Canada: The Story of Us panel discussion

Watch Acadiensis co-editor Sasha Mullally represent Atlantic Canada (and champion a version of the past that includes the Atlantic region) on a CBC panel discussing their new Canadian history documentary series, Canada: The Story of Us.

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Harper Relief

The following post is the sixth in a series that features collaboration between the Acadiensis blog and the students in Jerry Bannister’s undergraduate and graduate Canadian Studies and History classes at Dalhousie University.

by Shawna McKay

Why has it become so easy to dismiss the words that our new and “improved” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says? Why have we decided to place Trudeau on a pedestal and consider him to be the hero Canada needed to be saved from Stephen Harper? It seems to me that we embrace Justin Trudeau with arms wide open because we are currently in a post- Harper euphoria. We became so involved with how the media was portraying Harper and turned our backs against him. We have neglected everything Harper stands for because of a mob mentality that has been spread around our country, mostly for the sole reason that he is not the person we want to be supporting.

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Official Portrait of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Source pm.gc.ca

We have not seen a big change between the policies inflicted by Stephen Harper during his time in parliament and how Justin Trudeau is conducting himself and the government so far during his time in parliament. Although the Liberal party made many big promises during the course of the election, not much has taken place to support their words. It is obvious that Justin Trudeau is favoured over Stephen Harper. The media has sculpted Trudeau in a way that illustrates an attitude and personality of confidence and newness. He was privileged by having Pierre Elliott Trudeau as his father. But the argument that Trudeau has attained such a high level of success cannot be said to have been achieved because of who is father was. Pierre Elliott Trudeau was a great teacher, leader, and father and that is why our new Prime Minister is a qualified individual to run our country. Justin Trudeau is completely benefiting from the sense of Harper relief that many Canadians are feeling.

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Book Review: Neil S. Forkey on Edward MacDonald, Joshua MacFadyen, and Irené Novaczek, eds., Time and a Place: An Environmental History of Prince Edward Island.

Edward MacDonald, Joshua MacFadyen, and Irené Novaczek, eds. Time and a Place:  An Environmental History of Prince Edward Island. (Montréal and Kingston:  McGill-Queen’s University Press and Charlottetown: Island Studies Press, 2016)

By Neil S. Forkey

I am not an historian of Prince Edward Island.  However, I am an environmental historian of Canada.  The latter fact allows me to recommend this fine collection of essays on one of Canada’s more interesting bioregions to others in the field.  The assembled authors have produced a welcome addition to the ever-growing body of literature on the nation’s environmental history.  These scholars highlight the Island’s uniqueness by exploring topics ranging from the period before European colonization to the present-day concerns of resource scarcity.

Time and a Place

Time and a Place: An Environmental History of Prince Edward Island

The volume is divided into six parts.  Framing the work is an introduction by Edward MacDonald, Joshua MacFadyen, and Irené Novaczek, along with an epilogue by Claire Campbell. (An appendix on environmental laws, compiled by Colin MacIntyre, is also included). Between these poles are three parts.  In Part I, there are introductions by John R. Gillis (writing broadly about islands in human history) and Graeme Wynn (who situates PEI’s historiography in an environmental context).  The analyses narrow in Part II. David Keenlyside and Helen Kristmanson probe Aboriginal history.  The forests, c. 1720-1900, are taken up by David Sobey.  Rosemary Curley deals with the province’s fauna from prehistory to the present.  Finally, Novaczek brings to light the subsistence and commercial uses of sea-plants (particularly Irish moss).

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19th Annual History Across the Disciplines Conference at Dal: Contested Space: Navigating Perspectives of Place, Personhood and the Pas

The Dalhousie Graduate History Society will be hosting the 19th Annual History Across the Disciplines Conference from 31 March-1 April 2017. This year’s theme is “Contested Space: Navigating Perspectives of Place, Personhood and the Past.” Conference presentations will take place in the Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building, 6100 University Avenue, Dalhousie University.

Follow along on twitter at #dalifaxhistory2017

Friday, March 31st: Welcome & Keynote (Rowe 1014)

5:30pm – Registration Begins

6:00pm – 8:00pm: Keynote Address

Diana Lewis – “Canada 150: An Indigenous Perspective”

8:00pm: Meet and Greet – Dalhousie University Club

Saturday, April 1st: Conference Panels (Rowe 1009)

9:30-10:30 – 20th Century Military and Diplomatic History

Moderator: Dr. John Bingham

Breanna Denton – “Cold Warriors, Colonizers, and the Contemporary: Determining the Causal Dynamic in the Shaping of Modern Society”

Vlad Malaska – “Canadian and American Aviation, 1910-1930”

Liam Caswell – “Rising the Sun: British Political and Public Support for Japanese Hegemony in Korea and Manchuria During the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905”

Deborah George – “Dr. Cluny MacPherson: Reflections on the Life of a Newfoundland Physician and Soldier”

Click through for the rest of the conference program

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“What is Canadian Studies?” #GenYAsksY and the Classroom of Canada

The following post is the fifth in a series that features collaboration between the Acadiensis blog and the students in Jerry Bannister’s undergraduate and graduate Canadian Studies and History classes at Dalhousie University.

by Joy Ciccarelli-Shand

On October 26th, 2016, I attended a public forum entitled “The Precarious Generation: Millennials Fight Back,” hosted on Parliament Hill by NDP MP Niki Ashton. I was there as an observer, nothing more, but I was jittery and excited – it was my first time being at any kind of conference, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Precarious living, in case you haven’t encountered the term before, is characterized by a work experience that is short-term, low-paid, contract, and without benefits. Conditions like this are not only the norm for many young people, but the only kind of work we’ve ever known. Precariousness contributes to a number of social issues, including poorer health, higher stress, greater mental illness, and an inability to contribute to the tax base. Finance Minister Bill Morneau recently spoke about precariousness in the House of Commons, saying that workers should get used to the “job churn.” Of course, Canada’s youth will be the ones generally bearing the brunt of this, as we support our aging parents, our failing economy, and our ailing planet without any of the securities that past generations have had.

Attending “The Precarious Generation” forum proved to be quite the education. I felt compelled to go, in part, because in the last couple of years, I’ve become much more involved with activism both at my university and in my community of Halifax. I’ve served on my student union council, marched in protests, written on sidewalks, attended meetings, panels, readings, and lectures. Coming to understand and engage with political issues like precarious work is an ongoing process that for me feels like surfacing from the bottom of the nearby ocean. And it has been, largely, a process of learning about history: colonial history, labour history, the histories of race, gender, and queerness. It has been about learning the history of oppression and injustice, all of it situated in this place we call Canada.

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A Great and Noble Partnership: Going Forward In Uncertain Times

The following post is the fourth in a series that features collaboration between the Acadiensis blog and the students in Jerry Bannister’s undergraduate and graduate Canadian Studies and History classes at Dalhousie University.

by Aaron Clark

John Mack Faragher published A Great and Noble Scheme in 2006. It is now 11 years later, and I believe this book makes some important points for us to consider today; particularly, in light of recent events and trends in politics. The point I find most relevant today is made explicitly in his conclusion where he claims that we must understand Acadian history as a mix of Acadian, French, British, Canadian, and American influences.[1] Even a traditionally Canadian event, like the Deportation, had American involvement at the heart of it. Considering we are now facing the reality of President Trump, the question becomes how will that affect Canada. Our two nations are closely linked together, and this provides Canada with an opportunity and obligation to try to mediate American policy in whatever way we can. As America’s closest neighbour, we have had generally good relations with the United States. Through this relationship, Canada must try to do what it can to prevent or curb some of Trump’s more destructive campaign promises. At the same time, we will be trying to walk a tightrope between mediation and maintaining good relations.

It may be comforting to act like ostriches with our heads in the sand, and say that because we are Canadian, American events are not our problem. However, this ignores how closely we are tied to our American neighbours. Faragher’s narrative reinforces how this has been true for longer than there has been a United States or a Canada. For as long as Europeans have settled in North America, the various colonies had interconnected relationships. In a sense, they can be considered one big family, but not always a happy one. As with most families, there was sporadic fighting and sometimes bloodshed. English privateers were responsible for the destruction of some early Acadian settlements.[2] Events came full circle when Massachusetts Governor Shirley helped plan and orchestrate the Deportation. In the aftermath of the Deportation, some Acadians settled in American colonies; most notably those who became today’s Cajuns. Canada and America have been too closely linked for too long for us to simply ignore our neighbours to the South. Our countries are like siblings; we may have our differences, and even have trouble understanding each others motivations, but we still have to get along and live in the same house. This is an important point to remember as we as a country figure out how to come to grips with the election of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Trudeau and President Trump. Image Source: AP.

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Book Review: Carole Watterson Troxler on Rebecca Brannon, From Revolution to Reunion: The Reintegration of the South Carolina Loyalists.

Rebecca Brannon. From Revolution to Reunion: The Reintegration of the South Carolina Loyalists. (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2016).

By Carole Watterson Troxler

Rebecca Brannon (James Madison University), has distilled a well-researched 2007 dissertation of about 500 pages to a cogency deserving close attention from students of the American Revolutionary Era. Her breezy essay style delivers rapid-fire insights to engage readers and stimulate further examination of little-explored elements of American nation building. The use of secondary sources is selective and less critical than it might be but generally appropriate for her purpose: to understand the rapidity, success, and meaning of the reintegration into South Carolina social and political life of seventy percent of the 232 men proscribed in the 1782 Confiscation Act, and that within a mere two years. Most of the others were absentees or British merchants. The study is limited to 1782-1784 and is not concerned to treat Lowcountry and Upcountry loyalists equally, because the study is based on actions of the legislature, where Lowcountry concerns were paramount. Court action was not part of the machinery for dealing with loyalists in South Carolina. County courts organized after 1785 legislation created twenty new interior counties.

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Rebecca Brannon, From Revolution to Reunion: The Reintegration of the South Carolina Loyalists

Brannon credits the successful reintegration of proscribed men primarily to the efforts of the men themselves, whose wartime actions against the revolutionary cause varied considerably. Individually they petitioned the state legislature for relief from confiscation and fines, after preparing their ground with neighbours with whom they shared a continuing relationship and often family ties. She stresses the psychological effectiveness of their humble apologies (which avoided admitting any ill deeds). Crucially, revolutionary co-signers and supporters demonstrated a widespread local willingness to continue mutually beneficial pre-war community relationships. Beyond the petitions themselves, Brannon draws from careful readings of correspondence among the petitioners and the legislators.

She credits Adeanus Burke, John F. Grimke, and Christopher Gadsden for effective public pronouncements in favour of clemency for loyalists, as they were unimpeachable revolutionaries. Burke in particular traveled through the backcountry to convince “middling sorts” of the value of reintegrating loyalists. A recent arrival, he could rise above accusations of backscratching among the elite. Using his position as circuit judge, he urged amnesty to keep loyalists from troublesome behaviour and to maintain the legal equality of white citizens. Brannon notes the effectiveness of newspapers in spreading such arguments, claiming “80 percent of rural white South Carolinians could read” (107).

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Bill Parenteau: Looking Back, Looking Ahead: History and the Future of the New Brunswick Forest Industries

Today for your viewing pleasure we have a video of a talk given by UNB history professor Bill Parenteau about the history and the future of the New Brunswick forest industries.


Bill Parenteau is a Professor of History at the University of New Brunswick.

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What is Canadian?: Answering the Unanswerable

The following post is the third in a series that features collaboration between the Acadiensis blog and the students in Jerry Bannister’s undergraduate and graduate Canadian Studies and History classes at Dalhousie University.

by Randy Westhaver

It seems to me that a significant number of the articles I have read lately with regard to history as a profession, and specifically Canadian history have been narratives of declension. We as historians ask the big questions, and then proceed at length to lament that there isn’t a more optimistic answer. What is our identity as Canadians? Have we lost it? Did we ever have one? Do we have more than one? Countless historians have attempted to answer these questions, and have generated a literary spiral. As a grad student, fresh into the field and naively believing that every question can be answered with a suitable application of effort, I was dismayed that the leading minds in my field struggle to reach consensus on topics so central to our profession.

I struggled to try to reconcile what I considered to be my identity as a Canadian with what I had read. Of course, my own conception of identity couldn’t be expected to function universally. Other Canadians with vastly different backgrounds and experiences could hardly be expected to fit exactly my mold. But are there certain things that unite all of us? Could I create a list of values and experiences we all share? These are the questions that would slip into my mind, uninvited, when I was trying to focus on my papers. After weeks of fretting about how I would postulate a single unifying theory that would magically unite the nation, and prevent the disparate remains of the “former Canada” from spinning off into oblivion, I stopped.

It occurred to me that perhaps it was pointless. No single Canadian identity exists, or is likely to have ever existed. Yet, the 35 million of us that occupy this northern segment of North America seem able to relate to each other. We’re content to add our skills and resources to a common pool and work together to better ourselves. To be sure, we have our disagreements like any family would, but we are a family. We don’t, and have never needed a universally acceptable national mythos to function together. We each personally understand our identity or identities, and that seems to be enough. Perhaps our nation will undergo geopolitical and cultural changes and become completely unrecognizable in days to come. Perhaps it will fragment and evolve in several different directions. But it hasn’t yet.

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The Historian Writing Contemporary True Crime

By Greg Marquis

The true crime section of the local bookstore or library is a popular place. In addition, specialty television channels have a heavy rotation of true crime documentaries, series such as “48 Hours” and “Forensic Files” and docudramas based on celebrated crimes and criminals such as serial killers, gangsters and outlaw bikers.  Then there are popular podcasts such as “Serial” based on the trial and conviction of Baltimore teenager Adnan Syed for the murder of his girlfriend.

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52 Canterbury Street, Saint John Court Exhibit R. V. Denis Oland

According to Anita Biressi, a true crime book or magazine article, “unlike news or a documentary, is promoted primarily and explicitly as a leisure pursuit.”[1] By this criteria alone, the academic historian contemplating working on contemporary crime should probably quit at the outset- we are not trained or conditioned at graduate school or via grant writing, conference participation, peer-review publishing, or (hopefully) through teaching, to ‘entertain.’  Yet the public and trade (non-academic) publishers and reviewers expect accounts of well-known crimes that entertain. And public interest in a specific crime tends to be in direct proportion to the amount of media coverage accorded an investigation and trial. Thus the 2016 trial and acquittal of CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi, reporting for which helped start a national conversation on consensual sexual relationships, produced a book by Ken Donovan, published several months after Ghomeshi’s acquittal on sexual assault charges. In contrast, none of the thirty-seven homicides that took place in the Atlantic provinces in 2015 has been the subject of a book.[2]

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