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Charles Canniff James was an academic, a civil servant, a book collector and an authority on Canadian history and literature. He was born in Napanee, Ontario, the son of Charles James and Ellen Canniff. He married Frances Lillian Crossen in 1887 with whom he had one son, Wilfred Crossen James. He died in St. Catherine’s, Ontario.
James was educated at Napanee High School and Victoria College, Cobourg, Ontario, where he received a B.A. in 1883 and an M.A. in 1886. James was appointed Assistant Master at Cobourg Collegiate Institute (1883-86), Professor of Chemistry at Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph (1886-91), Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Government of Ontario (1891-1912), Commissioner to administer Dominion Agricultural Instruction Act (1912-14), and Member of the Federal Board of Enquiry into the Cost of Living (1914).
James was elected Director of the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association, President of the Ontario Historical Society (1902-04), Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1905), Member of the Canadian Olympic Committee (1908), Member of the Senate of the University of Toronto, Member of the Board of Regents of Victoria College, and Member of the Advisory Board of Acta Victoriana. He was awarded the Gold Medal in Natural Science, Victoria College in 1883, created Commander of St. Michael and St. George in 1911, and awarded LL.D. at the University of Toronto in 1912.
James was a generous benefactor of the Victoria University Library, donating the Canadiana collection and the Alfred Tennyson collection.
James’ publications include: Agriculture (1898), A Bibliography of Canadian Poetry (English) (1899), The First Legislature of Upper Canada (1902), The Second Legislature of Upper Canada (1903), The Downfall of the Huron Nation (1907), A Tennyson Pilgrimage: And Tennyson, the Imperialist (1910), William Dummer Powell (1912), David William Smith: A Supplementary Note to the Upper Canada Election of 1792 (1913), and A History of Farming in Ontario (1914).