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Canada Day: 150 years on

Published: Wednesday 19 July 2017

With Canada celebrating 150 years of existence as country on 1 July 2017, we thought we would take the opportunity to highlight material we have on Canada as part of our BFSS Foreign Correspondence.

The foreign correspondence comprises of letters sent to and from the BFSS in the administration of its foreign business. It documents the operations of the BFSS in over 60 countries, including Canada. The BFSS set up schools in Canadian provinces from around 1813, 54 years before Canada was established as a country in 1867.

The BFSS appear to have had early success in establishing schools in Canadian provinces, with reports coming back to London of the large number of children receiving an education that previously would not have been able. The 1815 BFSS Annual Report includes correspondence with a teacher at an establishment in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They report having 600 children, both male and female and including 64 black children and seven orphans, and from various religious denominations. Using the monitorial method of teaching the BFSS was famous for; a teacher assisted by a few monitors (more advanced pupils) could teach a large number of children at one time.

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Copy of Pamphlet " New and Singular Improvement in the Mode of Tuition for Youth", c.1833

The BFSS also worked amongst the native aboriginal communities, for example setting up a school on the Amhurstburgh Mission among the Wyandot Indians in 1836 where they taught the children to read and write in English as well as their native languages. [Document reference: BFSS/FC/Canada/3] This was at a time when the aboriginal people were often victims of oppression and had little access to organised education.


Letter to BFSS from Benjamin Slight, Credit Wesleyan Mission, 1836

The BFSS also received correspondence from a newly established school in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1859. Having been unable to attend public schools due to the colour of their skin, the trustees of Union School in Halifax, Nova Scotia, set up a new school and appealed to the BFSS for assistance. The school was established for black children, many of whom had fled the United States, both during their war for independence from Britain as well as ‘…those who have sought refuge under British flag from the cruelties of American Slavery…’ since at this time slavery had been abolished in Britain but not the United States. 


Letter to BFSS from Charles Roan, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1859

The above are just a few highlights from the foreign correspondence. If you would like more information on this or anything else we hold in the Archives please email the Archives Team. You could also search our online catalogue.