How to Not Kill Samuel de Champlain

Champlain’s Statue, Nepean Point, Ottawa, Canada.

Barely a month after July 3, 1608, the day Samuel de Champlain and his fellow French colonists founded Quebec, what they hoped would be a permanent trading post and settlement, the Father of New France found himself at the center of an assassination plot. Using Champlain’s own words, this post looks at what led to the plot, how Champlain found out about it, and what was his response was. Continue reading

Vimy Ridge Resource Post

Canadian soldiers returning from Vimy Ridge (c. April 1917). [Source] – This is a colourized version of arguably the most famous photo from the battle. Click here for the original.

100 years ago today, for the first time the Canadian Corps’ four divisions came together on the battlefield. The Battle of Vimy Ridge (April 9-12, 1917) was fought over what historian Tim Cook describes as an “open graveyard,” as it was the sight of over 100,000 previous French casualties. Over the course of four days, the Canadians Corps succeeded where earlier Allied assaults had failed. They overtook the heavily-fortified, seven-kilometre ridge and pushed the Germans back to the Oppy–Méricourt line. In the process, 3,598 Canadians were killed and another 7,004 were wounded. Years later, Vimy Ridge would be seen as Canada’s most important battle of World War One.

I have mostly avoided talking about Vimy Ridge because it is the most heavily discussed, analyzed, and mythologized battle in Canadian history. After all, what is there to add when even the debate over whether Vimy was “the birth of a nation” appears to have come full circle? Nevertheless, to honour the occasion, I created a massive resource post full of information, resources, pictures, videos, art, for all those interested in the battle and the legacy of Vimy Ridge.
Continue reading

Canadian POWs: First World War Edition

Group of Canadian officers at a prisoner-of-war camp near Krefeld, Germany. 1917. [Source]

During the First World War, 132 Canadian officers and 3,715 individuals from the Canadian Expeditionary Force were taken prisoner. The largest number of these, over 1,400, were taken in a single day in 1915 during the Second Battle of Ypres, when the 1st Canadian Division was first introduced to chlorine gas by the Germans. The 3rd Canadian Division also suffered a large number of prisoners at Mount Sorrel in June 1916. Over 500 men were captured in one day. In addition, an unknown number of Canadian civilians (largely students studying abroad, businessmen, and sailors) were captured as well. By the end of the war, 300 Canadian soldiers had died in captivity along the western front.

After they were captured, what was the general experience of Canadian prisoners of war during World War One? Continue reading

How to Draw a Map of New France Without Ever Visiting

Cartography Series: Because who doesn’t love looking at old maps? This blog series looks at the cartographic development of Canada.

Carte du Canada ou de la Nouvelle France et des Decouvertes qui y ont été faites (Map of Canada or New France and the Discoveries Made There) by Guillaume Delisle (c. post-1703)

Guillaume Delisle’s 1703 map of New France is an example of how the colony contributed to making Paris the center of cartography in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Also, it is considered a landmark in map-making for three reasons:

  1. It is the first map of New France to depict the lines of latitude and longitude pretty accurately.
  2. It became an evolving map as it was updated up until 1790, despite the fact that Delisle died in 1726.
  3. Delisle drew it without ever setting foot on the North American continent.

So who was Delisle and how exactly did he go about drawing his map? Continue reading

Did the Cold War Start in Canada?


Igor Gouzenko during a television promotion of his book, The Fall of the Titan (1954)

Given the unfortunate global state of affairs we find ourselves in, a quote like, “It’s war. It’s Russia,” wouldn’t be entirely out of place today. However, these words were uttered by a young Russian man named Igor Gouzenko back in 1945. Less than a month after the end of World War II, Gouzenko defected to Canada and came forward with proof that the USSR was spying on its former wartime allies via a spy network operating in Canada. When the news became public it sparked an international affair which some argue marks the beginning of the Cold War. 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

The Great Eh-scape

I know, I know. I’ll show myself out after starting off a blog post with a title like that.

But #MakeAFilmMoreCanadian was trending not too long ago on Twitter. A lot of the tweets were along the lines of The Eh Team, The Great Gretzky, and Pacific Roll Up the Rim. My personal favorite came from the twitter for This Hour Has 22 Minutes. When they posted this tweet…

…I remembered another Hollywood action film that cut out the significant role that Canadians played in the historical event.

A poster of the The Great Escape (1963). Starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Richard Attenborough

I love this movie and won’t be bashing it in this post. However I will be separating fact from fiction and therefore there will be spoilers. If you haven’t seen The Great Escape, stop reading this article and go watch it right now. I will also be discussing the debate over whether historical accuracy in films is even that big of a deal. Continue reading

Maps and Monopolies

Cartography Series: Because who doesn’t love looking at old maps? This blog series looks at the cartographic development of Canada.

A New Map of Part of North America by Arthur Dobbs and Joseph La France (1744). Please click the image for a larger version of the map. Click here for a redrawn/easier to read map. “The blurb reads, “From the latitude of 40 to 67 degrees. Including the late discoveries made on board of the Furnace Bomb Ketch in 1742. And the western rivers and lakes falling into Nelson River in Hudson’s Bay as described by Joseph La France, a French Canadese Indian, who traveled thro those countries and lakes for 3 Years from 1739-1742.”

Before it was discovered in 1850, the search for the elusive Northwest Passage stretched all the way back to 1497, when King Henry VII of England sent John Cabot to find a direct route to the Orient. Countless individuals sought its discovery over the centuries, including Arthur Dobbs (1689 – 1765). He was not an explorer, rather he was a Member of Parliament for Ireland. He never set foot anywhere near Hudson’s Bay. So why did this Irish politician want to find the Northwest Passage? Continue reading

Beaumont-Hamel: What Went Wrong?

“Young people lay wreaths during a service to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Thiepval, France.” [Source]

This past Friday marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. July 1, 1916 was one of the worst days in British military history. Of the 57,470 British casualties on that one day, 19,240 were killed; most of which occurred within the first two hours. Within those numbers lies the majority of the First Newfoundland Regiment. Before the soldiers went over the top, they were over 800 strong. How is that only 68 men were able to answer roll call the following day? What exactly went wrong and why does the disaster at Beaumont-Hamel still resonate today? 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