Geography of British Columbia: People and Landscape in Transition


236 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-0784-9
DDC 917.11





Reviewed by J.H. Galloway

J.H. Galloway is a professor of geography at the University of Toronto.


This standard regional geography is mostly aimed at the high-school
market in British Columbia, but it may also be useful to those looking
for a quick reference on the main economic activities in the province.
The book is heavy on statistics, with a whiff of political correctness
in the choice of some chapter topics. It is not an exciting introduction
to what is, after all, a very exciting province. Students will read it
because they have to, which is a pity because they deserve more
demanding fare that will interest them not only in their province but in
the modern discipline of geography.

The author begins by dividing the province into regions, but then
rarely refers to these regions in the rest of the book. He follows this
with chapters on physical geography and natural hazards such as floods,
avalanches, and earthquakes. In two chapters he deals with the
indigenous population and the arrival of the Europeans, devoting some
pages to land rights and treaties. He closes his discussion of the
cultural geography with a brief essay titled “The Geography of Racism:
The Spatial Diffusion of Asians.”

Much of the rest of the book consists of chapters on the exploitation
of the various natural resources, agriculture, and tourism. The list of
activities has some omissions. There is no chapter devoted to what the
author fleetingly refers to as the “retirement industry” (surely, it
must be one of British Columbia’s more important industries). Towns
and cities also receive short shrift. There are only a few pages on the
ephemeral towns of the resource frontier and some statistics on the
progress of urbanization. Astonishingly, there is no discussion of the
large cities; Vancouver and Victoria are not even mentioned in the

One strength of the book is the excellent use of maps and diagrams. The
brief bibliographies that accompany each chapter are a second plus; they
contain not only classic references but also recent scholarly
publications, many by academics at British Columbia’s universities.
But these are not enough for the reader: McGillivray’s prose needs
more life and more ideas.


McGillivray, Brett., “Geography of British Columbia: People and Landscape in Transition,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024,