This course is designed to provide an overview of major
themes in Canadian history and place them in comparative context. A nation carved out of what remained of British-held North America after 1783, Canada represents a unique blend of indigenous, French and English cultures — an encouraging syncretism and ruthless displacement - of indigenous populations, of French colonists, and of British and American newcomers — across successive frontiers of expansion and empire.
It is not a narrative of rebirth through revolution or civil war. Instead it is a story of failed rebellion, reform and eventual transformation: of indigenous societies adjusting to trading empires of French and English merchants; of French colonists, British newcomers, and American refugees finding common ground in what remained of British North America; of a Creole-driven quasi-independent state achieving its transcontinental ambitions between 1840 and 1940; and a modernizing, hyper-pluralistic, society since.
Today, Canada is an extraordinary blend of world cultures, a global cultural diversity unheralded before the 1930s, now embraced in the context of an activist bilingual state. This social experiment is occurring in the midst of a French-English détente that seems constantly on the verge of breaking down, as the French population grows smaller, and power and population shift to the country’s resource-rich western provinces.
The readings are mainly electronic and will be available on the course CTools site. The background text is H.V. Nelles’ brief, engaging, and very inexpensive paperback, A Little History of Canada (New York: Oxford University Press 2011
The grade will be based on a midterm, a short research essay (10 to 12 pages), a participation component and a final exam. The essay will involve research on a topic of interest in Canadian History. Students should look over the readings, and think ahead if their interests are in the modern period, to develop a research topic. A proposal outlining the area of interest must be presented after the midterm. The proposal should include a brief statement of the research question, and list at least 6 potential sources that can be used to write the paper. This will provide a baseline for further defining the topic and identifying more sources.
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