Singing Our History: Canada's Story in Song


249 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-385-19499-4





Reviewed by Nora D.S. Robins

Nora D.S. Robins is co-ordinator of Internal Collections at the
University of Calgary Libraries.


Inuit and Indian, voyageur and habitant, English, Scottish and Irish pioneers, soldier and sailor, fisherman and farmer, cowboy and homesteader, prospector and railroadman — these were the common folk whose part in the history of Canada has often been neglected. Fortunately, their feelings about people and events have been handed down from one generation to another through their songs.

Singing Our History is a collection of folk songs that reflect, more vividly than many written accounts, the atmosphere of the times in which they were sung. Nearly all of these songs have been preserved through oral tradition and many included in this collection have come directly from those who inherited them from their ancestors.

The songs are arranged in rough chronological order beginning with a few songs from Canada’s original inhabitants, followed by the early period of the French colonies to the British conquest, the wars with the United States, Confederation, the settlement of the West, and the growth of basic industries and the labour movement. The last song was written in 1949. Textual passages have been used to set the songs in their historical perspective and to provide a running commentary on Canada’s development and singing tradition.

This compilation is a revised and updated edition of Canada’s Story in Song, which appeared to good reviews in 1960. The original edition contain very few songs from western Canada. More have since turned up, and the additional eighteen songs of the West now give a more representative picture of Canada’s history. This volume will be of interest to those who like to sing and to those who are interested in Canada’s cultural heritage.

Edith Fowke, a recognized authority in the field of Canadian folk music, is the author of the Bibliography of Canadian Folklore and The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs.


Fowke, Edith, and Alan Mills, “Singing Our History: Canada's Story in Song,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 25, 2024,