Review: A History of Canada in Ten Maps, Adam Shoalts

Rating: 4 out of 5

I enjoyed this throughout though it kind of also missed out on what it said it would be. The stories presented — about the explorers and voyageurs — were well worth the space on the paper, but throughout the entire book the maps were more of a secondary thought. This could have been ‘A History of Canada in Ten Episodes’ and the difference would have been immaterial. 

So, for the lack of emphasis on the maps I deducted a point while the excellent quality of the stories is worth quite a few others. I do think the author’s biases come through and he is perhaps not as harsh as one should be on Mackenzie (and how original he was and who he borrowed from in his journeys), but at the same time the chapter on the Norsemen is illuminating and the early Frenchmen get a lot of credit (as is their due).

The final points about the future are perhaps less required in a book like this although it came at the right time for me when I’d just been looking into the Canadian Arctic and it’s general mapping. Hydrography is where it is right now, but the pace of the afterword was quite different from the rest of the book — but if my main problem is with the title and the afterword, I think we can say that the book itself was pretty good indeed.

More importantly, heed my warning about maps. Maps aren’t a part of this story, but Canada is — so if you are more interested in Canada, go ahead, but if it is maps, then rather stay away.

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