Summer 2022 - HIST 428 D100

Problems in the Social and Economic History of Canada (4)


Class Number: 2429

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 10 – Aug 8, 2022: Mon, 9:30 a.m.–1:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history. Recommended: HIST 101, 102W.



Selected problems in the history of Canadian agriculture and industrial development, migration and settlement, labor, native policy and class structure. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HIST 428 may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught.


The Essentials of Work in Canadian History

Today, discussion of “essential work” is everywhere. But who determines what labour is more “essential” than others? How is this value measured? In money, or the general welfare?  What do we look for in work? Have our answers changed overtime, and should we expect more from work today?

HIST 428 will explore these issues, investigating how our expectations for and understanding of work have changed in Canadian history. Covering the valourization of settler independence in British North America to twenty-first century discourse on “climate jobs,” we shall consider how aspirations for working life have shifted in tension with gender and racial constructs and changes in political economy, and confront issues negotiated by diverse historical actors. Was fulfilling work really tied to land ownership, as many believed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? Did waged labour mean the end of freedom? Or could autonomy be found in the act of spending money, rather than earning it? Was labour the foundation of value? If so, should workers organize the economy themselves?  What does automation mean for work? In an age of machines and artificial intelligence, why should we work at all? Throughout, we shall consider how liberal conceptions of property diverged from Indigenous Peoples’ relationship to the land and labour, examining why the state, to this day, has gone to such violent lengths to undermine Indigenous sovereignty.


Students will learn to critically assess primary source materials and navigate historical archives, and to explore archives’ online and digitization resources. We shall develop and employ sophisticated methodologies for analyzing historical trends and problematizing seemingly “fixed” structures and identities. Is some work really more “masculine” than others? Are borders solid objects or social constructs? In preparing and delivering individual seminar presentations, students will also learn to apply historical knowledge to issues of work and landownership in Canada today and examine how work, labour, and land are framed and refashioned in contemporary media settings. Finally, students will learn to generate questions for historical research and to communicate their findings in evidence-based research papers.


  • Seminar Participation 20%
  • Questions for Discussion (students will be asked to prepare discussion questions each week based the readings) 5%
  • Seminar Presentation 30%
  • Research Proposal 10%
  • Research Paper 35%


Weekly Themes

  • Settler Colonialism, Land Ownership, and Power
  • Indigenous Economies and Labour Practices
  • Industrialization and Democracy on the Job
  • Policing the Boundaries of Work: Immigration, State Violence, and Métis Resistance
  • On Mental and Manual Labour: Are Workers Intellectuals, Too?
  • Running the City: The General Strike, Socialism, and the Left
  • Work Paid and Unpaid: Gendering Labour
  • The Labour of War: Imagining the Futures of Work on the Home Front
  • Education as Work: Student Activism in the 1960s
  • Postcolonial Imaginaries: Intersections of Work and Nationalism
  • Freelance Employee or Exploited Worker?: The Origins of the “Gig” Economy
  • Climate Change, Automation, and the Free Time to Change the World



All materials will be made available on Canvas or electronically through the SFU library.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.


Teaching at SFU in summer 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction.  Some courses may be offered through alternative methods (remote, online, blended), and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes. 

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote, online, or blended courses study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning ( or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the summer 2022 term.