Historical Societies

The main purpose of historical societies in Canada is the study and promotion of Canadian history. There are hundreds of historical associations in Canada. Activities include publication of scholarly and amateur works, public education programs, and assistance to and co-operation with archives, museums, heritage groups and other similar organizations.

The main purpose of historical societies in Canada is the study and promotion of Canadian history. There are hundreds of historical associations in Canada. Activities include publication of scholarly and amateur works, public education programs, and assistance to and co-operation with archives, museums, heritage groups and other similar organizations.


York Pioneers Invitation

An invitation to the “first grand dinner” of the York Pioneers, to be held on 19 April 1870. The historical association was founded in 1869.
(courtesy Toronto Reference Library)

Early Associations

The first historical association, the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, was established in 1824. The York Pioneer Association (later the York Pioneer and Historical Society) was founded in 1869 in Toronto, Ontario. The Nova Scotia Historical Society began in 1878 and its publication, Report and Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, started the following year. The Ontario Historical Society traces its roots back to 1888; its journal, Ontario History, began in 1899. Historians in other provinces established similar organizations.

Did you know?
One of the first historical associations in Canada was the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Toronto, founded in 1895. According to its constitution (1896), the society’s objectives were “the encouragement of a study of Canadian history and literature; the collection and preservation of Canadian historical records and relics, and the building up of Canadian loyalty and patriotism.” Poet, journalist and playwright Sarah Anne Curzon was founding president of the society.

Canadian Historical Association

The Canadian Historical Association (CHA) was founded in 1922. It was an outgrowth of the Historic Landmarks Association of Canada (1907), the main objectives of which were planning for the 1908 Quebec tercentenary and recognition of Canada's historic sites. The CHA has approximately 900 members (2001) and serves the interests of both professional and amateur historians through an active publications program, website and annual conference. Although its main focus is Canadian history, its members include historians working in other fields.

Historical societies have increased awareness of Canadian history and encouraged and supported research projects, local history studies and genealogical research.