British Columbia: Spirit of the People.


192 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 978-1-55017-446-5
DDC 971.1






Reviewed by Joan A. Lovisek

Joan A. Lovisek, Ph.D., is a consulting anthropologist and
ethnohistorian in British Columbia.


Written by well-respected B.C. historian Jean Barman, the book is part photographic travelogue and part history of British Columbia. The book was prepared in honour of British Columbia’s 150-year anniversary and proudly shows off the many varied regions of British Columbia at their best. The first part of the book provides a pictorial overview of the various geographic regions including a section on Native people. The travelogue portion of the book sets the mood for the history which follows. The photographs integrate contemporary and archival sources to display the best of each region in British Columbia.


One of the most interesting historical subjects is how B.C. developed its political culture, which is so unlike other provinces in Canada. Barman traces the emergence of B.C.’s political culture to several factors, including an intense reliance on natural resources (fish, lumber, and minerals) and a legislated requirement to obtain manufactured goods from other provinces. This resulted in forced participation in global markets which were subject to extreme swings of boom and bust. This economic reality is responsible in part for the abrupt political shifts from left to right and the apparent absence of a middle ground so often witnessed in the political arena. Another interesting historical fact among many provided in the book is how the development of the B.C. economy was reliant on the construction of the Panama Canal, which contributed to Vancouver’s development as a grain port. A minor quibble concerns the section on Native peoples, which, although generally well written, exaggerates the date of Aboriginal presence in B.C. to 20,000 years. This aside, any visitor  or resident of B.C. will be impressed with the extreme diversity presented in this book. This book was published to celebrate 150 years of B.C.’s regional diversity and history, which it does admirably.


Barman, Jean., “British Columbia: Spirit of the People.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,