Daniel Francis

Daniel Francis was born in Vancouver in 1947. He earned his BA from the University of British Columbia, then moved to Ottawa, where he worked as a newspaper journalist and obtained an MA in Canadian Studies from Carleton University in 1975. Since then he has worked as a freelance historical writer and researcher.

From 1984 to 1987 he was the editorial director of Horizon Canada, a bilingual illustrated history of Canada published from Montreal in weekly magazine format. In 1987 he moved with his family back to the Vancouver area.

Francis has written two dozen published books, most of them about Canadian history. Titles include: The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1992), National Dreams: Myth, Memory and Canadian History (Arsenal Pulp, 1997), Red Light Neon: A History of Vancouver’s Sex Trade (Subway Books, 2006) and A Road for Canada: The Illustrated Story of the Trans-Canada Highway (Stanton Atkins and Dosil, 2006). His book L.D.: Mayor Louis Taylor and the Rise of Vancouver (Arsenal Pulp, 2004) won the City of Vancouver Book Award. He also served as editorial director of the mammoth Encyclopedia of British Columbia, hailed on its appearance in 2000 as one of the most important books about the province ever published. He has also written several books for young readers, including Far West: The Story of British Columbia (Harbour, 2006), which stayed on the BC Bestseller list for many weeks.

His latest book is Seeing Reds: The Red Scare of 1918–1919, Canada’s First War on Terror (Arsenal Pulp Press).

Daniel Francis has been a member of the Geist editorial board since the magazine was founded in 1990. You can read Francis's blog at

He recently spoke to Joseph Planta from about his book, Red Light Neon: A History of Vancouver’s Sex Trade (Subway, 2007). Listen here.

When Treatment Becomes Torture

Daniel Francis discusses Canada's failing mental health care system and its long history of mistreatment. more »


We Are Not a Nation of Amnesiacs

"Canadians have long been convinced that we do not know much, or care much, about our own history, but a new study suggests that this truism is not true." more »


Who Cares Who Ate John Franklin?

Daniel Francis on John Franklin, John Rae and the Globe and Mail's enthusiasm for cannibalism. more »


Magical Thinking

The canoe as a fetish object, a misreading of Canadian history and a symbol of colonial oppression. more »


Identity in a Cup

Is it the icons of Canadian pop culture—hockey fights, Tim Hortons coffee, Don Cherry’s haberdashery, Rick Mercer’s rants—that reveal the deepest truths about us? more »


Come to the Cabaret

The Penthouse, the notorious Vancouver night club, shares a history with several of the city's missing women cases. more »



Because of its status as the city’s tallest structure, the World Tower attracted a fair share of attention over the years, but nothing equalled the much-publicized attempt by Harry Gardiner, “The Human Fly." more »


Huan Tran

It's a Free Country, Isn't It?

During the 1950s the RCMP used a machine to identify federal employees who were homosexuals. The name of this bogus device? The "fruit machine," of course. more »


Warrior Nation

The Great White North gets rebranded and gains some military muscle: goodbye peacenik, hello soldier. more »

Columns 4 Comments

Boob Tube

Richard Stursberg’s memoir of his years in CBC programming raises the question: How did someone with no sympathy for public broadcasting get the job in the first place? more »

Columns 4 Comments

No Stopping, 1944.

Artray photo, Vancouver Public Library: VPL 84847. Used with permission.


Daniel Francis explores the photographer as Vancouver's most interesting historian. more »


Photo by William Notman

Deviance on Display

Daniel Francis investigates the practice of visiting asylums and penitentiaries as entertainment in nineteenth-century Canada. more »

Columns 1 Comments

Double Life

The poet John Glassco lived in disguise, masquerading as a member of the gentry while writing pornography and reinventing his past. more »

Essays 1 Comments

Sex, Drugs, Rock ’n’ Roll and the National Identity

In this essay, Daniel Francis discusses how Gerda Munsinger—a woman with ties to the criminal underworld—shaped Canadian politics in the 1960s. more »


Red Scare

The Bolshevists are coming! The Bolshevists are coming! Daniel Francis recounts Canada's close call with a revolution. more »


Killer Angels

Daniel Francis reviews the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, a minute-by-minute reimagining of the Battle of Gettysburg. more »


Acadia's Quiet Revolution

Revolutions need popular heroes, and unpopular villains, and the Acadians of New Brunswick had both. more »



One thing Canadians have learned from our armed incursion into Afghanistan is that we do not have a vocabulary for discussing war or warlike events. more »


Indians at Work

"From opposite ends of the country come two important books about Indians: one old and one new. The old is a reissue of Rolf Knight's Indians at Work." Review by Daniel Francis. more »


Canada's Funnyman

A misogynist, a racist and an academic walk into a bar... more »

Columns 8 Comments