BEGG, Alexander

The second significant history of British Columbia was written by Alexander Begg.

There were two Alexander Beggs. Alexander Begg (Number 1) (1825-1905) was a journalist and civil servant who persuaded many crofters to emigrate from Scotland. He was an emigration commissioner for B.C. and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of Scotland who was employed to help define the border between Canada and Alaska. The other Alexander Begg (Number 2) (1839-1897) was also a journalist, in Manitoba and Seattle, who served as an immigration agent for the CPR from 1884-1897. He became one of the most significant early historians of Manitoba.

Originally published in Toronto (William Briggs) as well as London, England (Sampson) in 1894, Alexander Begg's (Number 1) 320-page history of British Columbia appeared seven years after Hubert Howe Bancroft's massive history. It covers the period from 1778 to 1894. Begg (Number 1) was a prominent Scottish immigrant to British Columbia. He contributed an article about Vancouver Island (1899) and his view of the Alaska Boundary Question (1901) to Scottish Geographical Magazine. In 1901 he also published a 31-page 'sketch of the successful missionary work of William Duncan amongst the Indian tribes in northern British Columbia', published in Victoria.

Begg (Number 2) came to the Red River from Ontario in 1867. He and James J. Hargrave were the two most prolific residents reporters or their era. Hargrave was the private secretary to his uncle, William McTavish, the Hudson's Bay Company governor and correspondent for the Montreal Herald; Begg, less biased, was a correspondent for the Toronto Globe. Neither was a committed supporter of Louis Riel but both provided sympathetic insights into the Metis resistance movement. Their correspondence has been edited by Univerity of Manitoba historian J.M. Bumsted for Reporting the Resistance (University of Manitoba, 2003). "Riel," Begg wrote in 1870, "by his energy and perseverance, has, you may say, conducted the whole of this movement; and, if he does not now overstep the mark, he will doubtless bring his people out safely yet. He declares his loyalty to Queen Victoria, but says he cannot stand by and see his people trampled upon as they apparently were to have been." W.L. Morton has edited Red River Journal and Other Papers Relative to the Red River Resistance of 1869-1870 by Alexander Begg (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1969). US $90 ISBN: 0837150744. In 1897, Begg (Number 2) also edited a Directory of Mines, a guide to investors, published in Victoria by Mining Record Limited. It contains a synopsis of the mining laws and placer claims of B.C., the Yukon and Northwest Territories.


History of British Columbia From It's Earliest Discovery to the Present Time (Toronto, William Briggs; London, Sampson, 1894; Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1973)


History of British Columbia From It's Earliest Discovery to the Present Time: First Published in 1894 (Progress Books, 1967)

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2003] "History of B.C."