CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 16. . . . April 11, 2003
Canadian women in
the 1850s experienced a family life very different from today. Yet
there were some continuities. At no point in time have all women experienced
family life in the same way. Where they lived, their cultural background,
the way family members made their living, and the particular quality
of personal relationships within their family made each woman's experiences
of family life different in the past. Indeed, these factors continue
to differentiate family life today.
This CD is advertised as being "a unique resource that will become the authoritative reference work on Canada's history." That prognosis can be left for history itself to determine; but there is no doubt that for the moment the CD does represent a unique and valuable teaching and research tool. At both the senior years level, and at the college and university undergraduate level, the CD could be used as an effective overview for a significant portion of survey course content (for Canadian history subsequent to Confederation) and as a starting point for more focused research projects (many of which would be able to use the supplementary resources contained on the disk articles, original documents, etc. for a significant portion of that independent inquiry).
Instead of attempting the probably hopeless task of developing an integrated comprehensive overview as a backdrop to the myriad topics and issues involved, the authors have quite sensibly subdivided that overview task into five groupings that afford some reasonable chance of coherence: Natives; Society/Culture; Women; Politics/Economy; and Regional Diversity. (The capacities of the CD do, however, allow for integrative links among these groupings by providing a time-line that allows the reader to note events, on a bar at the bottom of the screen, that are taking place in other domains during the same time as events occurring in the narrative theme currently under scrutiny; and an interactive device that allows the reader to compare in detail events that are simultaneously taking place at a given time in two topic areas.) Each of the broad narrative areas is, in turn, broken down into more focused sub-topics. Society/Culture, for example, moves at the second stage to the areas of science & technology, religion, sports, home life, work life, social criticism, and education. In many cases, these second-level branches will, in turn, move to yet another level of focus (Education, for example, moves to such issues as social demand, university reform, native education, and higher education); and at both levels, each of the topics is further cross referenced to a grid that provides an overview, and then a sub-division into discrete time intervals, along with useful bibliographical references.
individual narratives, on all three levels, look quite similar to
traditional printed (well illustrated) publications. Their major advantage
lies in the interspersed appearance of icons taking the reader to
supplementary sources: maps, graphs and tables (many of them interactive),
related articles, etc. The availability of a wealth of such complementary
material, which can be used either in conjunction with one of the
twenty four principal narratives, or just on their own, is the obvious
principal strength of this CD. The reader has access to 120 "case
studies": individual articles on a wide range of topics, written
by established scholars, Canadian and international. These case studies
(usually providing useful bibliographical sources) can be used not
only to supplement the general narrative texts, but also to provide
excellent jumping-off points for individual research projects. Also
useful both for spurring interest and as primary sources for individual
research projects is a wide range of original documents (the texts
of major commission reports, as one example), a wealth of more than
1000 images, including archival photographs and political cartoons,
panoramic photographs, and some twenty minutes of sound and film clips
of major events (including what are termed "presentations,"
which offer groupings, usually five, of photographs around a range
of thematic areas). To assist the students in personal use of this
resource, for study or research, a number of tools are offered: Internet
links, via an associated website; bookmarks; a notebook; a device
for monitoring individual progress; and the capacity to build personal
Formerly a professor in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba Alexander Gregor remains a history buff.
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