Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative


May 21, 2014

Long ago (late 1970s) in a galaxy far, far away (Ontario) I worked for three years as a contract historian for Parks Canada. My assignment was to prepare an oral history of the Trent-Severn Waterway which winds across southern Ontario from Trenton on Lake Ontario to Port Severn on Lake Huron. During the summer I would record interviews with people who worked, or had worked, along the waterway; in the winter I wrote up my research.

In those days Parks Canada would publish some of its...

May 10, 2014


Last week a friend sent me a link to the 1990 Canadian-made movie Beautiful Dreamers so that I could watch it online.

The film tells the story of the friendship between Richard Maurice Bucke, the London, Ontario, "mad doctor," and the American poet Walt Whitman...

May 2, 2014


The Department of History at York University in Toronto have posted a very useful set of videos to mark the centenary of the onset of World War One.

Utilizing still images and interviews with members of the university faculty, the seven short videos tackle many different aspects of the war: its origins, the role of women, Canada's homefront, weaponry, imperialism, French Canadians and the war, to mention just a few.

If you...

April 29, 2014

Microhistory has been on my mind lately, probably because I've been reading Charlotte Gray's The Massey Murder about the shooting of a member of the prominent Massey family by a young housemaid in Toronto in 1915. Gray's book is a recent Canadian example of the microhistory genre.

Broadly defined, microhistory is the study of small events and/or "minor" historical characters and...

April 17, 2014


If you happen to be in Vancouver on Tuesday, May 6, come on down to the public library, downtown branch, for the launch of George Fetherling's memoir, Travels by Night (Quattro Books).

First published in 1994, the book is a Canadian classic and George has republished a 20th-anniversary edition, expanded and revised.

I'll be on stage as...