Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
January 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


William Kingsford


Kingsford, William (1819-1898); historian, was born in London, England on December 23, 1819, the son of William Kingsford, of Lad Lane. He was educated at Nicholas Wanostracht's school in Camberwell, and in 1836 he enlisted in the lst Dragoon Guards. He came with his regiment to Canada in 1837, and in 1840 was offered a commission, but preferred to obtain his discharge. He entered in 1841 the office of the city surveyor of Montreal ; and in due course he qualified as a civil engineer. He had a chequered career as an engineer, and was employed successively on the Hudson River Railway, on the Panama Isthmus Railway, and on the Grand Trunk Railway. In 1873 he was appointed by the Canadian government engineer in charge of the harbours of the Great lakes and the St. Lawrence; but in 1879 he was summarily dismissed by Sir Hector Langevin, minister of public works. He reviewed his dismissal in a pamphlet entitled Mr. Kingsford and Sir Hector Langevin (Toronto, 1882); but he did not succeed in obtaining redress, and the remainder of his life he devoted to historical research. He had already published a number of pamphlets of a semi-historical nature: The history, structure, and statistics of plank roads (Philadelphia, 1852), The Canadian canals (Toronto, 1865), and A political coin (Toronto, n.d.). He now applied himself, at the age of sixty, to writing a history of Canada. The first fruit of his labour was an essay on Canadian archaeology (Montreal, 1886), followed by The early bibliography of Ontario (Toronto, 1892). The first volume of his History of Canada appeared in 1887, and the tenth and last volume in 1898 and while the work is not without defects, it was a remarkable achievement for a septuagenarian, and in many ways has not been superseded [i. e. in 1948]. He survived the completion of his History only a few months, dying at Toronto on September 28, 1898. In 1848 he married Maria Margaret, daughter of William Burns Lindsay, clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Canada. In 1886 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of Canada; and he was an honorary LL.D. of Queen's University, Kingston, and Dalhousie University, Halifax.

Source : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. III, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 396p., pp. 337-338.


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College