For the 1st Edition (2016)
This open textbook follows on the Canadian History: Pre-Confederation volume produced under the auspices of BCcampus, and it continues along a nicely oscillating learning curve begun just over two years ago. The original goal was to assemble Open Educational Resources (OER) for Canadianist historians; it became something vastly more ambitious. Along the way there has been much to learn about the nature of copyright law, the extent of resources available online, and who was at the cutting edge of research on Canadian history.
There have been several formal opportunities to reflect on the process of developing an open textbook. OER symposia, BCcampus’ Open Textbook conference, and developing presentations to potential user groups have been important developmental moments. Co-writing a study on different ways to build open textbooks with Rajiv Jhangiani (Kwantlen Polytechnic University) and Arthur “Gill” Green (Okanagan College) added new wrinkles to my understanding of process and issues; it was also great fun.
My colleagues at Thompson Rivers University, particularly in the Open Learning division, played an important role in this project. The Instructional Design Group, led by Michelle Harrison, and the Curriculum Services department, led by Naomi Cloutier, provided both resources and editorial support in the form of Danielle Collins, Carolyn Hawes, Wayne Egers, Mona Hall, Dawn-Louise Macleod, and Christopher Ward. Many thanks for keeping me on my game. Open Learning also found resources to build a suite of video interviews with historians in BC and Ontario. These were planned out by Norm Fennema (a talented historian at TRU-OL and the University of Victoria) and executed by the gifted Jon Fulton (TRU-OL). Some of the interviews are incorporated into both the Pre- and Post-Confederation Open Learning courses, so I would like to acknowledge the more than two dozen historians who participated. I’m pleased, as well, to acknowledge the continued resourcefulness of TRU Librarian, Brenda Smith.
BCcampus continues to contribute leadership to the task of making quality resources available to students for free. More than that, the organization is committed to the ideal of pedagogical assets that enable the transformation of teaching and learning. Using this open textbook as one would a conventional textbook is a bit like employing a smartphone exclusively as, well, as a telephone. This is the message that Mary Burgess (Executive Director), Amanda Coolidge (Senior Manager), Clint Lalonde (Manager, Education Technologies), Lauri Aesoph (Manager, Open Education), and Denise Goudy (Director, Education Projects) are working hard to get out. Looking at adoption rates for the open textbooks in British Columbia and Canada generally, I’d say they are succeeding. My thanks to everyone at BCcampus for their commitment to this project and for their patience as one deadline after another slipped silently by.
And a shout-out to the Ministry of Advanced Education (AVED). The open textbook initiative came from the Ministry a few years ago with significant resources attached. The results have been remarkable and British Columbia is now, pound-for-pound and ounce-for-ounce, the leading jurisdiction in this field. This is worth bragging about, not least because being the leader in OER means being the most enthusiastic to share, to make freely available, to eschew petty proprietorship for the greatest possible benefit of students and in the interest of energized teaching. That’s real leadership, AVED.
Early on in the development of the Post-Confederation textbook, it occurred to me that it would be enriched by the direct involvement of the leading lights in our field from across the country. These bright and dedicated folks are listed by name on the “About the Author and Contributors” page. I am privileged to be part of this community of scholars, and I am inspired by their work.
As this project was underway, the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was wrapping up in the form of an enormous multi-volume report. There are times when, if one looks closely, it is possible to see History with a capital-H pressing its thumbprint on our times. The TRC’s proceedings and report are just such a moment. It marks a watershed in the national, social, legal, moral, cultural, environmental, and human history of many peoples in the northern half of North America. There will be no turning back. The TRC provides generations to come with testimony that repositions what we have written to date on the post-1867 era. I am glad to have lived in a time when so many voices are set free and allowed to speak. As a Canadian who lives on the unceded territory of three Indigenous communities, I acknowledge the contribution made to this history by Inuit, and First Nations and Métis peoples.
Family and friends have provided encouragement in the course of this enterprise, though none more than Diane Purvey. How often can I thank you? As this project reached its conclusion, we lost our cat and companion of 21 years, Reepicheep, without whose demands for feeding and entertaining, I might never have got out of my chair. I shall not be able to think of the open textbook without remembering her as well.
Finally, although many people have contributed to what is great about Canadian History: Post-Confederation, only one individual may lay claim to its faults, and that is me.
For the 2nd Edition (2020)
I’m making revisions to this volume in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. I usually work from home so, for me, not much has changed, although I badly miss going to movies, getting coffee out, visiting the local micro-breweries. I miss watching soccer, running in crowds, and cycling with my club. I’ve discovered that my fail-safe Greek salad elicits groans from family members. How long has that been going on?
As historic watersheds go, putting the whole nation under something like ‘house arrest’ for weeks without foreseeable end is a distinctive one. Historians around the world are even now wrestling with what it all means. We can be reasonably sure that there will be permanent changes arising from this episode and that people in the decades to come will think of their lives in terms of pre- and post-COVID. Some comparisons are being made to wartime but the similarities to sharp economic downturns seem to me more apposite. Then there’s the October Crisis of 1970, another time when all eyes were on the Prime Minister and many civil rights were shelved. Indigenous peoples can shrug at all of this excitement and point instead to the long-running tragedy of tuberculosis, containment on-reserve under the Pass System, and shortages (of proper food, clean water, decent and reliable healthcare, and compassion), not to mention actual epidemics that claimed thousands of lives. It won’t be the first time, either, that we’ve had to look hard at our urban ways of living and our dependence on inorganic energy sources—themes that recur throughout the twentieth century. Perhaps it has never been so timely, therefore, to study the history of this country and the many peoples who comprise it.
No fear: I’m not going to add to the acknowledgements a nasty microscopic virus. But I would like to acknowledge the many individuals who contributed to the revised and corrected version you now have before you. Colleagues, professors, students, readers—scholars one and all—have kindly and patiently made a wide variety of suggestions. Have we caught all the errors, typos, etc.? Probably not. So please keep letting us know what you find and what needs improving upon. At some point, however, you’re going to have to do more than adopt this resource: you’re going to have to adapt it. Make it work for you and your specific needs. I’ve done some of this myself, incorporating some of the fine contributions made here by colleagues into a new Histories of Indigenous Peoples and Canada. That project involved two co-authors—Chelsea Horton and Sarah Nickel—whose rigorous approach to the field and influence now echoes back into this volume. My relationship with BCcampus continues, and I want to single out the support provided by Josie Gray, Lauri Aesoph, and Amanda Coolidge. They are champions in every sense of the word.