CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 12 . . . . February 2, 2007
Daniel Francis is an 'engaging and prolific' Canadian author who appears to be single-handedly attempting to find 'innovative ways of teaching history.' He has a number of highly regarded works to his credit (The Encyclopedia of British Columbia, The Imaginary Indian, Copying People, and National Dreams); he has written a number of social studies textbooks (e.g. Connections Canada), produced information books (e.g. Discovering Canada's Government), written articles for Canadian Geographic and Beaver, and collaborated on teaching materials with Native bands. Daniel Francis is a historian of range and depth, well-versed in Canadian Native issues, who has a flair for debunking conventional Canadian history.
His 2006 publication, Far West: The Story of British Columbia, ostensibly for the juvenile market, is not his strongest work. It appears to have been produced as a coffee-table book directed at a very broad audience and designed to showcase Gordon Miller's paintings. The content has been seriously diluted, and the book portrays a stereotypical and rosy picture of BC race relationships and environmental issues. Francis's characterization of Native land claims issues, and the perpetuation of the 'discovery paradigm' are particularly problematic.
The book, itself, is cleanly formatted, highly cohesive and well written and edited. It is highly graphical and appealing with coloured text-boxes showcasing 'fast facts,' 'historical quotes,' 'BC places, and 'BC animals.' Comparative statistics and date information are tabled throughout, and the discussion culminates in a timeline. Francis uses maps, an interesting collection of archival photos, and paintings by BC artist Gordon Miller of real and hypothetical historical scenes. To his credit, Francis has worked to incorporate images of First Nations people, women, Chinese, Sikhs and workers. The 'In their own words' text-boxes contain quotes from a range of voices. Native names are used throughout, with a phonemic pronunciation given in brackets for most. The book is well indexed but lacks a Reference section or any suggestions for further reading.
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