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HIST 203: Canada Since 1867

Research guide for HIST 203 (Winter 2024)

Finding Primary Sources: Statistics

Statistics are useful background information to historical events and situations. They were often produced by knowledgeable researchers who had access to necessary raw data not easily accessible today, if at all. 

The Historical Statistics of Canada contains over a thousand statistical tables on the social, economic, and institutional conditions of Canada from 1867 to the mid 1970s. The tables are arranged in sections with an introduction explaining the content of each section, the principal sources of data for each table, and general explanatory notes regarding the statistics.

Governments are notorious statistics gatherers and publish their findings in a variety of sources, the most basic of which is the census. The Government of Canada has been performing a census every 10 years since Confederation (1867), and the published statistical tables it yields provide historians with an overview of the population in terms of age, sex, marital status, occupation, religion, language, and ethnic background.  Often these results are available not only for the country as a whole, but for provinces, counties, and cities as well. The Government Documents Collection on the second floor of the McLennan Library Building has a complete set of all Canadian censuses, beginning with the call number begin CA1 STC.

The reports included in the Sessional Papers represent another rich source of governmental statistical information. Until the government created an agency in 1918 with the responsibility for collecting and disseminating statistics (the ancestor of Statistics Canada), the reports within the Sessional Papers were the key sources of demographic, economic, and social statistics on the country. To locate these Sessional Papers, consult the pages on finding Government Reports above. 

If you need assistance finding statistics in governmental sources, ask Eamon Duffy, the Government Documents liaison librarian.

Works need not actually have been published in the time of the event in order to contain appropriate historical statistics. Modern secondary scholarly works, both books and articles, are often your best sources for historical statistics.

The resources listed in the sections on finding contemporary newspaper and magazine articles will also locate statistical tables that accompanied contemporary articles.

Other Resources

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