Canadian collections


Our collections span a large part of the nation’s history, from the colonial period to the present day. The collection is particularly strong for English-speaking Canada, however we also have large amounts of French Canadian material and collection items relating to First Peoples history.

About the collection

We hold some of the earliest items published about Canada and its history of European exploration and trade. Beginning with Jacques Cartier’s 1545 treatise on the exploration and potential of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence the Library holds printed books, manuscripts, newspapers, maps, photographs, journals, magazines, sounds and philatelic material detailing various aspects of Canada’s history. The collection is particularly strong in British and French colonial history, the culture of First Peoples groups, Anglophone and Francophone literature, 19th-century immigration, and photography between the periods 1895 and 1924.

Maps and topographical views of Quebec from the collection of King George III, the Colonial Copyright Collection of photography from 1895–1924, books on the search for the Northwest Passage and the Library’s large collection of Bibles translated into First Peoples languages, are some items of particular note. A large collection of books, historically absent from the Library, are available in microfiche, and can be found by searching Explore the British Library for shelfmark mic.f.232.

What is available online?

A large number of digital resources are also available through the Reading Room PCs.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Canadian material is distributed across the Library’s collection areas and most of it can be found using Explore the British Library and Search Our Catalogue: Archives and Manuscripts. Explore allows searching for printed books, maps, topographical views, newspapers, magazines, journals and even photographs held by the Library. A large amount of the Canadian material on Explore is also linked to subject markers which can help readers gather a wider range of material from the collection. Open Access books and guides in our Reading Rooms also support study, particularly in the Social Science Reading Rooms, and include bibliographies and guides to manuscript and archival holdings. Staff are available to offer bibliographic and other basic research assistance.

What is available in other organisations?

Outside the British Library there are various other Canadian history sources available online, including: