Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative


New Medal Winner

November 23, 2020

Back in the day I worked for a while as an oral historian. For three summers I drove the length of the Trent-Severn Waterway in south-central Ontario, interviewing people who had lived and/or worked along the waterway. It was so long ago that I was actually using an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. One summer I got cheap digs in an old house with a group of university students. The house had no central heating and as autumn deepened into winter it got colder and colder. We used to spend our evenings huddled around the kitchen table drinking Irish whisky to keep warm. (I've told you before, it can be tough work being an historian.) Great job, loved every minute of it and I got to visit some beautiful parts of Ontario.

So I was pleased to learn that this year's winner of the Governor General's History Award for Popular Media, aka the Pierre Berton Award, is Steven High, an oral historian from Montreal. High is the co-founder of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University. You can find out about the fascinating work he does here.

The Berton award (that's it above) is one of this year's Governor General's History Awards handed out by Canada's History Society, the folks who bring us Canada's History magazine.

Congratulations to Steven High and to all the other winners.


November 18, 2020

Like so many others, my friends at The Ormsby Review are finding it difficult to navigate these troubled times.

The Ormsby is an online collection of book reviews featuring informed opinion about every book that is published in British Columbia or written by a British Columbian. If there is another such ambitious site in the country, I don't know about it.

Editor Richard Mackie runs a stripped down operation but even to do this he needs...

November 14, 2020

November 13, 2020, 3 p.m.

November 2, 2020

I wrote earlier in this space about Frederick Varley's sojourn in Vancouver, 1926-36. Not long ago I took a stroll to see if I could locate any sites in the city associated with the artist. 

When they arrived in the fall of 1926, the Varley family settled into a rented bungalow on the grounds of a much larger home on...

October 21, 2020

Those generous folks at Harbour Publishing have done us all another favour. They've republished Crawford Killian's classic history of Blacks in British Columbia, Go Do Some Great Thing, which first appeared in 1978.

Not only that, they've made the new, updated edition available online, for free. Just go to knowbc.com...

September 27, 2020

With its most recent issue, Canada's History magazine achieves a notable milestone -- 100 years of continuous publication.

Founded back in 1920 as the Beaver, a staff magazine for the Hudson's Bay Company, it has been independent of the HBC for many years now. It changed to its present name in 2010. I've contributed...