Canadian History: Post-Confederation

May 17, 2016 | Updated: June 11, 2020
Author: John Douglas Belshaw, Thompson Rivers University

This textbook introduces aspects of the history of Canada since Confederation. “Canada” in this context includes Newfoundland and all the other parts that come to be aggregated into the Dominion after 1867. Much of this text follows thematic lines. Each chapter moves chronologically but with alternative narratives in mind. What Aboriginal accounts must we place in the foreground? Which structures (economic or social) determine the range of choices available to human agents of history? What environmental questions need to be raised to gain a more complete understanding of choices made in the past and their ramifications? Each chapter is comprised of several sections and some of those are further divided. In many instances you will encounter original material that has been contributed by other university historians from across Canada who are leaders in their respective fields. They provide a diversity of voices on the subject of the nation’s history and, thus, an opportunity to experience some of the complexities of understanding and approaching the past. Canadian History: Post-Confederation includes Learning Objectives and Key Points in most chapter sections, intended to help identify issues of over-arching importance. Recent interviews with historians from across Canada have been captured in video clips that are embedded throughout the web version of the book. At the end of each chapter, the Summary section includes additional features: Key Terms, Short Answer Exercises, and Suggested Readings. The key terms are bolded in the text, and collected in a Glossary in the appendix.

Subject Areas
Humanities, History

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Canadian History: Post-Confederation by John Douglas Belshaw, Thompson Rivers University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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Reviews (1) Avg: 4.7 / 5

Rob-Roy Douglas

Institution:Northern Lights CollegeTitle/Position: InstructorCreative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

Canada: Post Confederation covers an impressive amount of ground in its almost 1000 print pages. Belshaw provides an overview of the subjects central to Canadian history, while his 37 collaborators each contribute a small vignette explaining a particular aspect of Canadian history that is their particular field of interest. This approach provides a breadth of topics that is unusual in a first year text. Although no subject is explored in depth, many are considered in enough detail to introduce students to approaches and topics in Canadian History that enable them to explore in more depth on their own. This is, in my opinion, an excellent means of introducing students to Canadian History by helping them to find subjects within it that interest them. I found the topics covered were addressed in such a way that few students would find their sensibilities offended.
The range of topics is not comprehensive, but given the size and heft of the book, adding more topics would quickly become unreasonable. As it is Canadian History: Post Confederation mixes both traditional topics - 19th century politics, the World Wars, economic history - with ones such as gender history, demographic history, oral history and environmental history (and many others) that provides a thorough overview Canadian History since Confederation. Faculty using the text can always introduce additional topics themselves and use it to provide the background and contrasting views of their particular interests.
The the chapter glossaries are complete enough to allow students unfamiliar with historical terms and figures to quickly familarise themselves with them, but there is no index. While I suppose this is not essential in a text that most students will use in electronic form, its absence in print form is annoying and a well designed index is far superior to using word searches through an e-text. However, this last function is available in electronic editions of the text.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

The written content is accurate and the supplementary material largely error-free. Most of the supplementary material is drawn from publicly available archival resources - images of political cartoons, advertisements, and photographs. More visual material specifically produced for this volume - such as graphs illustrating the historical evolution of Canadian vital statistics (births, deaths and life expectancy) or economic history - would have been useful in condensing the material presented in the text into more appealing form. The discussion questions and reading lists in each chapter are useful and generally thought-provoking.

Content Accuracy Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

The material in the text is recent and reflects current trends in scholarship. It should prove durable. The style of the text should allow the author and contributors to quickly and easily update the text. The core topics in each section are succeeded by specialist topics that can easily be changed and updated without altering the overall sensibility of the text.

Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

This is a history book. It does not use jargon or technical terminology. The prose is well written and accessible overall, although given the number of contributors there is necessarily some divergence in style. This does not detract from the reading experience. Any historical terms or personages that readers are unclear are generally referred to in the glossaries in each chapter.

Clarity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

The text uses clear English language, which lends it consistency in terminology and is structured in a consistent and transparent way. There are differences in style between contributors, but the core material written by the primary author ties together the other material. Contributions are located in chapters with themes that are relevant to their subject matter. These themes are necessarily broad, and sometimes make chapters somewhat diffuse.
Chapter 7 is noteworthy here. It covers reform movements over a 110 year period - a very broad range of movements that have only "reform" in common. However, this is one of the most interesting and stimulating chapters in the text and the common theme of "reform" is enough to draw together disparate subjects well. Their diversity illustrates Canadian social reform better than a chapter more closely focused on a few key movements would.

Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

I do not teach Canadian History according to the structure in Canadian History: Post Confederation. Upon experimenting, I found it relatively trivial to rearrange chapters according to my own preferences. I also teach topics underrepresented in the text (such as history of science and technology) and find it simple to draw on ancillary materials and present them in supplement to the text,. Finally - this is a massive book. I cannot imagine lecturing on every topic presented here without overwhelming students with their reading load alone (especially given the supplementary articles I include in the reading list). The material from different contributors can simply be selected to emphasis specific topics and approaches. The structure of the book - with short specialist topics inserted into broader thematic chapters, makes this easy to do. The broad chapters can be placed in whatever order is useful in the course, and the material within them can be included or omitted from the readings as preferred.

Modularity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

While I do not follow the framework of the text exactly in my own pedagogy, it is close to both my own approach and that of many of my colleagues. The chapters are somewhat chronological in their themes, but also focus on specific themes - such as the world wars, economic history and social reform. I find this works well, even if the specific order of lectures I use does not reflect the order of chapters in the book. These, as noted in the previous section, can be easily rearranged.
The text is simple to understand and presents its ideas in a way that the reader should have no problem in understanding the relationship between different topics in Canadian History.

Organization Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

I found some of the images difficult to see in the electronic version of the text (they were small or the resolution was not adequate). This seems to be less of a problem in the printed text, oddly enough. On the other hand, while I see the value of audiovisual materials, such as the video commentary of Cecilia Morgan and Ian Radcliff in chapter 12.12, these do not render in the print version (which is understandable) or the epub, or digital pdf versions, where I would have expected a link to an external site. I suppose this is the direction of textbooks today (and a number of commercial textbooks are far worse offenders - putting significant amounts of content in online only form), but some students do not have the access needed to play this content, or, if using a print version, may not even be aware it exists on the book website.
Otherwise there are no problems with navigation, although an index linked to the text would have been useful.

Interface Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

Very few and a number have been corrected. It is pleasant to read a text written in Canadian standard spelling, rather than US spelling too.

Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

The topics addressed reflect the diversity of Canadian History as it is currently practiced. The language used is generally inclusive and non-offensive.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

I do recommend this book. It covers a wide range of topics in an accessible and well organised manner. The writing is diverse, but clear and straightforward. I particularly appreciate the wide range of perspectives and voices from collaborators. I also like the ability to rearrange chapters and choose from a very wide range of topics to fit my own course syllabus.