The Oxford Companion to Canadian History
is the definitive reference to Canada's past. Editor Gerald Hallowell recruited over 500 of the most prominent Canadianists--geographers, literary scholars, and especially historians--to assemble a comprehensive and entertaining volume in the best tradition of Oxford reference works. The entries are arranged alphabetically and represent a fine blend of popular and academic topics. In addition to biographical profiles of well-known Canadians and the usual political, military, and diplomatic entries, Hallowell and his team have thoroughly beat the bushes for topics which show the uniqueness of the Canadian experience. Thus entries on Laurier, Vimy Ridge, and the Charter of Rights of Freedoms share space with Eaton's mail-order catalogues and David Lewis's "corporate welfare bums." The greatest strength of this reference, however, is the editorial willingness to include so many entries on unique Canadian thought. Entries on seminal Canadian ideas, like Northrop Frye's "garrison mentality," Innis and Creighton's laurentian thesis, and medicare, render these complex topics easily understandable. Carl Berger's entry on history and historians puts the rest of the volume into its proper academic context, but it would be a mistake to conclude that this is a dry academic tome. The Oxford Companion to Canadian History
is like a PhD reading list in a single volume, but it is also approachable and--wonderful to relate--great fun to read. --William Newbigging
The purpose of this wide-ranging guide is to provide "the basic details of the main events, institutions, places and people in Canada's past." Editor Hallowell is a former senior editor of Canadian history at the University of Toronto Press.
The Companion's impressive 1,654 entries, the work of more than 500 mostly academic subject experts, are arranged alphabetically and range in length from a few sentences to two pages. Cross-referencing is indicated by asterisks within entries. In addition to the A-Z articles, the book contains a precise index; lists of monarchs, governors general, prime ministers, and provincial premiers; and the words of the national anthems. Text is complemented by ten basic maps, five depicting the historical settlement of Canada and five identifying geographic locations.
The entries cover several major subject areas, including politics and the constitution, industry and the economy, education and religion, law, medicine and science, transportation, and social and cultural history and effectively reflect the regional, linguistic, and cultural diversity of Canada. For example, there are several excellent articles devoted to Canada's aboriginal peoples. In addition, there are extensive articles related to the nation's "founding peoples," the French and British. Finally, there are entries discussing other key groups, including Jews and Chinese and African Canadians. Other entries cover common Canadian topics such as Anne of Green Gables, Fur trade, Hockey, and peacekeeping.
This is an excellent entry point into Canadian history, although it should be noted that treatment of topics is deliberately brief and, because of space constraints, there are no suggested readings or a bibliography of sources. The volume will be particularly useful as a quick reference for users who are already very familiar with Canadian history. Lower-level undergraduates and general readers may need to refer to The Canadian Encyclopedia (McClelland & Stewart, 2000) for further details. Nevertheless, the Companion is highly recommended for all Canadian libraries, as well as any U.S. library near the Canadian border or supporting Canadian history or Canadian studies programs. Michelle Hendley
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