Canadian Primary Sources in the Classroom  
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Canadian Primary Sources
This website, designed by teachers with many years of experience, provides a selection of Canadian history primary sources with an emphasis on:

1. visual images (readily understood by most students)
2. variety of sources (political cartoons, posters, paintings, photographs,
    maps, graphs etc.)
3. multiple perspectives (strong points of view)
4. provocative images (selected to interest and motivate students)
5. a variety of themes
6. critical thinking (analysis requires the skills needed to draw credible and )
    reliable inferences)

Textbooks provide students with plenty of content. The primary sources provide teachers with some of the sources needed to interest students in the content and help them practice the skills needed to generate their own historical narratives.


In the summer of 1993 a group of active and retired BC Social Studies teachers decided to create a competition that would allow secondary Social Studies students to compare their knowledge of history and their critical thinking skills with those of students from schools across Canada. They named the contest after Matthew Baillie Begbie, who was sent from England to British Columbia in 1858 to establish order at the time of the Fraser River gold rush. Begbie, who was known for his clear thinking and impartial application of the law, later became Chief Justice of British Columbia.

The Begbie Contest consisted of multiple choice and essay questions based on major events and issues in Canadian history from 1850 to the present, and included a wide variety of primary sources gathered from libraries and archives across the country. The competition ran for twenty years in both English and French, with support from a number of groups including the BC branch of Canadian Parents for French, the BC Social Studies Teachers’ Association, the Burnaby School Board, Canada’s History Society, St. George’s School in Vancouver and THEN/HiER (The History Education Network/Histoire et éducation en réseau).

The contest questions were prepared by Charles Hou and reviewed and revised by a number of individuals including longtime participants Murray Bowman, Rick Cooper, Ed Harrison, Cynthia Hou, Fred Lepkin, Gus Peterson, Rob Sandhu and Gordon Smith. Raquel Chin handled the registration and Gordon Smith and Rick Cooper acted as treasurer.

This website is sponsored by The Begbie Contest Society, a non-profit, volunteer-run society. The site contains all of the questions which appeared on the contests from 1994 to 2013. It also includes a description of the historical method, a collection of useful and interesting primary sources, and more than a hundred suggestions for using primary sources in the classroom.