Canada in the World

HIST 124/6.0


This online, interactive course is an introduction to Canadian history. For anyone studying Canada’s past, the first question is where to begin? Do we start with the many Aboriginal peoples who inhabited this land long before anyone conceived of a place called Canada? Or, do we begin with the arrival of French explorers during the 1500s and the first permanent French settlements in the early 1600s? What about the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670, which functioned much like a sovereign nation and through the fur trade controlled much of northern North America? The conquest of New France by the English in 1759? What about 1840 and the formation of the United Province of Canada? July 1st, 1867? Perhaps Canada truly became a nation at Vimy Ridge in 1917? Or was it the Statute of Westminster in 1931, which gave Canada full legal independence from Britain? Perhaps you point to 1949 when Newfoundland finally joined Confederation? The answer to the question of when Canadian history begins isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

Whichever of the above dates and events you choose, they all share an assumption that it’s possible to project the Canada we know today – a liberal, democratic, multicultural nation with a free-market economy – back into the past, often a very distant past. In this course, we’ll adopt a different approach. Rather than assume we can cast present-day Canada back into the mists of time, we will explore how, when, and why Canada first emerged as a liberal, democratic, capitalist country. Viewed this way, the history of Canada began less than two hundred years ago. Before that time, aboriginal peoples, the inhabitants of New France, and those involved in the great merchant empires of fish and fur organized their economies, politics, and societies in ways dramatically different from those of modern Canada. Indeed, it makes a lot of sense to think of these three – aboriginal societies, New France, and the merchant empires – as distinct social formations ‘before Canada,’ and we will explore each of them. We will then track the slow, uneven historical process by which these earlier ways of doing things gradually gave rise to a fourth social formation: the Canada we know today.

In looking at Canadian history from this perspective, it will be important not to assume that the societies that existed ‘before Canada’ were all naturally destined to become the liberal-democratic-capitalist country we know as modern Canada. There was nothing inevitable about it. Indeed, throughout the course we will pay particular attention to those movements, from the rebellions of 1837 to the Riel rebellions, and to the often marginalized voices, including those of working people, women, and immigrants, who challenged the dominant idea of ‘Canada’ and offered competing visions of what the country might look like and what it means to be Canadian.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • Articulate major events and interpretive themes in Canadian
  • Compare and contrast major developments in Canadian history with important features of Canada's present in order to explicate the development of, for example, liberal-democracy, federalism, multiculturalism, and the public healthcare system
  • Connect major events in Canadian history to contemporaneous global trends and currents, such as the transnational movement of people and the dynamics of a globalized economy
  • Develop an appreciation of race, gender, and class, among other variables, as crucial components of both lived experience and analytical categories in thinking about the Canadian past
  • Synthesize the relationship between Canada’s past and present, while learning to avoid the pitfalls of presentism
  • Develop alongside a comprehension of Canadian history an understanding of ‘Canada,’ or nation, as itself historical
  • Acquire an understanding of historical change as a complex, non-linear process
  • Achieve introductory competency in the interpretation of primary and secondary historical sources, as well as use of important online archival resources
  • Develop introductory reading, writing, and research skills


Fall/Winter 2022/2023
Course Dates
Delivery Mode


20% - Discussion Forums (x4)
10% - Discussion and 375-word Paper
20% - 750-word Papers (x2)
15% - Role-Play
10% - Digital Exhibit
5% - Public Memory Paper
20% - Take-Home Final Exam

** Evaluation Subject to Change **

Instructor Information

Katie-Marie McNeill, PhD C. (

Textbook and Materials

ASO reserves the right to make changes to the required material list as received by the instructor before the course starts. Please refer to the Campus Bookstore website at to obtain the most up-to-date list of required materials for this course before purchasing them.

  • Conrad, Margaret, Alvin Finkel and Donald Fyson. A Canada: A History (Pearson, 2013)

The textbook above can either be rented or purchased as an etext at VitalSource or or in Kindle format at Amazon.

Time Commitment

Students can expect to spend approximately 10 hours a week (240 hours total) in study/ practice and online activity for HIST 124.