Why Did the Fenians Attack Canada?

Battle of Ridgeway C.W. (c. 1869) by Unknown Artist. A famous, yet inaccurate depiction of the battle, as it was fought in a modern skirmish style (fighting and hiding behind cover), not in a Napoleonic line format. [Source]

Continuing our look at ridiculous events in Canadian history: The Fenian Raids. You know, that time Irish-Americans invaded Canada to free Ireland from British rule.

People were probably just as confused back then at this turn of events as they are now. Despite the fact that the Fenian Raids (1866-1871) all ended in failure, their history is tied up with that of Canadian Confederation. This post looks at the historical context and the myths surrounding the consequences of the Fenian Raids, as well as what exactly happened. Continue reading

The Rise and Fall of Prohibition in Canada (Part Two)

A Toronto man doesn’t give a damn as he carries a keg of beer down a street in broad daylight during the Prohibition era (Sept 16, 1916). [Source: LAC]

Whereas part one looked at the rise of the temperance movement in Canada, part two will cover the prohibition era and its downfall. Prohibition barely lasted a decade in most provinces and its existence was plagued by problems. Why? The ban on booze created a situation where organized crime thrived and access to alcohol was relatively easy. Moreover, the violence, rum-running, and smuggling continued even after the provincial bans on alcohol were repealed because prohibition was still going on south of the border. Why was prohibition such a massive failure in Canada and what were the wider, long-lasting consequences? Continue reading

The Seven Years War: Causes and Perspectives

This post is the first installment of my seven-part series on the Seven Years’ War.
Interested in more? The second installment looks at the Acadian Expulsion.Map of the Belligerents and Areas of Conflict During the Seven Years’ War [Source]

When the Seven Years’ War  (1754-1763) broke out in the Ohio River Valley, guess how many people were surprised? Somewhere in the range of…zero. Also known as the French and Indian War, the conflict was the culmination of over a century’s worth of fighting between Britain and France over North American supremacy. Two years later, the conflict made its way across the Atlantic. As a result, the Seven Years’ War was essentially two simultaneous conflicts, that extended across five continents, with the British and French Empires at the center. This has led some to label it as the first “real” world war, but that is debatable. Ultimately, the Seven Years’ War was a watershed event in history but before we get to all that, we have to start at the beginning. This post will look at the major and immediate causes of the Seven Years’ War in North America. Continue reading

How Did Napoleon Affect Canada?

Note: This is a two-part look at Pre-Confederation Canada and Napoleon Bonaparte. Part 1 will explore how public opinion regarding the French leader changed overtime. Part 2 will look at Napoleon’s impact on British North America.

From The Adventures of Napoléon Bonaparte. [Source] His many wars had a lot of unforeseen consequences.

Last week we explored how English and French colonists living in Pre-Confederation Canada felt about Napoleon Bonaparte during his reign (1799-1815) as well as how opinions shifted overtime, particularly in Quebec. This week we will be looking at how his impact was not restricted to Europe. Aside from keeping international newspaper journalists and cartoonists busy, the actions of the controversial French dictator had far-reaching, unintentional consequences. How did Napoleon affect British North America during and after his time on the world stage? Are these impacts still felt today? Continue reading

The Battle of Crysler’s Farm

Reenactment of the Battle of Crysler’s Farm.

The dismantling of the St. Lawrence Campaign during the War of 1812 was a two-step process. The first part was the Battle of Châteauguay in Lower Canada. The second part and the subject of today’s post was Crysler’s Farm. On November 11, 1813, John Crysler’s farming fields became the site of the decisive battle that marked the end of the attempt to capture Montreal. Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Wanton Morrison led the British contingent to an underdog victory, (1,200 vs 4,000), making it similar to its predecessor. Yet when you type “the battle that saved Canada” into Google, Crysler’s Farm shows up. That is quite a big claim to make about a single battle. Does it deserve that title? What makes Crysler’s Farm stand out among all the other important battles that took place throughout Canadian history? Continue reading

The Battle of the Châteauguay

The Battle of Châteauguay by E.H. de Holmfield.

What do you call a battle that had limited casualties but was detrimental to one’s opponent? You’d probably call it one hell of a success and that’s exactly what the Battle of the Châteauguay was. On October 26, 1813, Lieutenant-Colonel De Salaberry managed to repel an American force that was more than double the size of the Canadian force (4000 vs ~1500). This, alongside the soon-to-follow Battle of Crysler’s Farm, spelled the end for the Saint Lawrence Campaign. Although Crysler’s Farm is often called “the battle that saved Canada,” without the events that happened at Châteauguay, it is possible that the later battle may have had a different result. So how did De Salaberry pull it off?  Continue reading

Leif Erikson and Vikings in Canada

Leif Eriksson Discovers America by Hans Dahl (1849-1937)

Last Thursday, a new exhibition on Vikings opened at the Canadian Museum of History. On a ten month international tour, aside from showing off over 500 artifacts rarely seen outside Sweden, those behind the traveling exhibition hope to change some of the stereotypes modern audiences have about viking culture. However, the perception that Vikings were sea-faring explorers is definitely true and that brings us to their connection to Canada.

Almost 500 years before Christopher Columbus made his appearance in North America, Leif Erikson (also spelled Ericsson, Erickson, or Eiriksson) “discovered” the continent. As such is considered to be the first European to set foot on North American soil. Erikson was an Norse explorer who established a settlement called Vinland, located on the northern tip of Newfoundland. But why didn’t the Vikings stay? What happened to the settlement? Also, why is Canada’s history of vikings so seldom discussed, especially in comparison to later European explorers? Continue reading

The History of Canadian Thanksgiving


I’m thankful for Google Image Search. You never disappoint me.

To those who are celebrating this long weekend, Happy Thanksgiving!

Ever wonder how this holiday even got started in this country given that the Mayflower, Pilgrims, and whatnot have pretty much nothing to do with Canada? Why do we celebrate in October and not later on in November? Also, if our celebration isn’t based off the American one, why does our holiday meal similar to theirs? Well, good news! I have some answers for you. Continue reading

A Mixed Past: Canada and Refugees

Canadian History in the News: The past is always a part of the present. This blog series looks at current events and stories that have a Canadian history element to them and I offer my opinion on the subject.

Jewish women refugees aboard the M.S. St. Louis (May 1939).

Hello everyone! Thank you for all the well wishes in my going away post. I had the most wonderful time in both the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Now back to business——The Migrant Crisis (unsurprisingly) dominates European news channels. When I came home, I found that coverage of the crisis had picked up here while I was gone. If you pay attention to the rhetoric of those who are critical of the government’s response to the situation, you will notice that they often use Canadian history to further their argument. These historical citations are always mentioned in passing though and never really discussed. Now there are many, many examples of Canada being both welcoming and unwelcoming to refugees. After all, with a definition like this…

Refugee: A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

…it should be no surprise that refugees have been coming to Canada for centuries. For the sake of brevity however, this post will focus on Canadian efforts from the Second World War onwards and look at three periods that critics reference with regards to today’s crisis. Continue reading