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Starting Point
History 103: Pre-Confederation Canadian History


This guide will provide you with a starting point for research in your subject area.


Step 1: Define Your Topic


To help you in this process, use specialized encyclopedias and handbooks located in the reference collection, or chapters from a current textbook to give you a short overview of your research subject.  These articles are written by experts on the topic and they often include other references listed at the end of the article. You can be assured that the references listed there are authoritative sources and well worth obtaining for your paper. Some reference books that may be useful:

Ref FC 23 .C36 Canadian Encyclopedia - online version

Ref FC 23 .H67 Horizon Canada (10 volumes)

Ref FC 23 .O94 Oxford Companion to Canadian History

Ref FC 25 .D53 Dictionary of Canadian Biography - online version

Ref E 77 .H25 Handbook of North American Indians

Ref E 76.2 .G74 Encyclopedia of the First Peoples of North America

Ref E 98 .E2 E52 Encyclopedia of Native American Economic History

Ref E 77 .G15 Gale Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes

Ref D 25 .A2 I58 International Encyclopedia of  Military History

Ref E 77 .P89 Native Americans: an Encyclopedia of History, Cultures and Peoples

Ref G 1116 .S1 H582 Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples - online version

Step 2: Look for Books


Begin your research by checking for your topic in the library catalogue. Remember to click the VIEW button to display the long record for an item and then examine the Subject terms at the bottom of the record. Click on appropriate relevant Subject terms to see if there are any other items available on your topic. Some useful Canadian history Subject Terms include:

Canada - History - To 1763 (New France)
Canada - History - War of 1812
Canada - Social life and customs
Fur trade - Canada - History
Maritime Provinces - History - to 1867

If you don't find enough appropriate material on your topic in the CNC Library, check bibliographies to find references to other works that have been published on your topic. Then once again check the CNC Library catalogue, other local libraries or order the items from out of town libraries via the Interlibrary Loan service. Obtaining books or journals via Interlibrary Loan can take up to two weeks, so do your research early. Some very useful bibliographies are:

Ref FC 104 .E56 Introducing Canada: an Annotated Bibliography of Canadian History

Ref FC 500 .R4 Reader's Guide to Canadian History, vol. 1

If your topic is about the history of women in Canada, First Nations history, etc. some specialized bibliographies are:

Ref HQ 1150 .C52 Changing Women, Changing History

Ref HQ 1453 .Z953 True Daughters of the North

Ref HQ 792 .C2 S97 History of Canadian Childhood and Youth: a Bibliography

Ref FC 3822 .J6 B.C. Bibliography 1849-1899

Ref F 591 .S64 The American and Canadian West: a Bibliography

Ref KE 8813 .A1 S62 Canadian Criminal Justice History

Ref E 77 .I52 Indians in the U.S. and Canada: a Bibliography

Ref E 78 .B9 S728 Native Indians in British Columbia

Ref E 92 .S7 Canadian Indian Policy

Ref E 99 .A86 M33 Indians of the Subarctic: a Critical Bibliography

Ref FC 179 .C66 A Scholar's Guide to Geographical Writing on the American and Canadian Past
Other Reference Sources


Ref FC 23 .G69 Historical Dictionary of Canada

Ref  HQ 1416 .M395 Women in Early America: Struggle, Survival and Freedom in a New World

Ref FC 26 .W6 F67 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces

Ref G 1106 .S12 H3 America Discovered: a Historical Atlas of North American Exploration

Ref FC 226 .C32 Canada at War and Peace: a Millennium of Military Heritage

Ref FC 24 .F58 Fitzhenry & Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates

Ref FC 24 .H55 Canada 875-1973: a Chronology and Fact Book

Ref FC 18 .R43 A Source-book of Canadian History

Ref FC 3212.1 .F73 H85 Simon Fraser, the birth of modern British Columbia: Vancouver Sun special report series 2006

Ref FC 36 .A7 Origin and Meaning of Place Names in Canada

Ref FC 226 .C32 Canada at War and Peace

Ref G 1116 .S1 T7 Atlas of New France

Ref G 1116 .S1 H58 Historical Atlas of Canada: from the Beginning to 1800

Ref G 1116 .S1 H582 Concise Historical Atlas of Canada

Ref F 851 .H38 Historical Atlas of the Pacific Northwest

Ref G 1174 .V3 H39 Historical Atlas of Vancouver and the lower Fraser Valley

Ref G 1116 .S1 H39 Historical Atlas of Canada

Ref G 2862 .N6 S12 H3 Historical Atlas of the North Pacific Ocean

Ref G 1122.51 .S1 H57 Historical Atlas of the Maritime Provinces 1878

Step 3: Use Periodical Articles


Periodicals offer excellent information. To locate articles in your subject area, use the online indexes - Canadian Reference Centre   and Canadian Business and Current Affairs Index  for articles published after 1982 - and the paperbound Canadian Periodical Index  for articles published before 1982.  Once you have located article citations, if the article is not in fulltext online, click on the  Where can I get this?  button to see if the journal is available in either the CNC or UNBC libraries.  If the article is not available locally, get it from another B.C. library by clicking on the Check other library catalogues button to request the item online via Interlibrary Loan. Remember to order items early!


If you are aware of a particularly useful journal title, e.g. Canada's history (formerly The Beaver), and want to search within it, click on the library's  Journals page and then click on Online A-Z Title/Subject.  At  the "Starts with" search box type your journal title.  As long as the title is available in fulltext online in one of the library's journal databases or it is available in paper format in the library you will be be able to access this journal.  If it is available in online fulltext, you will see the range of databases  that provide the fulltext of the journal.  Click on a database  title and then click on  Search within this publication.

Step 4: Check Canadian History Websites

From the Library page click on Web Subject Sites - History to find a list of recommended Canadian history websites.


Have fun! If you have comments or suggestions, email me at



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