Review of Nova Graphica: A Graphic Anthology of Nova Scotia History

By Mark J. McLaughlin

Perceptions about the comics medium have shifted dramatically over the last few decades. Not so long ago, comics were viewed by many as something to be read by children and the semi-literate. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, scholars began approaching the comics medium as being worthy of serious study, and have produced numerous works analyzing comics from various different angles.[1] Historians, meanwhile, have used comics as an innovative means to tell stories about the past, everything from working-class struggles to the experiences of enslaved Africans.[2]

Nova Graphica: A Graphic Anthology of Nova Scotia History.
Image source: Conundrum Press

We can add to the mix the delightful book Nova Graphica: A Graphic Anthology of Nova Scotia History, edited by Laura Ķeniņš. It may not be a large book, at less than 140 pages in length, but the ambitions behind it certainly are. Nova Graphica does not feature a more traditional historical narrative, one perhaps focused on high politics or the “great men” of the past. As historian Sara Spike so aptly notes in the introduction:

Conventional histories of Nova Scotia, like those of North America more broadly, presented an uncomplicated story of colonial conquest and European settler ascendancy. These stories are not timeless. They were shaped in the 19th and 20th centuries by writers embedded in the political culture of their day, written to justify ongoing violence of racism and settler colonialism. In Nova Scotia, this was tinged with an invented tradition of Scottishness, which generalized the heritage of a few into a provincial identity for all (6).

As a partial corrective, Nova Graphica includes various stories featuring voices sometimes left out of provincial histories, such as Indigenous peoples, Black Canadians, the LBGTQ community, women, and even the land itself.

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A Tale of Two Solitudes? Historians, Archivists, and New Brunswick’s Indian Day Schools

By Richard Yeomans

Since the announcement made by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation on May 27, 2021 that the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found in an unmarked mass grave, the discovery has been reported as a tragic and gut-wrenching reminder of the realities of Canada’s violent settler colonial past and present. Oral histories about the school had long suggested that numerous children attending the school never made it home; according to Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir, “[We] had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify. To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths.”[1] The importance of oral histories to the living memories of Indigenous communities across Turtle Island cannot be understated.

But settlers calling the uncovering of the remains of Indigenous children on the grounds of former Residential Schools a ‘discovery’ is not unlike saying Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ North America since it was, after all, news to everyone but the survivors of the Residential School system and the Indigenous communities of which they are a part. This is, I think, an example of where words fail us, but also an important moment where the mechanism used by white settlers to cling to the myths we tell ourselves about Canada is exposed: whether we are conscious of that action is another point entirely. Still, the news out of Kamloops has had a significant impact from British Columbia to Newfoundland and is marked by the growing call to search the grounds of known Residential and Indian Day Schools using ground-penetrating radar. The remains of more children have already been found at other former Residential Schools, and the total has and will continue to rise long past the publication of this post.

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Unfortunately, that same technology cannot be used to scour archives across Canada to locate records related to Residential and Indian Day Schools, and many documents on such schools were purposely buried or destroyed by Federal Government and Church institutions alike. Nevertheless, in New Brunswick that task of archival reconnaissance has recently been taken up by historians in the University of New Brunswick’s Department of History, who, in their own words, are trained to locate these documents and have offered their assistance to Indigenous nations, communities, or persons seeking research assistance.[2] The message is an important one, and a similar offer has already been extended by faculty at Nipissing University, with hopefully more to follow from other universities and in other provinces. But as settler scholars across Canada volunteer their expertise, it is important to recognize that in the last few decades archivists across Canada have been assisting Indigenous Peoples with locating and accessing documents held in settler archives. Most recently, the Steering Committee on Canada’s Archives has published a draft for public review of its “Reconciliation Framework for Canadian Archives,” and is developing a formal response to the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #70 – that the federal government provide funding to the Association of Canadian Archivists to commence, in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, a review of archival practices in Canada.[3]

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Les officiers militaires français et les miliciens de la Nouvelle-France, 1755-1760

Lauraly Deschambault et Gregory Kennedy, Université de Moncton[1]

Introduction

La Bataille des Plaines d’Abraham. Hervey Smyth (1734-1811) — Library of the Canadian Department of National Defence.

Dans le cadre du projet de partenariat, Service militaire, citoyenneté et culture politique au Canada atlantique, 1700-2000, nous menons une étude sur la contribution des miliciens acadiens et canadiens à la Guerre de Sept ans en Nouvelle-France. L’historiographie portant sur cette guerre continue à mettre l’accent sur le débat stratégique entre le Marquis de Montcalm, lieutenant-général des armées de la Nouvelle-France et le Marquis de Vaudreuil, gouverneur de la Nouvelle-France. Malgré des tentatives à réhabiliter la réputation de Montcalm, il était vraisemblablement peu impressionné par les Canadiens et leur façon de faire la guerre et ses décisions ont joué un rôle important dans la chute de la colonie.[2] Pour sa part, Vaudreuil s’est vanté des capacités des Canadiens, mais lui aussi avait souvent des idées peu réalistes.[3] En Acadie, les spécialistes s’intéressent davantage à l’expérience des miliciens à partir de 1755. Dans ce contexte, le but des habitants était d’éviter la déportation et leur service militaire était le prix de l’appui des officiers français.[4] Chose certaine, l’effondrement graduel des frontières de la Nouvelle-France devant la force numérique supérieure des Britanniques a mené à la conscription des habitants pour la guerre, mais aussi à l’incohérence des institutions militaires. Le présent texte concerne les attitudes des officiers militaires français envers les habitants des milices coloniales. Nous avons choisi François-Gaston de Lévis et François-Charles de Bourlamaque, respectivement commandant en second et en troisième après Montcalm. Il s’agit des opinions possiblement divergentes de celle de Montcalm ; le lieutenant-général estimait que Lévis « manquait d’imagination » et n’avait pas une bonne opinion de Bourlamaque.[5] Pourtant, ces officiers avaient plus d’expérience avec l’intégration des habitants au sein de l’armée française en Nouvelle-France. Leurs correspondances apportent un éclairage différent sur cette question.

La bonne volonté des miliciens

Le chevalier de Lévis admet que « commander à des sauvages et à des Canadiens n’est pas chose aisée »[6]. À plusieurs reprises, Montcalm souligne le mauvais état des miliciens.[7] Pourtant, Lévis était plutôt optimiste, il informe Vaudreuil en 1757 que « tous les miliciens qui nous arrivent sont des maîtres hommes et paraissent remplis de bonne volonté »[8]. Près de trois ans plus tard, et dans le contexte de la capitulation de la colonie, Lévis écrit au secrétaire d’État de la Marine :

Je dois vous exposer que les troupes de terre, de même que celles de la colonie et les Canadiens en général, ont donné des preuves au commencement de cette campagne de leur bonne volonté, en supportant sans la moindre plainte les plus grandes fatigues, le manque de vivres, et ayant combattu avec le plus grand courage ; elles méritent des grâces et je me flatte que vous voudrez bien vous intéresser pour elles[9].


François-Gaston, duc de Lévis, (1984.8), huile sur toile, XIXe siècle, Musée Stewart, Montréal.

Lévis semble comprendre la situation difficile des habitants lors de l’invasion. Il voulait aider également les réfugiés acadiens, « dignes de la pitié et de la bonté du roi ».[10] Pour sa part, Bourlamaque exprime des doutes concernant les habitants. Par exemple, dans sa lettre du 29 septembre 1759, juste après la chute de Québec, Bourlamaque écrit à Lévis : « le peu de Canadiens que j’ai ici ne montrent encore aucune mauvaise volonté ; mais je crains qu’en apprenant le bon traitement que les Anglais font à leurs familles, ils ne décampent pour les aller joindre »[11]. Quelques semaines plus tard, Bourlamaque confirme que sa brigade a subi plusieurs désertions et même les habitants restants « me paraissent de bien mauvaise volonté »[12]. Presqu’un an plus tard, Bourlamaque commente : « il me reste environ sept cents hommes, dont trois cent cinquante miliciens de mauvaise volonté »[13]. Nous sommes aux derniers jours de la Nouvelle-France et les miliciens refusent certains ordres. Par exemple, Bourlamaque raconte le 1er septembre 1760 : « j’ai commandé quarante miliciens, ce matin, pour battre des grains ; ils ont refusé nettement de le faire, et ont menacé de désertez tous »[14]. Bourlamaque semble s’attendre à ce que tous les habitants lui obéissent l’obéissance malgré la situation.

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Prince Philip’s Atlantic Canadian Legacy

By Barry MacKenzie

Much has been made in recent weeks about the life and legacy of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. It seems that every organization, community and individual has been scrambling to emphasize their own connections to this oldest-living consort in Commonwealth history. Countries and provinces seemed to compete for which occupied the most special of all the special places in the Duke’s heart. Atlantic Canada was no exception. Archives, museums, local media outlets and individuals alike took to social media in particular to highlight the many visits which the Duke of Edinburgh undertook to communities in the region, and the many connections he developed and nurtured here through his military and charitable work.

Interestingly, the Duke of Edinburgh’s connection to the region long predated his first visit (a brief shore leave in Halifax during the Second World War, when he was a midshipman aboard HMS Valiant). His great-great-great grandfather, Prince Edward (later Duke of Kent) spent several years at the end of the 18th century in the Nova Scotia capital, where he was responsible for the construction of much of the city’s defenses. He later returned to England, married, and fathered the princess who in 1837 became Queen Victoria.

Prince Philip’s grandfather, Prince Louis of Battenberg, was also stationed in Halifax for some time with the Royal Navy in the early 1870s. Louis later married Princess Alice of Hesse and by Rhine (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria) in 1884. He continued to rise through the ranks of the Royal Navy, eventually being appointed First Sea Lord in 1912. With the outbreak of war in 1914, Louis’s German origins were the subject of much chin-wagging in Britain, and he resigned his post in October of that year. Persistent anti-German sentiment famously inspired King George V to ditch the name of the royal house (Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) and adopt the quintessentially English “Windsor.” At the same time, the King’s relatives were forced to give up their German titles and honours, and Louis of Battenberg anglicized his surname to Mountbatten and become the Marquess of Milford Haven. Among his children were Princess Alice (Prince Philip’s mother) and the indomitable Louis, Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

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Missing Person: Grace Hamilton Hatheway

By David Frank

Mark Blagrave’s recent novel Lay Figures (Halifax: Nimbus, 2020) takes us back into the world of the artists and writers of the late 1930s and early 1940s in Saint John, New Brunswick. The pages are populated by people who resemble Miller Brittain, Jack Humphrey, Ted Campbell, Kay Smith, P.K. Page and others, although the author assures us he has written a work of fiction and is not portraying particular individuals. I do not propose here to compare the invented story of the novel to historical studies of this creative moment in regional history. That context has been superbly illuminated by the historian Kirk Niergarth, among others whose work Blagrave acknowledges.[1]

But in reading this novel, I was reminded of a lesser-known Saint John figure who had a small connection to this cultural moment. Born in 1885, she belonged to a slightly older generation. Moreover, her link would be limited by her long absence from the city as well as her premature death in 1936.

My interest in Grace Hamilton Hatheway originated with her parents, Frank and Ella Hatheway, two of the leading figures in social reform circles in early twentieth-century Saint John. You can read about them on the website of the Frank and Ella Hatheway Labour Exhibit Centre. As Suzanne Morton has noted, the Hatheways were “at the centre of a small but active reform community that contained virtually all the main currents of reform sweeping across the continent”.[2]

Grace was the second of their two daughters, born in Saint John in the summer of 1885. Both Miriam and Grace, less than two years apart in age, graduated from Saint John High School. Morton notes that one of their neighbours and classmates was Jane Wisdom, who went on to McGill University and became one of the first generation of professional social workers. During college vacations, Jane was a volunteer at the kindergarten for the children of working mothers that was established by the Hatheways. It seems likely the Hatheway sisters participated in similar activities.

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Context and the Ethics of Memory: Re-asserting the Importance of John A Macdonald

By Andrew Nurse

In November 2020, Darlene Fitzgerald, Principal of John A. Macdonald High School in Upper Tantallon announced that the school would change its name. School principal, Darlene Fitzgerald called the decision a “no-brainer,” at least for her. According to Fitzgerald, “In recent years we have all become more aware of his legacy as the architect of Canada’s Indian Residential School System and the passage of the Indian Act in [1876]. These historic events have caused irreparable harm and trauma to generations of Indigenous People in Canada.” Inclusivity, she continued is part of her responsibility as an educator. “Every student that walks through the door should feel that they belong, like this is my school, and this is the spirit of going to school.”[1]

Severed head of John A. Macdonald. Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Not everyone agrees. In Charlottetown, the fate of its statue of John A. Macdonald remains under consideration after Indigenous leaders asked the city to reconsider its decision to keep the statue with interpretive modifications after it failed to “meaningfully” consult First Peoples.[2] And, there are those who argue that there is something deeply wrong with campaigns to remove statues, thereby altering the character and nature of Canada’s commemorative public space. Who argue, in various ways, that those people seeking to rename schools and remove statues are fundamentally misguided.

History is inextricably linked to ethics. If this were not so, no one would be exercised about John A. Macdonald and the place his commemoration occupies in Canada’s historical landscape. No one would be trying to change school names and no one would be trying to defend his legacy or ensure some kind of popular perception of him as a “great” leader. The incidents in the Maritimes are part of on-going controversy over a variety of public commemorations, most notably John A. Macdonald who are architects of, or implicated in, the development, growth, and consolidation of colonialism in Canada.

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Judge Des Barres on Trial

By Keith Mercer

Beginning in the late eighteenth century, the St. John’s police were tasked with preventing congestion, garbage, and unregulated animals in the streets. This was one of their first active and preventative duties, along with regulating taverns and the Sabbath. They walked the beat and reported infractions to the magistracy. Not surprisingly, one of the House of Assembly’s first bills in 1833 was “An Act for the more speedy abatement of nuisances,” making official what the police had been doing on the ground for decades. This statute was sent to magistrates across the island, but nuisances were most pressing in St. John’s. Constables, under threat of fines, submitted lists of offenders to the courts. The high constable played the lead role in enforcing the act, occasionally with a little extra pay. This could mean shooting homeless dogs, or rounding up loose swine and selling them at auction.[1]

A.W. Des Barres, c. 1861, in D.W. Prowse, A History of Newfoundland: From the English, Colonial, and Foreign Records (London: Macmillan, 1895), 423. This image, and that of Cochrane, was taken 25 years after these events.

The Nuisance Act enjoyed wide political and public support but also led to one of the most disturbing attacks on the police in Newfoundland’s early history. In December 1833, Constable John Toor reported several instances of citizens carting uncovered putrid substances through the streets, contrary to the new law. The magistracy issued summonses for these parties to appear before the Sessions. A.W. Des Barres, assistant judge of the Supreme Court, caught wind of this and personally intervened in the streets, seizing the summonses from the constables and defendants. He publicly called the magistrates “blackguards” – dishonourable men or scoundrels – and dismissed the Court of Sessions as a farce. He had never heard of the Nuisance Act, he claimed, and was simply acting to protect the poor. Des Barres burst into the Sessions, with Magistrate James Blaikie presiding over a case, and shouted for him to come outside at once.

Magistrate Peter Weston Carter thought there might be trouble and ordered the constables, all in attendance at the Sessions, to ready themselves. In a heated discussion at the police office, located in an adjoining room to the Sessions, Blaikie defended the constables’ and court’s honour under hurls of insults from the angry judge. He found it hard to believe that Des Barres did not know about the Nuisance Act, giving him a copy of it on the spot just to refresh his memory. Early in 1834, Des Barres was indicted for assaulting Constable David Rogers and obstructing him in the line of duty. He was acquitted of both charges in a jury trial before the Supreme Court – his court, much to the surprise of the judges, governor, senior law officers, and most observers in the room. A boisterous crowd surrounded the courthouse to cheer the verdict.[2]

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MICHAEL JOHN EARLE, PHD. 1939-2020.

By Janet Guildford

Mike Earle pursued an unconventional career as a historian, starting late and never having a standard academic appointment. Nonetheless he made important contributions to regional history through his research and writing on Cape Breton labour history, his pioneering televised courses on Atlantic Canadian history at Mount Saint Vincent University,  and as  one of the principal organizers of  a union for part-time teachers  at Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s and the Mount.  I am one of many who benefited from Michael’s work for our union, CUPE 3912—it provided job security through the precedence system and slowly increased wages. Although he majored in history as an undergraduate at Mount Allison University from 1958-1961, Michael was a late-comer to professional history, and had many adventures before enrolling in graduate school in the late-1980s.

Michael Earle at two. Image courtesy of Mary Bourgeois.

Born in Charlottetown on 3 November 1939 to parents Jean Ross and C.N. (“Clarrie) Earle, he was the second of six children who formed a large, happy household. His childhood was the subject of many of Mike’s stories. The family moved with their father’s career as a bank manager, from Pictou, Sydney and Amherst.  Mike’s sister Mary Bourgeois described the family as “matriarchal’ and this was reflected in Mike’s special affection and respect for his mother Jean and sisters Mary and Christine. Mike often spoke very fondly of his mother, and his sister Mary expanded on this theme. Even when he was a teenager his mother was his regular movie and chess partner. Mary told me that there were days the house was filled with teenage boys playing chess with Jean! It has long been my contention that intellectual life is very often formed and shaped by family life and Mike’s family seems to provide an excellent example of this process.

As a young adult Mike moved from job to job. He tried following his father into banking and found it did not suit him. He worked as a child protection worker in Lunenburg County but that too was not to his taste. He then headed down the road to Toronto where he earned good wages doing what he regarded as boring work. It was there he met his wife, Sharon Anderson, and it was from Toronto that the two set off for London, England.

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2021 David Alexander Prize CFP

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Peter Waite: An Appreciation

By Andrew Nurse and Ed Stoddard

Peter Waite died on August 24th.  For three and a half decades he taught history at Dalhousie University. Waite is well and fondly remembered and should be. Christopher Moore, in his brief note on Waite’s passing called him a “historian, professor, war veteran, and bon vivant.” Allison Lawlor, in her obituary referred to him as “a compelling storyteller and writer.” A former colleague remembered him like this: Waite “was a joyful presence, quick to laugh, a spectacular raconteur addicted to punning and bon mots, especially in French or Latin […].” Peter Waite left his mark, both on Canadian historical scholarship and the students who moved through his classroom. We encountered him in the mid 1980s as undergraduate students at Dalhousie and, like others, we have fond memories.

Peter Waite. Image Credit: Rino Gropuzzo

Waite was born in Toronto in 1922, served in the Canadian Navy during World War II, and completed an undergraduate and MA at UBC before finishing a Ph. D. at the University of Toronto. He began teaching at Dalhousie in 1951 and became an enthusiastic and determined proponent of Nova Scotia wilderness and heritage conservation. He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada and a “Dalhousie Original” for her service to historical scholarship and the University community. Waite also served on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board and, in the course of his life, was the author of a number of “big books” that addressed new subjects or re-interpreted already studied subjects. Moore has called him a “master historian.” Waite would be both honoured and amused by that characterization.

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