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Sin, Vice & Religion in Canada

Your first assignment in brief: 

- Choose and read a primary source with a theme related to sin or vice in Canadian history (try to find a complete version of the source)

- Find and read two scholarly secondary sources that will help you understand the primary source

Here is Willliam and Mary University's excellent advice on how to analyze a primary source.

Some Types of Primary Sources Related to Sin & Vice in Canada

Legal documents

Other published texts

Mining Secondary Sources for Primary Source Ideas

Some time spent reading secondary sources on a topic can help you to discover primary documents that may exist on the topic and can inform your understanding of the issue at hand. 

Imagine you were interested in studying the topic of temperance in Canada. Quiickly skim the first 2 pages of this journal article, then try to answer the questions below. 

1. Did the article offer any ideas of individuals or organizations who may have generated primary documents related to temperance?

3. Did the source name any specific primary documents, or types of primary documents you might look for?

Feel free to consult with your neighbour on this. 

Primary Source Collections Related to this Course

The following collections are good starting points for finding documents related to this course. For a more exhaustive list of Canadian primary source collections, visit the Primary Sources for Canadian History tab of this research guide. 

Archives of Sexuality and Gender: LGBTQ History and Culture Since 1940: Primary source content on social, political, and legal issues impacting LGBTQ communities. Includes but is not limited to Canadian Content. Visit this guide for more LGBTQ resources.

​Canadiana Online: Includes early government documents/legislation, religious tracts and special interest group publications of various kinds. Best for topics up to the early 20th century. 

Crime, Punishment and Popular Culture, 1790-1920: Manuscripts, books, broadsheets, and periodicals; includes some but not all Canadian content. Newspapers are likely to be most helpful for this course.

Historical newspapers: Newspapers are an accessible form of primary source for those new to this type of research. MRU provides access to numerous papers, including some dating back to the mid-19th century (Toronto Star, Globe and Mail).

Historical Debates of the Parliament of Canada (Hansard): Includes all verbatim accounts of all debates of the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons from the first session in 1867 to 1994 (House of Commons) and 1996 (Senate). 

Peel's Prairie Provinces: Documents the settlement and development of the Canadian West, with a focus on Alberta, and dating back to the earliest days of exploration in the region. A good source of political and special interest related tracts and pamphlets (e.g. social reform and temperance organizations). 


General Search Tips for Finding Primary Sources
  • Try LibrarySearch: Add the term sources to other relevant search terms to find primary sources available via the MRU Library.
  • Try Google: Add "primary sources" or "primary documents" to a Google search.
  • When searching WITHIN electronic primary source collection, use terminology common to the historical period you are researching, rather than the modern terms. E.g “Great War” versus "World War I," or  “Dominion Day” versus “Canada Day.” 

Secondary Sources: Books & Articles

The next step in a your analysis is to find more detailed scholarly information that will help you better understand the context of your document, e.g., a book or article about the era/event/author or, if you are lucky, the primary text itself.

Use the LibrarySearch discovery tool on the library homepage to find scholarly books and articles on your author/era/issue/region  Start with simple searches:

  • author's name - personal name or name of organization responsible for your publication if relevant
  • title of primary document or type of primary document
  • event, organization or location associated with document or author
  • contextual terms: 
    • sexuality, moral regulation, homosexuality, gambling, betting, temperance, prohibition, etc. 

Still looking for information?

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Alice Swabey
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