Thursday, 27 November 2014




When I think back to my schoolroom Canadian history education two things come to mind, the Canada Revisited textbook series and the CBC’S television documentary series Canada: A People’s History. If you were not a student of the television series, I highly suggest that you watch one or two episodes over the holidays. If you are familiar with the series, I also suggest that you watch a couple over the holidays. The experience will allow you to both relax and brush up on your Canadian history.

                                                               The iconic theme song of the series

The CBC created the 17-episode television series over the period of October 2000 to November 2001. The series ambitiously covers the large span of Canadian history from 15,000 BC to the 1990s. The episodes are fairly lengthy, ranging from just over an hour to just under two hours. The series tells the story of Canadian history through the voice of a narrator and the onscreen reenactment of historic places, events, and people. 

The series provides a rather impressive overview of Canadian history, despite the fact that it covers such a large length of time in approximately 32 hours. It is not surprising that not every single historic event is mentioned and not every event is portrayed as accurately as some may believe it to have happened. Nonetheless, Canada: A People’s History supplied me with a great base knowledge of Canadian history and inspired me to continue to learn about it.

What follows is my personal ranking of five Canada: A People’s History episodes (listed chronologically). 

#1 Episode 2: Adventurers and Mystics (1540-1670)
This episode highlights the travels of Samuel de Champlain, the beginnings of New France, European interaction with Aboriginal peoples through the fur trade and Jesuit missionaries, and Louis XIV’s ‘filles du roi’ population solution. 

Colour painting of women in long dresses walking down dirt path, well dressed men line either side (1600s).
Les filles du Roi

#2 Episode 5: A Question of Loyalties (1775-1815)
This episode covers the province of Quebec’s choice to not become involved in the American Revolution, the migration of Loyalists to Canada, and the War of 1812. This episode was a particular favourite because of the many actor portrayals of historic figures such as Isaac Brock and Tecumseh.  

Colour painting of battle field scene, Sir Isaac Brock wounded with people around him trying to help, fighting surrounding.
Death of Sir Isaac Brock, Battle of Queenston Heights (1812) Painting by John David

#3 Episode 9: From Sea to Sea (1867-1873)
This episode features the finalizing of Confederation, the beginning plans for the transcontinental railway, and the appearance of Louis Riel with the Red River Rebellion.

Black and white photo of Louis Riel, headshot, has moustache.
Louis Riel

#4 Episode 12: Ordeal by Fire (1915-1929)
This episode focuses on Canada’s role and courage in WWI through trench warfare and battles such as Ypres and Vimy Ridge. Oddly the episode does not end with peace but continues to highlight  events after the war, including labour unrest in Winnipeg and the Great Depression. 

Colour painting of battlefield. Smoke rising, bodies on ground, wounded being carried off.
Second Battle of Ypres (1915) Painting by Richard Jack

#5 Episode 16: Years of Hope of Anger (1964-1976)
Many would probably argue that the WWII episode is the natural choice for a top five ranking, but I disagree. While I did enjoy the WWII episode, I found the episode documenting the 60s and 70s to be more engaging. This episode highlights the adoption of the Canadian flag (that we still use today), Expo’ 67, the cry for Quebec sovereignty, the FLQ Crisis, and the onset of Trudeaumania.

Postcard of Expo' 67. Colour city scape of Montreal at night, bright lights on city buildings.
Expo' 67, Montreal

Did you watch this series? What episodes stuck out for you? If you didn't watch the series, what do you remember about your Canadian history education?


  1. Thank you for reminding me of how good these episodes were, Mallory. I'll definitely be revisiting a couple over the holiday!

  2. Loved watching these in history class. The series definitely had a loyal following of middle schoolers and their teachers!

  3. Mallory, I did not know about this form of Canadiana - I will put it on the list of things to watch over the holidays! Thank you for sharing this "resource" :)