. Just the description of our culinary disaster called a "poutine" is worth the purchase price of the book! Posted Image

The dish also has its own entry on Wikipedia along with a sound byte containing the correct pronunciation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poutine

Bon appétit! Posted Image

#18 of 22 ONLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted January 24 2007 - 11:36 AM

Dennis:

Would these be of any help?

Short History of Quebec, 2nd Edition

Short History of Quebec, 3rd edition

Unfortunately, while I have some relatives in Quebec, I don't think they'd be helpful in finding a good book on Quebec history.

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#19 of 22 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted January 24 2007 - 01:12 PM

Quote:
"Poutine", pronounced identically, also happens to be the French spelling of Vladimir Putin's surname, which has given rise to some jokes and wordplay.
Posted Image
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#20 of 22 OFFLINE   Holadem

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Posted January 25 2007 - 01:26 AM

I find one as distasteful as the other - though in all fainress I only tried one of them.

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