Colonial Canada: Canadian history in the early modern era

The Syllabus

Prof. Daniel Samson (GLN 219) 

Contact Information: My email address is But I would suggest using the Messages tool in Sakai as a more certain, and no doubt faster way, to get hold of me. 

Beginning September 16th, I’ll be holding student hours on Wednesday afternoons from 1 to 3. If this time is inconvenient, make an appointment by messaging me in Sakai. Student hours are exactly what they say – hours reserved for students: you! For day-to-day concerns and specific questions about your seminar participation or help with essays, your TAs should be your first contacts. But if helpful, you can contact me any time.
Remember: Make sure that you check your Sakai Messages regularly!!! 

Required components: 
Seminar discussion            30 percent
Major paper                         25 per cent (due Monday Dec 6th)
Short essay                           10 per cent (due 8 Oct)
Weekly Quizzes                   10 per cent
Final exam                            25 per cent (take-home, due 12 Dec) 

The Course at a Glance:

Introduction (13 Sep): Introduction and Indigenous Histories - no seminars

Module 1     (20 Sept to  Sept 24): Early New France and the Fur Trade - seminar Salisbury              
Module 2     (27 Sept to 1 Oct): French Canada, Acadia, and the Mi’kmaq - seminar Griffith and Wicken
Module 3     (4 Oct to 8 Oct): Slavery in Early Canada - seminar Donovan and Whitfield
Short assignment due end of the day on Friday,  October 8 

Oct 11-15     Thanksgiving and Fall Reading Week

Module 4     (18 Oct to 22 Oct): War and Revolutions in the Americas - seminar Brebner, Rawlyk, Reid
Module 5     (25 Oct to 29 Oct): Making Treaties -- seminar TBA                                          
Module 6     (1 Nov to Nov 5): Loyalism and Protestantism - seminar Morgan and Marks
Module 7     (8 Nov to 12 Nov): Immigration and Society - seminar Pentland and Akenson 
Module 8     (15 Nov to 19 Nov): Liberalism and Social Change - seminar Sutherland and Campbell                  
Module 9     (22 Nov to 26 Nov: Institutions and the Role of the State - seminar Janet Miron and Daniel Francis
Module 10   (29 Nov to 3 Dec): Writing Workshop
Major Essay due Monday Dec 6th

Exam Review (6 Dec) 

The final exam will be released after class on Dec 6th and is due before midnight Dec 12th

Monday, Nov 5th, 2021 is the last date for withdrawal from the course without academic penalty. 


There is one textbook for this course. It is a free online Creative Commons textbook. It is also required and offers students important background and elaboration on major topics. You’re not asked to read all of it; recommended sections are noted week-to-week in the lesson plans in your e-text. 

John Douglas Belshaw, Canadian History: Pre-Confederation (Vancouver, BC Campus OpenEd, 2016). 

Course Description: 

This course emphasises two things: (i) Learn the basic features of society, state and economy in Canada’s colonial era (i.e. what happened), and (ii) understand and write about how historians interpret elements of that basic story in different ways (i.e. what “what happened” means). 
Thus we’ll spend much of our time (i) reading about and discussing those basic stories, and (ii) reading, discussing, and writing about how different historians told those stories in different ways and thus with different meanings. 

In this course, then, 
- you’ll learn "what happened" - i.e. the major events of the era
- you’ll learn to think and discuss what happened from different perspectives 
- you’ll learn to think critically about evidence and arguments
- and you’ll learn basic skills to apply in an important field. 

The seminar readings form the basis for all our seminar discussions, and the topics for both your short assignment, and the final major essay. In seminars we’ll practice how to write/talk about these topics; in your assignments you’ll learn how to turn them into a formal academic discussion. 

Course Structure 

We'll meet as a single group, once weekly in lectures, and in smaller groups.

Because this is a hi-flex course, some of you will be in the lecture theatre, some of you will be watching online. Some of you will be attending face-to-face seminars; some of you will be in online seminars. But all of you will have effectively the same basic experience: the same content, the same readings, the same opportunities for discussion, the same assignments, the same quizzes, the same exam. The only difference will be whether you're in a classroom or not.

There are three online locations in the course.

      1.    Sakai is where you submit your assignments (submit papers) 
      2.    e-text offers videos, and introductions and links to the seminar readings 
      3.    Textbook is the web-based BCOpenCommons text by John Belshaw.

Thus most “weeks” (i.e. in each module) you’ll attend a lecture, go the e-text watch some videos, do background readings in the Belshaw textbook, then do your readings for the seminar, and attend the seminar

This is a reading and writing centred course. You’ll read a lot; and you’ll write a lot. It is designed to give you a background in Canadian history, to engage with different viewpoints on related topics, and to improve your reading and writing skills.

Written assignments: 

Short Written Assignment: Due before midnight on Monday, Oct 8th. Write a 500 word (approx. 2pp.) discussion of the secondary sources (your seminar readings) in ONE OF modules 2, 3, or 4. Outline, discuss, and compare the viewpoints of the historians included on one module's topic. We’ll be doing just that in our seminars, and this short assignment is more or less a practice version of the major assignment. Getting it now will be beneficial later. No references required (if you quote something use a parenthic reference to the page - for example, (p.67)).

Major Essay: Due at the end of the day, Monday, December 6th.This essay asks you to write a 2000-word essay discussing secondary documents in ONE of modules 6,7, 9 or 9.  This is a substantially more developed version of your first assignment; the essay requires proper Chicago-style references.

At its simplest, the long assignment asks you to discuss the historiographical discussion of one module topic, just as in the short assignment, but to elaborate on the discussion (we'll discuss this as we go). Your essay should explain the historical viewpoints expressed in the secondary sources. What is the argument of each historian? Does the evidence support the argument? How do the different viewpoints of the historians relate to each other? 

You can make use of your lecture notes and/or the e-text, but you are not required to do any outside research. 

HINT: Focus your discussion on analysing and comparing the authors and their viewpoints. Most of the weight will be on your ability to explain and to differentiate between the arguments. We will discuss this at more length in the seminars, but for now think about writing an essay on the authors' interpretations, not on the subject of the readings. Your main question then (for example) would NOT be, "Why did New France fall?" Rather, it would be something like, "How have different historians interpreted the fall of New France?”  

All written assignments will be submitted through Sakai (under the Assignments tab) and will be processed through Turnitin plagiarism detection. 
If you have trouble uploading your file, or if you don’t receive a receipt, email a copy to the TA/instructor. If you’re using one of the major browsers – Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc. – and it’s up-to-date, you shouldn’t have any problems. If you do encounter difficulties, contact us or Brock IT services: 

A simple but common fix is Sakai is giving you grief: switch browsers. It’s surprising how many difficulties are fixed in this simple if unexplainable manner. I’m not Google fan, but I have to admit that Chrome seems to present the fewest problems for Sakai.

The Final Exam

It's a take-home exam, essay style. I'll release it out the last day of classes. You'll have a week to complete. We'll go over it in the last class.
Learning Outcomes 

At the end of this course, students should be able to: 
describe the key events and main developments of Canada's colonial era - explain some of the main debates in Canadian colonial history
develop skills of written engagement
discuss a historiographical debate 
outline in writing the historiography of a major Canadian colonial topic 
Tests and Quizzes

Quizes: Each week, starting Set 20th, quizzes test your comprehension of the lectures. Together they’re worth 10 points. So, while each one is only worth about a point, that can add up quickly and these points can make the difference between a B and C, or whatever. They'll open at after lecture on Monday and close 24 hours later.

All these tests/quizzes will employ objective questions and conducted online in Sakai. There will be true/false, multiple choice, and so on. Some will be easy; some will be hard. Pay attention.

You’ll have three attempts at each quiz.

Seminar Discussion Instructions 

These are general seminar instructions. In each module, you’ll be given specific questions to guide discussion in that module. 

Your seminar will be your discussion group for the entire course. Each week, everyone is expected to contribute to the discussion. It’s worth 30 per cent of your grade. Say something! 

I’m most interested in seeing class members engage with each other in meaningful dialogue. Clarifying points and arguments, assessing evidence.Assessment 

Seminar discussions are the heart of this course. Your grades will reflect the regularity and most especially the quality of your weekly contributions. Discussion should strive to build conversations – that is, your comments should engage, and offer thought-provoking commentary and questions for deepening the discussions. The point is to analyze our texts through discussion, and to build and develop the conversation to that end. 

Hence, your discussion/participation grades will be determined on the basis of you creating engaging, thought-provoking commentary, responses and initiating new discussion that shows engagement with the topics. 

Weekly discussions will be assigned grades from 0 to 10: 

•    8-10 Thoughtful, timely & excellent contributions that stimulate discussion, engage effectively with other seminar participants, and provide insightful comments with solid grounding in the sources. 
•    6-7 Effective contributions that invite comment, engage well with others, and demonstrate some knowledge of the sources. (These are clearly on the right path, but could still be improved.) 
•    5 Little or no effort given to discussion, weak engagement, or contribution was divergent from the discussion and the readings. 
•    Attendance gets you 4 out of 10, no more.

You’ll receive updates on your seminar grade after fall break: these will be “so far” grades. Then at the end of the course you’ll be given a final seminar grade. At any time, however, you should feel free to talk to your TA about how well you're doing.

Academic Integrity: 

The principle of academic integrity, particularly of doing one’s own work, documenting properly (including use of quotation marks, appropriate paraphrasing and referencing/citation), collaborating appropriately, and avoiding misrepresentation, is a core principle in university study. Academic misconduct is a serious offence. Students should consult Section VII, “Academic Misconduct”, in the “Academic Regulations and University Polices” entry in the Undergraduate Calendar, available at to view a fuller description of prohibited actions, and the procedures and penalties. 

Plagiarism software: 

You will submit most of your assignments (essays and take-home exam) through, a phrase-matching program online. If you have a principled reason for objecting to uploading your assignments to, please notify the instructors before the end of Week 4 to discuss alternative ways to submit your assignments. Alternatives will include some mechanism for you to demonstrate your adherence to the principles of academic integrity. 

Special accommodation:

The University is committed to fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for all students and will adhere to the Human Rights principles that ensure respect for dignity, individualized accommodation, inclusion and full participation. The University provides a wide range of resources to assist students, as follows: 
If you require academic accommodation because of a disability or an ongoing health or mental health condition, please contact Student Accessibility Services at or 905 688 5550 ext. 3240. 
If you require academic accommodation because of an incapacitating medical condition, you must, as soon as practicable, inform your instructor(s) of your inability to complete your academic work. You must also submit a Brock University Student Medical Certificate (found at The University may, at its discretion, request more detailed documentation in certain cases. If you are unable to write a scheduled examination due to an incapacitating medical condition, you must follow the process set out in the Faculty Handbook III:9.4.1. 
If you are experiencing mental health concerns, contact the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre. Good2Talk is a service specifically for post-secondary students, available 24/7, 365 days a year, and provides anonymous assistance: or call 1-866-925-5454. For information on wellness, coping and resiliency, visit: 
If you require academic accommodation on religious grounds, you should make a formal, written request to your instructor(s) for alternative dates and/or means of satisfying requirements. Such requests should be made during the first two weeks of any given academic term, or as soon as possible after a need for accommodation is known to exist. 
If you have been affected by sexual violence, the Human Rights & Equity Office offers support, information, reasonable accommodations, and resources through the Sexual Violence Support & Education Coordinator. For information on sexual violence, visit Brock's Sexual Assault and Harassment Policy or contact the Sexual Violence Support & Response Coordinator at or 905 688 5550 ext. 4387. 
If you feel you have experienced discrimination or harassment on any of the above grounds, including racial, gender or other forms of discrimination, contact the Human Rights and Equity Office at 
The penalties for late submission of assigned coursework (e.g., papers, assignments, weekly reflections) are 5% per day, unless accommodations have been approved.

If you require academic consideration because of an incapacitating medical condition, please inform Prof. Samson as soon as possible, of your inability to complete your work.  Given our challenging times related to COVID-19, requests for extensions on assignments due to illness or caring for others with illness will be given case by case consideration for extensions. 

Academic Accommodation: 

As part of Brock University's commitment to a respectful work and learning environment, the University will make every reasonable effort to accommodate all members of the university community with disabilities. If you require academic accommodations related to a documented disability to participate in this course, you are encouraged to contact Services for Students with Disabilities in the Student Development Centre (4th floor Schmon Tower, ex. 3240). You are also encouraged to discuss any accommodations with the instructor well in advance of due dates and scheduled assessments. 

Medical Exemption Policy: 

The University requires that a student be medically examined in Health Services, or by an off- campus physician prior to an absence due to medical reasons from an exam, lab, test, quiz, seminar, assignment, etc. The Medical Certificate can be found at: services/policies/exemption.