Where Would Robert Burns Stand Today in Labor Problems? (1908)

By J.B. McLachlan

Scotsmen everywhere will, on the 25th, be celebrating the hundred and forty-ninth anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. He is more of a patron saint to Scotsmen than St. Andrew, his name and life being better known and his anniversary more generally kept. Not more than one Scotsman in a hundred, if asked when is St. Andrew’s Day, could answer correctly straightaway, while ninety-nine out of every hundred of them could do so in regard to Burns Day.

Robert Burns

Why the memory of Burns should thus be enshrined in the hearts of his countrymen seems the more strange when it is remembered that Scotland more than all nations was and is Calvinist in her thinking and Presbyterian in her church government, both of which Burns satirized unmercifully. See his burlesque lamentations on a quarrel between two reverend Calvinists in his poem “The Holy Tulzie.” “The Ordination” was a bold satire in ridicule of Calvinism and in commendation if not Socinianism, something near thereto. “The Kirk’s Alarm” was really written in defense of Dr. McGill, one of the parish ministers of the town of Ayr, who had published a work impregnated with Socinian doctrine, and for which he was brought before the church courts.

Not only did Burns defend Socinian writers when in the clutches of the church, but even free-thinkers had his sympathy when the church attacked them. John Goudie, a tradesman in Kilmarnock, a free-thinker and a well-read man, published a volume of “Essays on Various Subjects, Moral and Divine” that became so popular that the book was termed “Goudie’s Bible.” In a letter addressed to that worthy on the mischief done by his book, and on the way the church would restore matters, Burns says:

But, win the Lord’s ain falk get leave

A toom  [empty] tar-barrel

And twa red peats wad send relief

An’ end the quarrel.

Not only what Burns has written against Calvinism, and in defense of Socinians and free-thinkers, but his profound silence on the awful struggle the Church of Scotland passed through from the coronation of Charles II till James VII retreated from the Boyne, makes one wonder why Presbyterians now make so much ado about him on the “25th.”

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Chantal Richard and Nicole Boudreau win award for research note published in Acadiensis

Everyone at Acadiensis would like to congratulate Chantal Richard and Nicole Boudreau for winning an Author Recognition Award by the York Sunbury Historical Society for their research note “Applying a Gender Lens to Vocabularies of Identity in French- and English-Language Newspapers in New Brunswick and Acadie, 1880–1900.” You can read the award winning note here: https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/Acadiensis/article/view/31559

Nicole Boudreau and Chantal Richard receive their Author Recognition Award, presented by the York Sunbury Historical Society at a ceremony hosted by the lieutenant-governor (Her Honour Brenda Murphy) which took place on December 6th at Government House. 

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A Note from the Co-Editors

The upcoming edition of the journal will be the final print edition of Acadiensis. After 51 years of publishing some of the finest scholarship focused on the Atlantic region, the Editorial Board consulted with subscribers and librarians and decided in June 2022 to transition to a fully digital journal. This decision was guided by several intersecting factors and values. One of the most important is that a digital publication will save costs and help to ensure that Acadiensis has a bright future. Another factor was a collective effort to shift to greener forms of publishing by eliminating paper printing.

There are also new opportunities that come with an exclusively digital publication. We will be able to provide media-rich articles and seamlessly connect Acadiensis content to other platforms when appropriate. We also hope that the new electronic version will help us to engage readers and foster connections in new ways.

This issue contains four research articles that range from a study that centres on Cardinal Richelieu’s negotiation over the fate of Acadia between England and France beginning in 1629 (Michel de Waele) to a piece that connects histories of enslavement between the Maritimes and the Caribbean within a broader Atlantic World context (Sarah Chute) to a consideration of “transatlantic negotiations” and the development of “intercolonial cooperation” in the building of lighthouses in British North America (Zachary Tingley and Elizabeth Mancke) to a discussion of integration at a Cherry Brook school during the 1960s and the impact of “masked practices of segregation” for the African Nova Scotian community there (Stefanie R. Slaunwhite).

A research note on Black jazz in Nova Scotia (Wade Pfaff) and two review essays – one on Newfoundland political history (Shannon Conway) and the other on 1960s youth and counterculture (James Onusko) – round out this issue.

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Call for Papers for Anthology: Backyard Natures: An Exploration of Local Environments in the Northeast

Richard Judd and Brian Payne, editors

How have you engaged the nature around you during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Have you found new or renewed appreciation for the nature of a local environment?

What methodological challenges did you face as a result of pandemic-induced isolation?

The editors for this anthology are soliciting papers on local and community environments in the northeast region.  We wish to engage environmental scholars in a discussion on local, backyard, neighborhood, or community environments including, but not limited to, parks, playgrounds, sanctuaries, waterscapes, nature walks, or any other vernacular nature or activity. We define ‘local’ broadly to mean your immediate local environment, an environment that you were once connected with, an environment important to a community’s sense of place, or the utilization of local ecological knowledge to understand the history or culture of a place. 

In conjunction with this focus on locality, we are also interested in how environmental scholars dealt with the various methodological challenges imposed by the pandemic, or how the pandemic inspired new methodological strategies or research objectives. The pandemic turned many of us toward our local environments, which we reassessed under this new reality. We invite scholars to write about their experience understanding the local from new perspectives, methodologies, or research or teaching interests.

We define the northeast as the geography stretching from Pennsylvania north through New England and into Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada.

Papers will be workshopped at the next Northeast and Atlantic Region Environmental History (NEAR-Eh) forum in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island June 23-24, 2023.  Following the workshop, the editors will review selected papers, assemble them into a collection of essays, and submit them to a university press for publication.

If you are interested, please submit a 250-word proposal to Richard Judd at rjudd@maine.edu and Brian Payne at b2payne@bridgew.edu by March 1, 2023.  Full 25-30-page papers (approximately 8000 words) will be due by June 1, 2023.

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Table of Contents for our next issue!

Coming soon …

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Teaching Atlantic Canadian Out-Migration and Finding In-Migration Instead

By Jacob Remes

In March 2022, I returned to Halifax for the first time since 2009. Even though I cut my teeth in Nova Scotia history, I hadn’t been back since the summer I finished the research for the dissertation that became my first book. When I returned 13 years later, I did so leading a group of mostly American students as part of a program my university runs called the Americas Scholars. Top undergraduate students apply for an almost free study trip led by a professor, preceded and followed by a zero-credit seminar that places the trip in an intellectual and thematic context.[1]

Students walk through Halifax’s Mulgrave Park, with the Tufts Cove Generating Station in the background. Photo by Mira Silviera.

In many ways, I see my role as a university professor in the Anthropocene as preparing students to live, work, and organize amid economic, political, and environmental transition. “Transition is assured,” John Cartwright, the president of the Toronto and York Region Central Labour Council told my Initiative for Critical Disaster Studies last year, “but justice is not.” That is, we know that because of climate change, we there will be massive upheaval in culture, society, and economy. The question—over which we have some control—is whether those changes will be just or not. Scholars and activists are increasingly looking to understand deindustrialization as a sort of usually unjust transition from which we can learn as we plan a transition from a carbon economy. Nova Scotia has seen more than its share of unjust transitions, and the goal of the class was to think about whether its history can prepare us for our own looming transitions.

One of the ways that Nova Scotians have long handled economic transitions is by moving—whether from the country to the city, to other parts of Canada, or to the Boston States. Out-migration is, of course, a long-standing theme in Atlantic Canadian history; one of the arguments of my first book was that we must understand even an event as local or as Canadian as the Halifax explosion within a transnational region that was built, primarily, by migration. Out-migration and its effects across generations is a major theme in Nova Scotian literature, too, and one cannot help but notice the number of literary interpreters of the region—from Hugh MacLennan to Alistair MacLeod, from George Elliott Clarke to Sashi Bhat—who did or do their writing elsewhere. “We all understand why you moved away,” sings Dartmouth’s Joel Plaskett, “but we’ll hold a grudge anyway.”

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CFP: 2023 Canadian Historical Association Annual Meeting – York University Difficult Histories in a Global Context, 29-31 May 2023



In May 2023, York University in Toronto, Ontario will host the 102nd annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association as part of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. The CHA annual meeting will be in-person with a very limited number of hybrid sessions.

Reflective of the Congress 2023 theme “Reckonings and Re-Imaginings,” the CHA conference theme for 2023 is Difficult Histories in a Global Context. The identification of unmarked graves on the grounds of Residential Schools in 2021 has brought Canadians face-to-face with one of the most difficult chapters of their history. Other countries are also grappling with challenging issues, including the histories and consequences of colonialism, racism, gender-based violence and environmental degradation. How are scholars investigating these difficult histories?  And how do such analyses sit alongside histories of joy, love, resistance and achievement?  How can centring Indigenous, Black and other marginalized voices reframe national historical narratives? How can history contribute to the “reckonings and re-imaginings” critically needed today? These are some of the questions that will be addressed at the Canadian Historical Association Annual Meeting. As per usual, the program committee welcomes any other proposal related to the research, teaching, or presentation of history.

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“Very Capable People”:  Thoughts on David Blackwood’s Art

By Andrew Nurse

The recent death of David Blackwood has drawn a remarkable and emotional response. Both he and his art seem deeply treasured by those who knew him. Tributes have already praised his work and re-asserted his position in the forefront of modern Newfoundland art.[1] The goal of this post is not to repeat those conclusions; I see no reason to question them. Instead, I’d like to reflect on Blackwood’s art from a different perspective that draws it into conversation with the work of his better-known contemporaries, like Christopher Pratt and Alex Colville. What this conversation indicates, I think, is that Blackwood’s art carries  with it different kinds of implications and messages.

Blackwood was born in 1941 in Wesleyville, Newfoundland a small community on Bonavista Bay. By all accounts, he was “a natural.” He opened his own studio while still in his teens and before completing his formal studies at the Ontario Art College, from which he graduated in 1963. After graduating he became art master at Trinity College School and moved to Port Hope, Ontario, where he lived until his recent death. Throughout most of his life, Blackwood also kept a studio in Wesleyville. The life, character, and history of the outports and their people are the subject matter for which he is best known. He was named to the Order of Canada in 1993 and, among other honours, held honourary degrees from the University of Calgary and Memorial University.[2]

Etching and aquatint on wove paper 67.2 x 82.8 cm. Gift of David and Anita Blackwood, Port Hope, Ontario. (David Blackwood/Art Gallery of Ontario). Image source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/blackwood-obit-july-2022-1.6509080.

Blackwood worked in a range of media but is best known as an etcher and print maker, a highly technical, time-consuming, and detail-oriented art form, the specifics of which are well captured in a short NFL documentary on him produced in the 1970s.[3] Blackwood’s career is historically interesting for several reasons. There is a haunting familiarity to his art even if he himself remained obscured by the better-known artists of his time. I suspect most people will recognize his work “Hauling Job Sturges House” from the cover of Annie Proulx’s bestselling novel The Shipping News, even if they could not readily name the artist or its subject matter. Despite his early popularity and the critical acclaim of his work, no comprehensive show of Blackwood’s art was held until 2011.[4]

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Suburbs Standing West: Potentially Untimely Thoughts on Post-World War II Atlantic Canadian Art

By Andrew Nurse

Christopher Pratt just died. I did not know him, but I did have the pleasure of hearing him speak and I’ve used his art in my classes for almost as long as I have been teaching. I can’t say that that gives me any particular insight into his imagination, although I am also certain others will take the time write about that aspect of his career. By all accounts he was a dynamic and caring individual.[1] His passing even drew the notice of Prime Minister Trudeau who lauded Pratt as “one of our country’s greatest artists.”[2]

Pratt was part of a school of Atlantic Canadian painting that emerged, in part, through Mount Allison University in the 1950s. Exactly what we might call this school of painting is not particularly clear. Perhaps, drawing on literary studies of Herb Wyile and Tony Tremblay:[3] Regional Artistic Modernism? It would include the outstanding work of his wife Mary (from whom he divorced) and that of Alex Colville, perhaps the most celebrated Atlantic Canadian artist of the post-World War II era. My aim in this blog is not to write an obituary for Christopher Pratt. Instead, what I want to do is venture some preliminary thoughts on what we might see as his historical legacy. Of necessity, this is connected to the painters with whom his work can be aligned.

Winter at Whiteway, a 2004 painting by Pratt. (Christopher Pratt/Mira Godard Gallery). Image source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/christopher-pratt-newfoundland-painter-obituary-1.6319009

I want to argue that Pratt’s legacy is mixed. By this, I don’t mean that his art is in any way “bad.” Pratt’s work has been duly and, in my view, rightly, celebrated. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy, the Order of Canada, and the Order of Newfoundland. What I mean is this: if I had to, I’d problematize the idea of good and bad art, question the appropriateness of such binary distinctions and suggest that “distinctions” of taste are far more complicated and far more interesting than simple distinctions.  As a raft of current art historiography makes clear, artistic distinctions are embedded in particular historical processes (what one generation finds artistic, another does not), contested, and inherently political, even while that politics is not always self evident or simple. I think that it is on this level that we need to grapple with Pratt’s legacy and think about the implications and importance of post-World War II Atlantic painting.

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D’où vient la Complainte de Louisbourg ?

Éva Guillorel : Université Rennes 2 / Institut universitaire de France

NOTE : Cet article est publié en collaboration avec le blogue Repenser l’Acadie dans le monde.

La Complainte de Louisbourg, recueillie de tradition orale autour de Chéticamp, est souvent considérée comme une composition acadienne locale évoquant la capitulation de Louisbourg au 18e siècle. Plusieurs enregistrements ethnographiques de cette complainte mentionnent pourtant la ville de Philippsbourg en Allemagne. Cette place forte hautement stratégique a subi trois sièges impliquant les Français entre 1676 et 1734 et de nombreuses chansons ont circulé à ce sujet. Plus généralement, les chansons de sièges de ville constituent un répertoire très en vogue en Europe à cette époque et il est fréquent de reprendre des airs déjà connus et de renouveler les paroles d’un siège antérieur pour créer rapidement une nouvelle chanson adaptée à l’actualité politico-militaire. En comparant les chansons écrites lors des guerres européennes et la Complainte de Louisbourg recueillie sur l’île du Cap-Breton, les ressemblances sont frappantes. La ville de Philippsbourg, composée par David Michelin (1700-1750), en est un bon exemple. Cet homme originaire du Piémont vaudois, qui a vraisemblablement été soldat pendant les guerres de Succession de Pologne et d’Autriche avant d’entamer une carrière de chanteur ambulant, commence sa chanson par un couplet proche des paroles qui ont été recueillies à Chéticamp au milieu du 20e siècle [1] :

Noble ville de Philippsbourg
Je viens t’annoncer en ce jour
Au roi de France il te faut rendre
Au moins ne te fais pas prier
Car tu ne pourras plus résister.

Les complaintes de siège font partie d’un vaste ensemble de récits et chants qui circulent et contribuent à une culture partagée en contexte militaire. Certaines d’entre elles sont passées dans la tradition orale, ont circulé dans le monde francophone et se retrouvent en Amérique du Nord au gré de la mobilité des soldats et de la diffusion des nouvelles de la guerre, où elles sont parfois réactualisées en fonction des réalités locales. C’est sans doute ce schéma qui explique la présence en Acadie de la Complainte de Louisbourg.

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