A concern often heard from instructors of Canadian history is that students are not engaged. While the landscape of course materials relating to post-Confederation Canada is characterized by sound teaching and research, the overwhelmingly standard approach to key events and themes leaves many students under the impression that Canadian history is dry and uninspiring.
This couldn’t be further from the truth….
We at the Higher Education Division of the University of Toronto Press present a means of breaking through this key barrier to learning. Death in the Peaceable Kingdom: Canadian History since 1867 through Murder, Execution, Assassination, and Suicide by Dimitry Anastakis offers an original, inviting approach to post-Confederation Canadian history. By highlighting a series of dramatic episodes, Death in the Peaceable Kingdom engages students in many of the political, social, economic, and cultural changes experienced by Canadians in the last century and a half. Students will gain insight into the transformation of Canada since Confederation, and how these changes explain and contextualize many aspects of present-day Canada.
Though based on Anastakis’s own post-Confederation course, this unconventional approach may be viewed with skepticism by instructors accustomed to more standard texts; some might feel that incorporating Death in the Peaceable Kingdom as the key text in a course would result in a massive rewriting of their syllabus. We are happy to show how these fears are unwarranted.
As shown in this sample course outline, Death in the Peaceable Kingdom can be seamlessly introduced as an effective teaching tool for post-Confederation courses. Across twenty-one chapters featuring notable murders, executions, assassinations, and suicides, this book introduces key themes and events which complement more detailed treatments in lecture, ranging from the process of Confederation to the evolving nature of Canadian identity. “Active History” sections at the end of each chapter present ready-made exercises for seminars or group discussions, inviting students to further engage with the course material while building their skill in analyzing and interpreting primary sources. In using this book, students will understand that nation-building, even in a Canadian context, is a tumultuous process that continues to shape how we live, work, and perceive ourselves as Canadians.
Can this approach reach students in a way that other texts cannot? According to both instructor and student feedback, it certainly can!
In the words of Sean Kheraj of York University:
“Anastakis breathes new life into Canadian history in this innovative volume. Tragedy, conflict, and death lurk throughout Canada's past in ways that may surprise readers. Through captivating narratives of political assassinations, murders, and suicides, Anastakis finds exciting new ways to think about Canada and its history. This highly readable history will draw students into the dark corners of the past and make connections to primary themes of the development of Canada in the years after Confederation.”
And in the words of Dimitry Anastakis’s own students at the end of this semester:
“I took this course initially as a requirement for my degree, but it really stimulated my interest in Canadian history.”
“Overall, this was a fantastic and interesting class as the content was fresh and new.”
“I've been trying to take this class forever, and it was totally worth the wait. I think this is a very interesting lens to view Canadian history, and it works well to make Canadian history really interesting.”
“Overall, this was a great class!”