British Empire in Canada: Digitized Primary Sources
This guide includes primary sources related to the British colonization of Canada during the "imperial century" of 1815-1914. British territory in Canada pushed westward over the course of the 19th century, marginalizing the presence of many indigenous peoples along the way. See more on the expansion from a First Nations viewpoint.
Canada - General Sources
Great Britain began acquiring territory in what is now Canada in the 1600s. In 1867, four British colonies (Quebec, Nova Scotia, Ontario, & New Brunswick) joined together as the "Dominion of Canada" and became a self-governing state within the British Empire. More British territories were transferred to Canadian governance from 1870-1940s. Canada and the British Empire were thus closely intertwined.
Canada Gazette, 1875-1921 - A government publication with official proclamations and legal notices, including major land transactions.
The first British authorities in the "Columbia District" (modern B.C., Washington and Oregon) were established by fur-trading companies in the early 1800s. Britain and the United States jointly occupied the area between 1818-1846, when the Oregon Treaty set the modern border of Canada. Vancouver Island became an official colony in 1849; British Columbia followed in 1858. They joined the Dominion of Canada as a single province in 1871.
Two chartered fur-trading companies, the Hudson Bay Company & the North West Company, were the first British authorities in this region in the 1700s. Manitoba joined the Dominion of Canada as a province in 1870; Alberta and Saskatchewan joined Canada as part of the North-Western Territory at the same time, but did not become provinces until 1905. The Canadians signed numerous treaties with First Nations peoples governing land rights throughout this period.
Two chartered fur-trading companies, the Hudson Bay Company & the North West Company, were the first British authorities in this region. However, the vast majority of the land remained (and remains today!) majority indigenous. The original "North-Western Territory" joined the Dominion of Canada in 1870. Yukon became a distinct province in 1898; Nunavut split off in 1999.
Klondike Gold Rush (1896-9) - Books & Serials published 1896-1914. This event triggered a massive influx of American, Canadian & British miners to the Klondike area of the Yukon, centered on Dawson City, and led to the creation of the Province of Yukon in 1898.
This area includes the four original provinces of the Dominion of Canada: Quebec, Nova Scotia, Ontario, & New Brunswick (joined 1867), as well as Prince Edward Island (joined 1873). Newfoundland & Labrador remained separate colonies until 1949.