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Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

HIST 3731: A Cultural History of Crime and Justice

Based on a law and society approach, this course engages students with a British North American and Canadian cultural history centered on the meanings of crime, disorder, policing, and punishment. Emphasizing the 19th to 21st century in what became Canada, students explore the English origins as well as the British North American adaptations of emergent Canadian approaches and challenges within the criminal justice system. Themes include the relationship between First Nations’ laws and the Anglo-Canadian legal order, aspects of crime history and colonialism, the influences of class, ethnicity and gender in Canadian crime history and the evolution of increasingly pluralistic notions of how society might respond to disorder and criminality.

Learning outcomes

After successfully completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Apply the notion of legal culture(s) to reflect on and then articulate a range of possible factors influencing popular conceptions of the criminal justice system and its place in historic British North America and contemporary Canada;
  • Describe the English origins of the post-Conquest British North American criminal justice system with an emphasis on the 19th to 21st centuries;
  • Examine and explain the evolution of British North American adaptations of English criminal law institutions centered on definitions of reformation of crime, policing, and punishment;
  • Examine and describe First Nations laws within a broader context of legal pluralism in British North America and Canada;
  • Examine the jurisdictional challenges created by the British North America Act (1867) and explain how its division of power affected the administration of criminal justice and punishment/reformation;
  • Examine and explain how constructed identities of class, gender, and ethnicity have shaped the application of criminal sanctions and punishment;
  • Distinguish between internal legal history and external legal history and demonstrate the advantages and shortcomings of each approach;
  • Examine the nature of historical mindedness and how it shapes the distinctive approach and mentalité of those who adhere to its principles in practicing the historical enquiry.

Course topics

HIST 3731 is divided into the following thirteen lessons:

Lesson 1: The Context of Crime, Corrections, and Policing in British North America and Canada

Lesson 2: First Nations Law Ways

Lesson 3: Inuit Law Ways

Lesson 4: Policing in pre-Confederation British North America

Lesson 5: Corrections in Pre-Confederation British North America

Lesson 6: Crime in Mid-19th Century British North America

Lesson 7: Corrections in Post-Confederation Canada

Lesson 8: The 1885 Trials

Lesson 9: Capital Punishment

Lesson 10: Policing in Post-Confederation Canada

Lesson 11: Domestic Abuse and Assault in Post-Confederation Canada

Lesson 12: Contemporary Black Canadians and the Criminal Justice System

Lesson 13: Contemporary First Nations Peoples and the Canadian Criminal Justice System

Required text and materials

No textbooks are required. Readings are supplied within the course or available through the TRU Library.


Please be aware that should your course have a final exam, you are responsible for the fee to the online proctoring service, ProctorU, or to the in-person approved Testing Centre. Please contact with any questions about this.

To complete this course successfully, you must achieve a passing grade of 50% or higher on the overall course and 50% or higher on the mandatory Final Exam. The following table shows how your final grade will be determined for this course.

Assignment 1: Block Summary A (for Lessons 1–3) 10%
Assignment 2: Article Analysis / Critique (submitted after Lesson 5) 15%
Assignment 3: Block Summary B (for Lessons 4–6) 10%
Assignment 4: Block Summary C (for Lessons 7–10) 10%
Assignment 5: Documentary: Moostoos the Wendigo (submitted after Lesson 11) 25%
Assignment 6: Block Summary D (for Lessons 11–13) 10%
Final Exam (mandatory) 20%
Total 100%

Open Learning Faculty Member Information

An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Students will receive the necessary contact information at the start of the course.

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