Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative


December 24, 2013


Santa Claus (aka Canada Post) brought a wonderful Christmas present to my door this morning: a copy of Arvik! In Pursuit of the Bowhead Whale, hot off the presses.

Arvik! is a new book from the Avataq Cultural Institute, a Montreal-based organization devoted to promoting the culture of the Inuit...

December 17, 2013


The Big Idea in Canadian history circles in 2013 was probably the Warrior Nation.

It popped up most provocatively in the 2012 book by Ian McKay and Jamie Swift, Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety, but it also figures in the complaints about the federal government's War of 1812 commemorations and the reconceptualizing of the Canadian Museum of Civilization as the new Canadian Museum of History.

I wrote about this issue in a...

December 9, 2013

It is the time of year when the media is filled with lists of the "best" books of the year so I thought I'd try something a little different. Here are my favourite blogs about Vancouver history, in no particular order.

Not so long ago I mentioned Lani Russwurm's new book, Vancouver Was Awesome, which is a follow on from his blog of the same name. Lani tells great stories about city personalities and...

December 5, 2013


Much of last week I spent preparing an index for my latest book, an illustrated history of prohibition in Canada titled Closing Time: Prohibition, Rum-runners and Border Wars. It will appear next autumn from my friends at Stanton, Atkins and Dosil. Indexing is pretty much the last job before the manuscript goes off to the printer.

Given that indexing, while necessary, is also finicky, time-consuming and boring, most writers have someone else do it for them. But I...

November 28, 2013

So often when one is travelling the most popular tourist sites turn out to be the most disappointing.

In Vienna recently I took the train out to visit the Schonbrunn Palace, home to the Habsburgs until their empire crumbled during World War One. It is apparently the most visited site in Austria but I was disappointed, make that angry, at the banality of the interpretation. Walking through the spacious rooms, audio guide pressed to my ear, I was treated to a barrage of trivial...