Grades: 5-12

  • British Columbia History
  • Canadian History
  • British North American Colonial History
  • Aboriginal History in British Columbia
Key Topics
  • James Douglas “Father of British Columbia”
  • Important events in the historical development of British Columbia
  • Analysis of primary and secondary sources

Author: Lindsay Gibson
Editors: Roland Case, John Lutz and Jenny Clayton
Historical Researcher: Jenny Clayton, PhD, Department of History, University of Victoria
Developed by: The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC2)

Did Governor James Douglas Deserve to be Knighted?


Upon retirement as the Governor of both the Vancouver Island and British Columbia colonies in the spring of 1864, Queen Victoria honoured James Douglas by making him a Knight. Officially he was made a Knight Commander of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath. He was given this award for the “performance of public personal duties to the crown that have merited royal favour.” The appointment of a knighthood to “Sir” James Douglas, as he was now known, was high recognition for Douglas, who emerged from humble origins as the son of a Scottish merchant and Creole woman in British Guiana. “Sir James Douglas’s career as governor has been a remarkable one,” an official at the Colonial Office acknowledged. “He now quits his two Govts. leaving them in a state of prosperity, with every prospect of greater advancement.”

In this critical thinking lesson, students assume the fictional role of a “Knighthood Reviewer” for the British Government who has been asked to investigate unsubstantiated claims that Douglas’ actions in three incidents during his time as governor were not worthy of a knighthood. Students begin by identifying the important positive and negative aspects of Douglas’ time as governor. They investigate primary and secondary sources from one of three assigned case studies to determine whether or Douglas’ actions were worthy of a knighthood. After presenting their evidence on their assigned incident, students provide an overall assessment of Douglas’ nomination for a knighthood in the form of a report to the British Government.

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Suggested Activities