Rolf Knight was born in 1936 and grew up partially in Vancouver and
partially in the resource workers’ camps of the B.C. coast, working
in them until the late 1950s. He obtained a B.A. and an M.A. from the
University of British Columbia and traipsed around the U.S. and other
parts of the world for some years before getting his Ph.D. from Columbia
University, N.Y.C. in 1968. He taught in a number of American universities,
including Columbia, and returned to Canada to teach at the University
of Manitoba, Simon Fraser University, and finally at the University
of Toronto, where he held a tenured Associate Profesorship until 1977.
He left that position to engage in full time writing and has published
twelve books since then. For some years he also drove taxi in Vancouver.
In 1992 he received the Canadian Historical Association’s award for
his contributions to regional history. He continues to live in Vancouver
and to write books.
YouTube slide show (November 2013)
Riding the Rails in Western Canada Al Knight Coll.
These 39 images were recovered from a pack of seventy to ninety negatives found in my father’s possession after he died in 1965. They were taken by him and of him by an unknown photographer(s) during the early to late 1930s in western Canada. They were deposited at the Special Collections, University of British Columbia and at the Historical Photographs section of the Vancouver Public Library in the late 1970s.
To download any of these files, (for Windows) right mouse click and
select "save link as" or (for MAC) hold down the control key and press
the mouse, and then select "save link as".
Not a Philosophical Atheism (2012; 158 pp) (pdf / doc)
A brief, argumentative commentary on Christianity and its Jewish antecedent which includes some caustic overviews of the Old and New Testaments as well as chapters discussing rationales for the existence of a god. It also presents comparable commentary on other world religions and tribal polytheism which suggests such beliefs are generally as anti-human as Christianity. Comments on the alleged functions of religion and assorted claims about morality, justice, the soul and an afterlife critically examined
Fascism, Jewish Chauvinism and the Holocaust Revival (2007; 447 pp) (pdf / doc)
This account begins with a brief overview of the rise and fall of fascism between 1918 and 1945, as well as the casualties of world war 2 and in its aftermath. It is suggested that charges of anti-Semitism are now made against whoever does not support Jewish demands sufficiently. Such is exemplified by the charges against a wide array of individuals and institutions as well as the resurrection of accounts of the Holocaust over the past forty years. It is suggested that these endeavors approach witch hunting and are not primarily about righting past injustices but are rather a mechanism to garner support for current Jewish and Israeli interests. The final portions deal with Israeli arms production and sales, its invasion and occupation of Lebanon during the 1980s and the drawn out repression of the Palestinian Intifada.
Nativism and Americanism (2009; 259 pp) (pdf / doc)
Subtitled “Reactionary Elements in ‘Native Appreciation’ this
book surveys some three dozen authors from the late 19th to the late
20th centuries which focus on their reactionary biases and anti-working
class sentiments. It deals with conditions arising in Canada, the
United States and Mexico and includes a critique
of the sentiments entailed.
No Redeeming Qualities. Reviews of a tawdry new age (2002; 99 pp) (pdf / doc)
A set of reviews by an imaginary author who sardonically reviews the
contemporary issues as allegedly dealt with in a number of largely,
but not exclusively, imaginary titles. Knight’s bitter satires
picture a herd of ravenous sheep grazing in an environment of wondrous
Indians at Work: An Informal History of Native Labour in British
Columbia 1858-1930 (1996; 261 pp) (pdf / doc)
A massively documented history of Native Indian wage labour in British
Columbia from initial European settlement in the mid 19th century to
the beginning of the great depression. The first and as yet only historical
study of Native Indian workers in Canada, it challenges many of the
romantic misconceptions which have developed over the years. An expanded version of a title originally published in 1978.
Homer Stevens. A life in fishing (1992; 200 pp) (pdf / doc)
A biography of the charismatic leader of the United Fishermen and Allied
Workers Union in British Columbia from 1948 to 1987. A social as well
as a political history, it begins with Stevens’ background within
a native-immigrant fisherman’s family on the lower Fraser River
in the 1930s and continues through the twists and turns of the union
throughout the following fifty years. An appreciation of a left-wing
union leader’s life and work.
Voyage Through the Midcentury (1988; 179 pp) (pdf / doc)
An autobiography dealing with repressive public schools in BC during the 1940-50s and the liberating quality of camp work.
Relates some of the subject’s later voyages around the world from a quasi ethnographic perspective as well as a brief account of anthropological field work among Cree hunters and trappers during the final period of their existence. It contains a lengthy appreciation of New York during the 1960s, where he earned a PhD and of his return to Canada. He left university teaching to write and wound up driving a cab back in Vancouver. The account is partially a tribute to the ethos of the migrant camp workers from which he sprang. Republished in 2013 as Voyage Through the Past Century.
Traces of Magma. An annotated bibliography of left
literature (1983; 356 pp) (pdf / doc)
An annotated bibliography mainly of left-wing novels dealing with the
lives of working people during the 20th century. It includes some collections
of poetry, drama and short stories as well as a smattering of non-fictional
material such as oral history, but basically it is a compendium of
novels. It provides brief synopses of more than 3,000 titles originally
in some 50 languages by circa 1500 authors from over 90 countries.
The survey is an introduction of left fiction for those who for whatever
reason have become interested in what this literature has to say about
events and peoples throughout the world but who have only a vague notion
of which authors and titles exist and where to begin.
Along the No. 20 Line. Reminiscences of the Vancouver Waterfront (1980;
167 pp) (pdf / doc)
An evocative social geography and reminiscence of growing up along
the industrial waterfront of Vancouver during the 1940s. The account is threaded around the No.20 streetcar line which ran from the eastern city boundary, along the waterfront, to the city core.It includes
oral accounts of work on the docks, shipyards, canneries and life in
the loggers’ quarters and in retired camp worker cabins of that
city on the eve of its transformation from a working class seaport
into an American megalopolis.
Stump Ranch Chronicles and Other Narratives (1977; 115 pp) (pdf / doc)
Reminiscences of homesteading, railway construction, logging, mining
and life in the farming and resource communities of western Canada
in the years since1912 by two populist/socialist participants. Accounts
markedly different from the usual picture of rural conservatism and
A Man of Our Times. The life-history of a Japanese-Canadian fisherman (1976, 105 pp) (pdf / doc)
A brief life history of a Japanese-Canadian fisherman, logger, socialist
union organizer and editor from his arrival in British Columbia in
1910 to the early 1970s. Includes an overview of Japanese-Canadian
labour history and is unique in its account of the internal class struggles
within that community as well as the struggle against racism.
A Very Ordinary Life (1974; 264 pp) (pdf / doc)
A life history of a working class woman from the socialist milieu of
WW I Berlin, accounts of that world and of emigration to and life in
the resource frontier of western Canada from the 1930s to 1970. An
underground classic of Canadian and immigrant history which ran through
four printings in original.
Sugar Plantations and Labour Patterns in the Cauca Valley, Columbia (1972; 215 pp) (pdf)
A doctoral dissertation dealing with a region which claimed to retain labour conditions different from those obtaining in other sugar cane producing regions but which on analysis proved to be substantially similar to those existing elsewhere, despite certain unique ecological conditions.
Work Camps and Single Enterprise Communities in Canada and the United States; A Working Bibliography (1972; 90 pp) (pdf)
An annotated bibliography of about 290 items ranging from books to articles in popular journals intended as an introductory guide for student research of this topic.
Ecological factors in changing economy and social organization among the Rupert House Cree (1968; 131 pp) (pdf)
A brief ethnographic study done for the National Museum of Canada in 1961-62 focusing on the then continuing economic importance of hunting and trapping for the native people of the region.