Fall 2015 - HIST 204 D100

The Social History of Canada (3)

Class Number: 5946

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 8 – Dec 7, 2015: Mon, 12:30–2:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 14, 2015
    Mon, 12:00–3:00 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Christina Adcock
    Office: AQ 6236



A survey of major themes in Canadian social history from the arrival of Europeans to the present day. Particular attention will be paid to the effects of gender, race and class on the experience of Canadians over time. Breadth-Humanities.


This course offers a selective survey of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Canadian history through the lens of social history. Often described as history “from below” or “from the bottom up,” social history has traditionally aimed to recover the experiences of non-elite members of society, including (but not limited to) women, members of the working class, ethnic minorities, and Aboriginal peoples. To avoid being overwhelmed by the sheer scope of this historical project, we will focus upon a handful of social spaces in which Canadians have lived, worked and played over the last two centuries. These will include courtrooms, taverns, Chinatowns, residential schools, parks, and playing fields. We will learn how these spaces materially and imaginatively shaped how people conducted their lives, what kinds of choices they were able to make, and what effects their actions had on others and on the times in which they lived.

As we move through these spaces, we’ll encounter and practice using some of the key concepts and methods of social history. These include the intersecting categories of gender, race, and class, which people have understood and performed differently in different times and places. We will grapple with an array of primary sources in order to understand how social historians extract meaning from sometimes unlikely records and objects. We will also touch upon philosophical questions concerning agency, representation, and the limits of knowledge in the historical enterprise. Do we make history, or does history make us? Who has the right to speak for whom? How can we produce accurate histories from fragmentary or otherwise problematic evidence? Finally, wherever relevant, we will connect our knowledge of Canadian social history to contemporary social issues in this country, particularly those of equity and justice.


By the end of this course, you will be able:

  • To describe how specific social spaces shaped everyday historical experiences in Canada
  • To identify different expressions of gender, race, and class across time and space, and to situate them in their historical and cultural contexts 
  • To discuss social historical issues concerning agency, representation, and knowledge with reference to course content
  • To practice critically reading and analyzing primary and secondary historical sources in oral and written form
  • To relate course content where relevant to contemporary social issues in Canada


  • Participation in lectures/tutorials 20%
  • Midterm 15%
  • Graphic novel assignment 30%
  • Final exam 35%
  • *Course components and their weighting may be altered between now and the beginning of the fall term.



Students will be required to purchase one of the following:

David H.T. Wong. Escape to Gold Mountain: A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012

Zach Worton. The Klondike. Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2011

All other readings will be made available on Canvas.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html 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. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html