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British Columbia History

The Vancouver Public Library has extensive primary and secondary resources on the history of British Columbia. This guide is designed to help you begin your research on this topic and use library resources effectively.


The palisades of Fort Langley and the Fraser River in 1862

The 1800's in British Columbia were notable for trade and expansion. In this era, British Columbia went from being a trading outpost to a newly formed province of Canada. The Northwest Company and Hudson's Bay Company established a number of trading posts and forts throughout British Columbia, including Fort St. John, Fort George and Fort Langley. The two companies eventually merged. James Douglas, of Scottish and Guyanese origins, became British Columbia's first colonial Governor.
  • In 1803, Maquinna, chief of the Nuu-chah-nulth people of Nootka Sound, led an attack on the American trading vessel, the Boston.
  • In 1808, Simon Fraser began an expedition of the present day Fraser River.
  • In 1821, the North West Company and Hudson's Bay Company merged, creating three new trading regions, New Caledonia, Thompson River Watershed and Columbia District.
  • In 1846, the British handed-over any claim to territory south of the 49th parallel in signing the Oregon Treaty.
  • In 1847, the discovery of gold on the Fraser River attracted over 30,000 miners and dreamers starting the Gold Rush.
  • In 1858, James Douglas became Governor of the newly formed colony of British Columbia.
  • In 1871, British Columbia became the sixth province to enter the confederation of Canada.
  • In 1885, Canadian Pacific completed the transcontinental railway from Montreal to Port Moody.

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