Book Review A history of Canada in Ten Maps

A History of Canada in Ten Maps

History of the “geography of Canada” told brilliantly by Adam Shoalts, declared one of the “greatest living explorer” by Canadian Geographic. I moved to Canada about nine months ago and wanted to know more about it. In my quest for books on Canadian history, I got a membership of Toronto Public Library, and I am glad I did. They have a huge collection of books and other educational resources. I first laid my hand on a book – A Short History of Canada, by Desmond Morton, a Canadian Historian. The title of the book was the reason I picked this book, and after reading it halfway through realized it was not for beginners. It required some basic understanding of the Canadian political and geographical landscape.

I kept my search on and came across a book by Adam Shoalts – “A History of Canada in Ten Maps”. I found the title intriguing and being more receptive to visual information, thought this would be a good starting point to know about Canada. And thus, started my journey of traveling to the unexplored parts of North America with some extraordinary explorers of the sixteenth to early nineteenth century.

The book is a roller-coaster ride into the vast land mass of North America now known as Canada. It starts with the journey and expansion of Vikings from the Nordic region of Europe to raiding and capturing the south – which included Scotland, England, and Ireland. They went as far Middle East, and their trade routes extended all the way to far-away India. The author takes us on a journey of the explorations of Vikings to Iceland, Greenland, and their foray into the eastern and southern parts of mainland Canada. Reading through the pages was like watching a movie, tells a lot about the writing style of Adam Shoalts.

From Vikings, the book moves on to the stories of various explorers who mapped Canada over three centuries starting mid-sixteenth century. The author tells us the history of Canada, as we know it today through explorers and voyagers. All these explorers were curious about how large is the landmass beyond the southeastern part of what now we call Canada and curious to know what lies beyond the landmass.

There are many interesting and informative stories and anecdotes throughout the book. One interesting fact is how the name Canada came into being.

When French Explorer Jacques Cartier misapplied an Iroquoian word, he had recently learned – ‘Kanata’, meaning village – and used it to denote the country along the St. Lawrence River. From That moment on, ‘Canada’ became the name Europeans called the country around St. Lawrence and started to mark it as such on their maps.

Adam Shoalts very meticulously captures the geographical growth of the nation Canada. With each succesive exploration hundrends and thousand of kilometers were mapped and added to Northen America. He documents the stories of great voyages and exploration trips made by various explorers and the maps they created in the process. How each map began as a steppingstone for the next explorer. We get to know the hardships and challenges faced by these explorers and the local people in the quest to find the unexplored.

Many explorers were curious to know what lies beyond the known, and many were fascinated by the idea of reaching the Pacific and to reach China. While reading through the pages one would get to know the various indigenous people and groups inhabiting the vast land of Canada. With each explorer, the map of Canada gets bigger and bigger, and the world knows more and more about the country. The book is a tribute to explorers who despite many odds set out on the dangerous journey to unknown places.

The author says, “Explorers might make the first maps, but the final ones are usually made by armies”. Very much true for all the modern countries on the face of the earth – some of the armies still fighting it out to change the border and map of their countries.

A very well-written book explaining the history of the “geography of Canada”. Adam Shoalts with his writing style makes the book easy and enjoyable to read – despite it being a history book. If you can run your imagination wild you may very well find yourself in the midst of some fantasy movie. A very informative and insightful book for anyone who wants to understand and know about Canada.

About The Author

Adam Shoalts has been called one of Canada’s greatest living explorers and in 2017 completed a nearly 4,000 km solo journey across Canada’s arctic. He’s also an historian, archaeologist, and geographer. Shoalts’ doctoral research at McMaster University examined the influence indigenous oral traditions had on European explorers in Canada’s subarctic and West Coast. He has done archaeology in four countries and enjoys long walks in the woods.

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