1858 engraving of Victoria

Colonial History Vancouver Island

Maureen Duffus - Author and Historian


Suggested Reading

A personal selection of books chosen for their authenticity, solid research and relevance - written to be read for enjoyment as well as information.

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Some first-hand accounts of early British Columbia

  • A Pioneer Gentlewoman in British Columbia, edited by Margaret Ormsby, University of British Columbia, 1976.
  • Reminiscences of Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken, edited by Dorothy Blakey Smith, University of British Columbia Press, 1975. (The Fort Victoria doctor writes of the people and events from the time of his arrival on Vancouver Island in 1850.)
  • Vancouver Island Letters of Edmund Hope Verney, edited by Allan Pritchard, UBC Press, 1996. (Life of a Royal Navy junior officer and his thoughts on life in Victoria in the early 1860s)
  • Henry and Self, The Private Life of Sarah Crease, Kathryn Bridge, Sono Nis Press, Victoria, 1996. (with letters, photographs and reproductions of some of Sarah's drawings and watercolors of early British Columbia.)
  • Lady Franklin visits the Pacific Northwest, Sophia Cracroft letters, edited by Dorothy Blakey Smith (Provincial Archives Memoir, 1974)
  • Land of Promise - Robert Burnaby's letters from Colonial British Columbia, 1858-1863. Ann Burnaby McLeod and Pixie McGeachie. Includes Photo section. City of Burnaby. 2002

Books about the Colonial period (and later)

  • Victoria: The Fort, Derek Pethick, Mitchell Press Limited, Vancouver, 1968. Also his James Douglas: Servant of two Empires, Mitchell Press, 1969
  • Old Square-Toes And His Lady, John Adams, Horsdal and Shubart, Victoria, 2001. (Remarkable lives of James Douglas and Amelia Connolly Douglas, their families and Hudson's Bay Company colleagues)
  • British Columbia Chronicles, two volumes, G.P.V and Helen B. Akrigg, Discovery press, Vancouver, 1977. Year-by-year history of British Columbia, 1778 to 1871
  • More English Than the English, Terry Reksten, Orca Book Publishers, Victoria, 1986. (Subtitled A Very Social History of Victoria, one of the most entertaining accounts of British immigrants trying to create a society based on nostalgic notions of their homeland.)
  • First Water, Tigers, Dave Parker, Sono Nis Press, 1987. (Subtitled a history of the Victoria Fire Department, with stories and photographs dating from the Hook and Ladder Company formed in 1859.)
  • The Royal Navy and the Northwest Coast of North America, 1810 to 1814, Barry M Gough, University of British Columbia Press. 1971

Some regional histories
(For anyone interested in reading about pioneer families. Many of these are compiled by members of local historical committees.)

  • Footprints, Pioneer Families of the Metchosin District, compiled and edited by Marion I Helgesen, Metchosin School Museum Society, 1983. See also recently revised edition.
  • The Sooke Story - the History and the Heartbeat, Published by the Sooke Region Museum, second edition, 2004
  • Beautiful Rocks - a History of the Highland District, published by the Highland Heritage Park Society. Includes First Peoples history, lives of early settlers. Illustrated. 2008.
  • The Gulf Islands Patchwork (1999) and More tales from the Outer Gulf Islands, An Anthology of Memories and Anecdotes, (1993) published by the Gulf Islands Branch of the British Columbia Historical Federation, Pender Island.
  • *The Company on the Coast, edited by E. Blanche Norcross, 1983, Nanaimo Historical Society. Includes transcripts of speeches at a 1982 symposium sponsored by the Historical Society and Malaspina College, featuring the role of the Hudson's Bay Company at Nanaimo, Fort Langley, Fort Rupert and Victoria.
  • *Only in Oak Bay, Oak Bay Municipality, 1906 - 1981, edited by Fred C. Barnes, published by The Corporation of the District of Oak Bay, 1981. Amusing anecdotes of Oak Bay characters by former newspaper writers and others.
  • *Camas Chronicles of James Bay, Victoria, British Columbia, compiled by members of a James Bay Historical committee, 1978. Stories of the pioneer families of Victoria's oldest residential neighbourhood.
  • *The Warm Land, A story of the South Cowichan valley, E. Blanche Norcross, 1958.
  • *From Cordwood to Campus, The story of the Gordon Head district from 1852 to 1959 when an army camp became the University of Victoria campus, by Ursula Jupp.
  • The Gorge of Summers Gone, A History of Victoria's Inland Waterway, Dennis Minaker, 1998. The Gorge from farmland to elegant mansions, a favourite recreation destination including the famous Japanese Tea Gardens, illustrated with many original photographs.
  • Homesteads and Snug Harbours, stories from the Gulf Islands by Peter Murray, Horsdal & Shubart, 1991. Characters from Salt Spring Island and other Gulf Islands
  • Royal Colwood Golf Club: The First 90 Years, by John Ronald

*Hard to find, but most are available in library reference departments, second hand bookstores and Abebooks.

Women's History

  • As Wise as Serpents, Lyn Gough, Swan Lake Publishing, 1988. The story of the spirited women who developed the BC Women's Christian Temperance Union into the most powerful and influentinal organization of its day.
  • Women of the Klondike, Frances Backhouse, Whitecap Books, Vancouver/Toronto, 1995
  • The Magic Box, The eccentric Genius of Hannah Maynard, photographer, 1834-1918, Claire Weissman Wilks, Exile Editions Limited, Toronto, 1980. Victoria's famous experimental photographer.
  • Those Splendid Girls, Katherine Dewar, Island Studies Press, University of Prince Edward Island, 2014.
    My Review


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