Published Sources

Why does this document exist?

People write and publish books and pamphlets for a number of reasons. Some, like Alfred Waddington in his pamphlet Judicial Murder, have something they want to get off their chest. Some, like missionary Thomas Crosby, want to promote and sometimes raise money for missionary work. Some people write for the money they hope to make. Whatever the reason, it usually influences and biases the content of the publication.

Why would we use this source?

Historic publications tell us a great deal about the times in which they were published, their authors, and the society of the time. We learn, for example, from Waddington's pamphlet, that although some people did not care if the forms of justice were followed so long as some Indian was made to pay for a crime, there were others who protested this in the strongest terms. Long-ago authors have often compiled information that would be impossible or difficult to obtain now. We can learn from the Rev. Wilson's pamphlet on Salt Spring Island details about island life that otherwise we would not know. But how can we check the facts in books when the authors are dead and so are the people who knew about what they were writing?

How do we find and use this source?

Just because something is printed, it is not necessarily true. Published sources, just like unpublished letters, diaries, or government records, have to be examined and interrogated critically. Authors have their biases, they often do not have access to a complete set of the evidence, and they make mistakes. So when we find a published source such as Thomas Crosby's book Among the Ankomenums and we read his theory about the death of William Robinson, we have to treat it as a theory and compare it to the other evidence. Crosby was living in nearby Nanaimo at the time of the murder, so that is a point in favour of his evidence, but he was also a missionary whose book is dedicated to telling us how bad Indians were before the arrival of Christianity and how good they were after they became Christians. Understanding this, we may suspect a bias in favour of a negative portrayal of aboriginal people and a willingness to accept the popular belief that they were responsible for Robinson's murder.

Clearly, even published sources have to be compared to other published and unpublished sources to check for accuracy and bias. One statement that something happened is only a piece of evidence until there are other pieces that begin to convince us that the event did indeed happen in the way that is was written.

Published historical sources are usually indexed by title and author, and so finding them is not much different from doing a regular library search except that school libraries and small public libraries may not have older books. Nineteenth century books are fragile and often rare, so in larger libraries they are sometimes kept in a special part of the library called "Special Collections". Two places to look for historic books are the BC Archives Research Library in Victoria and UBC Special Collections in Vancouver. You can also try looking online at Early Canadiana Online.

If you would like to leave this site and explore historic published sources in more detail, go to:

Early Canadiana Online:

British Columbia Archives Research Library:

The University of British Columbia Library (includes Special Collections):