Hamilton: An Illustrated History


224 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88862-593-6




Reviewed by Dave Hawkins

Dave Hawkins was Manager of the Scarborough Resource Centre, Scarborough, Ontario.


This is the fourth in a series of urban histories co-published by the National Museum of Man. Weaver is an associate professor of history at McMaster. Canada still has few city histories by academics. Only in the last 25 years or so, with the burgeoning of social history, have cities become respectable subjects for the professional historian. Amateur histories abound (including some for Hamilton) — anecdotal, nostalgic, curious, entertaining. They do much to encourage civic pride and a sense of unity with the past. Professional urban history, however, has its own focus, which is to elicit those events that suggest patterns in the life of the city and above all to relate them to events elsewhere in the world. Hamilton more than most — and increasingly, over time — has been dependent on happenings outside its control. Yet its economy has been more diverse than expected, its entrepreneurship and its labour, whether native or imported, in the end responsive enough to survive the indifferent changes in international demand. Hamilton is perhaps more vulnerable now than ever, with its huge commitment to steel and its loss of identity in the Golden Horseshoe.

Weaver’s history is mainly descriptive, relegating most statistics, of labour force and housing occupancy and the rest, to a short appendix. While the economy is a major theme, it is not allowed to dominate: labour relations, migration of population, the physical structure of the city, social culture, and civic politics — the changes here are rung in each chapter. The book is packed with photographs (half of the pages are illustrations). Though Weaver acknowledges the excellent work done by the Canadian Social History Project under Professor Katz, which uncovered so much basic social data about nineteenth century Hamilton, he uses remarkably little of it. There was just too little room. There is an adequate index, an impressive apparatus of footnotes, and an extensive and useful bibliographic essay on sources.


Weaver, John C., “Hamilton: An Illustrated History,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38793.