Collection RBSC-ARC-1854 - Charles Hou collection

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Charles Hou collection

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  • Textual record
  • Photographic material

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Statement of scale (cartographic)

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Physical description area

Physical description

88 cm of textual records
2 photographs

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Charles Hou is a Canadian educator and writer. He was born in North Vancouver in 1940 and earned Bachelor and Master of Education degrees from the University of British Columbia.

Hou is well known as an innovator in education. He taught high school in Burnaby, British Columbia, for thirty-four years, where, in his drive to engage high school students with Canadian history, he regularly incorporated week-long hikes, mock trials, costumed debates, and music video and film production into his courses. He has received a number of teaching awards, including the Hilroy National Award for Great Merit in 1986, and the Governor General's Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Canadian History in 1996.

In 1993, Hou, along with a group of other BC teachers, established The Begbie Canadian History Contest, a competition designed to raise the popularity of Canadian History among high school students and the wider public. The contest has been enormously successful and has expanded from its provincial roots to become an annual national competition that is offered in both French and English. Contest materials are now routinely used in classrooms across Canada.

Early in his career, Hou developed an interest in political cartoons as a vehicle for teaching history. He has spent decades consulting the archives of hundreds of different newspapers and magazines published across Canada and, to a lesser extent, the United States, in an effort to compile a comprehensive collection of Canada’s most important political cartoons. The result of this work is a series of books, co-authored with his wife, Cynthia Hou. The first volumes in the series, Great Canadian Political Cartoons, 1820 to 1914 and Great Canadian Political Cartoons, 1915 to 1945 were published in 1997 and 2002. A third volume, which will cover the years from 1946 to 1982, is forthcoming.

Hou has written or edited several other books, including The Helping Hand: How Indian Canadians Helped Alexander Mackenzie Reach the Pacific Ocean (with Sister Mary Paul Howlitt, 1971), The Riel Rebellion: A Biographical Approach (with Cynthia Hou, 1984), The Art of Decoding Political Cartoons: A Teacher's Guide (with Cynthia Hou, 1998) and The Begbie Canadian History Contest: The First Ten Years (2004). He has also published articles in various Canadian History journals and created print and online lesson aids and other materials to support the study and teaching of Canadian history. Most recently, he created the teacher’s guides to the award-winning 2007 multimedia production, From The Heart: The Freeman Legacy, a joint project of the City of Burnaby and SFU’s Learning and Instructional Design Centre.

Hou is now retired from teaching and lives in Vancouver, where he continues his research and his involvement with the Vancouver Historical Society and the British Columbian Historical Federation.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The collection consists primarily of copies, and a small number of photographs, of cartoons commenting on legal, political, social and other matters impacting the relationship between Indigenous people and the settler state of Canada. The collection also includes some other graphical depictions of Indigenous people in settler Canadian media, such as product advertisements, tourism marketing, and depictions of Indigenous people in historical artworks and photographs.

The images were collated from a large number of publications; these are primarily Canadian publications, as well as some American, British, and Indigenous-authored publications. A list of Indigenous sources consulted by the collector is available for researcher reference.

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The items are arranged chronologically according to the year in which the event depicted took place. This arrangement reflects the organizing principle used by the collector.

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Associated materials

Charles Hou Editorial Cartoon collection. MsC-25. Simon Fraser University Special Collections and Rare Books, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

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General note

Harmful content note: This collection includes depictions of and political commentary on people who have been racialized in the Canadian context (especially Indigenous people) that are derogatory, racist, and have the potential to be harmful or triggering. The collection also contains a small number of copies of photographs of children during their time in the residential school system. Please be aware of these materials and consider creating a plan for self-care in advance of your research visit.

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Finding aid produced by Elizabeth Robertson, October 2023.

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