Canadian History For Dummies (Me)

January 24, 2008 at 9:01 pm Leave a comment

After realizing and coming to the conclusion that I have forgotten pretty much everything that I had ever learned about Canadian History, I decided that I needed to do something about it.  A few days ago I went to my local library and checked out a couple of books on Canadian History, as well as Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival – which, if I may say, is scaring the crap out of me.

As for the Canadian History books I was looking for something general, basic, and a good overview of the subject.  I decided to take home Canadian History For Dummies (2nd ed), by Will Ferguson.  How much more ‘general’ and ‘basic’ than that can a book get?

I like the Dummies series.  I’ve read a few of their books in the past and have always found them to be accessible and informative.  So far I’ve found this book to be the same.   It’s been enjoyable, an easy read, and I’ve learned much from the experience so far.

I’m still in the relatively early history of Canada; the British have defeated the French on the Plains of Abraham.

Often, we are told, that one difference between America and Canada is that America is a nation forged in blood, whereas Canada evolved into political reality much more peacefully.  When the nations were ‘born’ I suppose this is true, but so far the history of Canada is rife with violence and conflict.  Of course History, at least the history that makes books and captures public imagination, tends towards the conflicts that invoke change.

That having been said, early Canadian history (and by ‘Canadian History’ here,  I mean history of the area that would eventually become Canada from the time of European immigration) was full of violent conflict, insane heroes, and small-scale battles for rights and territory.  The French took over English forts, the English torched Acadian settlements, the Iroquois Nation caused much fear and grief in Quebec, and the First Nations suffered greatly by the movement of Europeans.

I still find myself thinking about cultural geography in these times as American and Canadian, while in reality neither of these current political entities existed at this time.  It’s funny, though, how pervasive this feeling is.  At this point in history there were just French, English, Spanish and colonists, as well as colonists from other regions.  There were the First Nations.  And there was a whole lot of land.  No America, and no Canada.  And yet, I still can’t get past superimposing the idea of these nations on the history.  It’s very disorienting.

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