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Peer Review

Who Killed William Robinson? Race, Justice and Settling the Land: A Historical Whodunnit

by John Lutz , Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History Team , Ruth Sandwell


Overall Numeric Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 4 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Jun 25, 2002 by History Editorial Board
Overview: This site includes a complete collection of historical documents that relate to
the death of William Robinson in 1868. Robinson had settled on Salt Spring
Island in the British colony of British Columbia a decade before his death as
part of a contingent of Black Americans fleeing persecution and slavery in the
years leading to the American Civil War. Visitors can look at the collection of
archival docuoments to interpret the raw material of the past and to ask the
larger questions like, how do we know what happened in the past?
Type of Material: Historical investigation.
Recommended Uses: The integration of primary resources to investigate an historical account.
Technical Requirements: None.
Identify Major Learning Goals: 1. To understand and explain the definition and role of Primary Sources in
historical research.
2. To identify and explain the purpose and use of different types of primary
3. To understand and explain the definition and role of secondary sources in
historical research.
4. To explain the process of historical inquiry and the methods used to locate
historical documents as well as possible sources of historical information.
5. To identify and discuss the cultural and historical context of the events
surrounding the death of William Robinson.
6. To communicate theories of historical account in the form of an essay with
the appropriate primary and secondary sources to support the position.
Target Student Population: College level.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: 1. Survey of Canadian and 19th century history.
2. Knowledge of the use of primary sources and methods of historical

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: This site was created by a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of History at
the University of British Columbia and an Assistant Professor in the History
Department at the University of Victoria. Their specific interest motivations
for the site are related to the social history of rural Canada during the 19th
century as well as historical aboriginal and non-aboriginal relationships.
Credits from the website provide validation for the accuracy and level of
authority of the creators, their sources, and the supporting materials.
The website contains primary docuoments including newspaper accounts,
government records and trial files, historical photos, drawings and paintings,
and diaries and letters. Secondary sources include graphs, maps, and
contemporary perceptions. All sources are cited throughout the website with one
page listing sources used. Additional information is provided for further
research with links and/or bibliographical information provided. Accompanying
each group of souces is an explanation of its origin, how it was located and why
and how it is used in historical inquiry. The website is focused primarily on
the specific case of William Robinson. However, the inquiry into the specific
historical account of this case also provides information on the cultural
history of settlement in Canada during the 19th century as well as
aboriginal/non-aboriginal relationships. In addition, the explanations provided
with the variety of primary sources serves as a guide to explain the role of
primary sources in historical inquiry.
Concerns: None.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: This is an excellent teaching tool. The creators provided their email addresses
for questions regarding use and content of the website and provide an online
feedback form. A Teacher's Guide may be obtained by emailing one of the
creato rs. The website is an effective use of student's time if it is
suplemented by activities and specifically defined learning objectives. This
website would be an effective tool for communicating the role of primary
documents in historical research. Students can use the materials provided to
draw their own conclusions and write an historical interpretation of the events
based on their research of the primary and secondary sources on the website.
Concerns: Instructors need to gain password from the designers in order to view certain
interpretation sections. Learning objectives need to be posted on the website
as well as classroom and student activities.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The navigational banner prevents the user from bcoming lost in the website. The
home page contains short and easy to understand directions using the website.
The website is well designed and organized in a logical and coherent manner.
Credits list the site update for 2000-2001. Out of hundreds of links only three
were broken.
Concerns: Photographs, charts, graphs, paintings/drawings, and maps require additional
download time.

Other Issues and Comments: None.