Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

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June 16, 2020

Once or twice when I was young my parents dressed up my three siblings and I in our neatest clothes and hauled us off to the local photographer for a family portrait. The owner of the studio, which was on West 10th, was Mr. Pinkerton. He would attempt to keep us amused as he changed our poses, shifted the lights and generally tried to elicit our sweetest smiles. The results hung on the walls...

June 14, 2020

While waiting for my next book, Becoming Vancouver: a New History, delayed by the COVID situation, to be published next year, I thought I would introduce the project by telling some "tales of the city."

Epidemic disease has always been part of Vancouver's history. The influenza outbreak of 1918-1919 was the most dramatic example -- at least until today -- but smallpox was another dreaded visitor.

Smallpox has played a tragic role in the history of British...

June 8, 2020

As I have already mentioned, my next book, Becoming Vancouver: a New History, has been delayed by the COVID situation and will not be published until next year. In the meantime, I thought I would introduce the project by telling some stories from the book.

Given the wave of Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the globe, I'll begin with the story of "the Great English Bay...

May 29, 2020

Yesterday's mail brought the new issue of Canada's History magazine containing an article by yours truly on the story of prohibition in Canada.

That's right. While American prohibition enjoys a high profile -- Al Capone, Roaring Twenties, bathtub gin, etc. -- many Canadians do not even know we had our own liquor ban in this country....

May 22, 2020

People like to draw analogies -- historians certainly do -- and naturally the favourite comparison of late has been to the 1918 flu epidemic. But I've been thinking more about the Red Scare.

Following World War One and the flu outbreak, Canada was gripped by a fear of red revolution. It seems outlandish in retrospect, but at the time the...

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