Military Service, Citizenship, & Political Culture: Militia Studies in Atlantic Canada 1700 – 2000

By Cynthia Wallace-Casey 

Remembering the First World War

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“Mud and barbed wire through which the Canadians advanced during the Battle of Passchendaele.” William Rider-Rider. Canada. Dept. of National Defence. Library and Archives Canada , A-002165

2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War. This was a significant centenary year for Canadians, as the anniversary sparked a great deal of interest in commemorative activities and programmes. Of particular interest to my research is the Canadian War Museum’s Supply Line First World War Discovery Box, which became highly sought after by educators across Canada, as a useful tool for remembering the war. What made Supply Line particularly effective as a classroom resource was the use of museum artefacts, reproductions, and images that enabled students to experience war in tactile ways. Because of its popularity, however, access to the discovery box became highly competitive, and this popularity has since not waned at all. Every year, teachers across Canada vie to be included on the museum’s circulation schedule.

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Canadian War Museum Supply Line First World War Discovery Box. Courtesy of the Canadian War Museum

The International Context

As the “war to end all wars” fades from living memory, an international research network known as the Teaching and Learning War Research Network has been working since 2017 to explore concepts of war remembrance among young people. It is in this international context that new questions have arisen about 1) the ways cataclysmic events are taught in the 21st century; 2) what commemorative narratives exist in education; 3) how young people respond to and interpret such messages; and 4) the relationship between education and commemoration ( These questions point to complex ways of remembering the First World War.

Commonwealth partners in the international inquiry include the Te Papa, Pukeahu Heritage Park and Auckland Museum in New Zealand (lead investigators: Dr. Mark Sheehan and Martyn Davison, Victoria University of Wellington), as well as the Imperial War Museum and National Army Museum in the United Kingdom (lead investigator: Dr. Catriona Pennell, University of Exeter), and Museums Victoria in Australia (see also Innes & Sharpe, 2018; Sheehan & Taylor, 2016). Data collection has been completed in New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom (Sheehan, 2018).

The Canadian Context

Working with the Canadian War Museum, Dr. Lorna Mclean and myself have initiated a small University of Ottawa inquiry, aimed at identifying the concepts Canadian students (grades 7 – 9) construct about war. We are particularly interested in how the Canadian War Museum’s Supply Line discovery box may impact these beliefs. More specifically, our research question is twofold: “What core beliefs and assumptions underpin young peoples’ narrative beliefs about the First World War in Canada; and how does Supply Line support historical thinking and historical empathy about the First World War.” Our objective is to explore the extent to which students are able to question the highly emotive official narratives of reverence and sacrifice—to construct more complex narratives of war remembrance that empathize with a wide variety of war experiences.

Unfortunately, what we have discovered thus far, is that due to high demand, many teachers do not have access to the museum’s discovery box. For this reason, we have begun the process of replicating and localizing the discovery box (much as has already happened in Newfoundland with The Rooms BMO First World War Edu-kit). In so doing, we hope to make the material more easily accessible to classrooms in New Brunswick. Our replicated discovery box will be available for educators wishing to participate in the inquiry by September 2020.

Research Intersections

So how does this relate to the activities of the Military Service, Citizenship and Political Culture research initiative? I believe that our research interests intersect in three specific areas:

  1. Student narratives around Acadian participation in the First World War;
  2. Student beliefs about identity, loyalty, and obligation to the Commonwealth (and how these may or may not differ between classrooms and language groups within Atlantic Canada); and
  3. Insights into current student learning about war (grades 7 – 9), and how this might relate to new research being undertaken by the Atlantic Canada Military Service, Citizenship and Political Culture research network.

Looking more broadly upon international research, Mark Sheehan and Catriona Pennell have collected preliminary data, and undertaken a comparative analysis of 11-16 year-olds visiting First World War exhibition sites in Wellington (New Zealand), or Western Front battlefields (United Kingdom). Some of their findings have been recently published in the History Education Research Journal (volume 17, no 1, April 2020).

In New Zealand (Sheehan & Davison, 2017), Mark Sheehan has focused upon student remembrance around the Gallipoli campaign. His findings indicate that while young people in New Zealand (aged 13-14 years) perceive Gallipoli as significant to their national identity, they do not draw upon historical evidence to justify their beliefs. Instead, they construct “notions of sacrifice, heroism and a debt of duty to support their views” (p. 260). Upon examination of museum-related images that challenge popular beliefs about Gallipoli, however, Sheehan has found that a substantial number of students adopt more complex concepts for remembering. As Sheehan observes:

What emerged from the elicitation task is that when given the opportunity to do so, young people were able to engage critically with the production of cultural memory messages about war remembrance… Far from being passive consumers of national narratives about Anzac, the ways that these young New Zealanders made meaning of war remembrance was complex, nuanced and critical (Pennell & Sheehan, 2020, p. 26).

In Australia, where Anzac Day and the battle of Gallipoli are equally remembered, Melanie Innes and Heather Sharp (2018) have reached similar conclusions. They have found that a large proportion of students participating in their inquiry (aged 13 – 18 years) perceive Gallipoli as their iconic symbol of nation building (p. 203); only a very small proportion recognize differing perspectives surrounding this ideology (p. 202).

Likewise, Catriona Pennell in the United Kingdom has discovered similar beliefs among students aged 14-16 years. She has found that young people hold an “uncritical engagement” (Pennell & Sheehan, p. 27) with the First World War, attributing significance to remembering simply because “it would be disrespectful not to” (Pennell & Sheehan, 2020, p. 27). Through her research, involving students visiting First World War battlefields on the Western Front in France, Pennell has found that while the excursion greatly enhances students’ empathy towards war, the experience actually perpetuates beliefs about war remembrance that are shaped around patriotic concepts of sacrifice, duty and loyalty (Pennell, 2018, p. 93). As Pennell concludes: “The tours are teaching young people to remember a predominantly British experience of the First World War, to ensure that the “next generation” engages in remembrance practices – but for what purpose is not entirely clear to the students” (p. 94).

Here in Canada, we wish to investigate how teaching tools like the Supply Line discovery box may or may not enable students to move beyond such notions of reverence and duty, to adopt more complex—and more inclusive—understandings about war. Most certainly, the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted our work in this regard; but we are nevertheless hopeful, that a day will come when students can return to their classrooms again. In the interim, we are seeking teachers, or individual homeschooled students, who may wish to borrow our discovery box and participate in our inquiry. The replicated trunk will be available for use beginning in September 2020. I invite anyone who may be interested in participating in our inquiry to reach out to me at .

Works Cited:

Canadian War Museum. First World War discovery box. Retrieved from

Innes, M., & Sharp, H. (2018). World War I commemoration and student historical consciousness: A study of high-school students’ views. History Education Research Journal, 15(2), 193-205.

Pennell, C. (2018). Taught to remember? British youth and First World War centenary battlefield tours. Cultural Trends, 27(2), 83-98.

Pennell, C. & Sheehan, M. (2020). But what do they really think? Methodological challenges of investigating young people’s perspectives of war remembrance. History Education Research Journal, 17(1), 21-35.

Sheehan, M. (February 5 & June 17, 2018). Personal communication.

Sheehan, M., & Davison, M. (2017). “We need to remember they died for us”: War remembrance in New Zealand and young people’s “memory messages” about Gallipoli and ANZAC. London Review of Education, 15(2), 259-271.

Sheehan, M., & Taylor, T. (2016). Australia and New Zealand: ANZAC and Gallipoli in the twenty first century. In R. Guyver (ed.), The teaching of history and the changing nation state – transnational and intranational perspectives (pp. 237-254). London: Bloomsbury.

Teaching and Learning War Research Network. Teaching and learning war research network: Education and modern conflict in an international comparative perspective. Retrieved from:

The Rooms. The Rooms BMO First World War edu-kit. Retrieved from:



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Is there an ideological Left, Right and Centre in Canadian Politics?

By Gail Campbell

Editor’s Note: This post was submitted on 13 May 2020.

The daughter of a ‘working man’ whose experience and understanding of the world in some ways surpassed that of my teachers, I became interested in politics at an early age. As a graduate student in the 1970s, I was attracted to the ‘new political history’, which sought to trace the connections between electoral behaviour and political ideologies. Yet the methodology of the ‘new political historians’ drew a good deal of criticism, often from those who were not only sceptical of but also intimidated by statistical analysis. Ultimately, even many of the ‘new political historians’ themselves became discouraged by time-consuming data gathering and analysis, and abandoned the computer assisted effort to understand and explain the participation of ordinary people in formal and informal party politics.

In recent years, the analysis of Canadian political history has tended to drift away from a nuanced analysis of party politics and toward a more general, often confusing overview that conflates the two major parties into a single ideological framework. At best, Canada’s system is discussed in terms of ‘brokerage politics’ with two ‘big tent’ parties, each with a small loyal core, vying for the same supporters. This situation has, according to a widely held view, resulted in the triumph of ‘neoliberal policies’, for which we can read ‘Capitalism’. The problem with this characterisation is its narrow economic focus and lack of sophisticated analytical framework or theoretical perspective. It tends to originate in and reflect a dismissive condemnation of both major parties. Continue reading

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Une épopée corsaire au Canada atlantique durant le régime français

This essay is part of a series of contributions to be published over the coming years by members of the research group “Military Service, Citizenship, and Political Culture: Studies of Militias in Atlantic Canada.” Any questions about the project can be sent to Gregory Kennedy, Research Director of the Acadian Studies Institute at the Université de Moncton at
Nous vous présentons une texte d’une série de contributions qui seront publiées au cours des prochaines années par des membres du groupe de recherche « Service militaire, citoyenneté et culture politique : études des milices au Canada atlantique ». N’hésitez pas à joindre Gregory Kennedy, directeur scientifique de l’Institut d’études acadiennes de l’Université de Moncton, pour toute question concernant le projet à

Nicolas Landry

Université de Moncton, campus de Shippagan

Nul besoin d’insister sur le fait que la guerre de course et les corsaires n’occupent pas une grande place dans l’historiographie militaire de la Nouvelle-France. Du moins, pas au même titre que les troupes de la marine, la milice ou encore les alliances entre communautés amérindiennes et eurocanadiennes. Une explication possible à ce phénomène réside sans doute dans le fait que cette activité se concentrait très majoritairement dans les colonies françaises de l’actuel Canada atlantique qui ont moins retenu l’attention des spécialistes de la Nouvelle-France jusqu’ici, soit Port Royal et le fleuve Saint-Jean en Acadie, Plaisance à Terre-Neuve et, finalement, Louisbourg sur l’île Royale. Les chiffres parlent d’eux-mêmes puisque, en définitive, sur un total de 332 prises de navires anglais déclarées en Nouvelle-France entre 1689 et 1759, 89% ont été effectuées dans l’espace colonial français du Canada atlantique[1].


Figure 1 – Carte de l’Accadie et Pais Voisins, 1757, Jacques-Nicolas Bellin (Wikipedia)

C’est donc en vertu de cette lacune historiographique mentionnée ci-haut que je me suis intéressé à cet aspect négligé de l’histoire du Canada atlantique. Le projet tentera à la fois de mieux faire comprendre les réalités de la course française dans la région mais aussi de présenter certains de ses principaux acteurs. À noter que ce texte s’inscrit dans deux projets en collaboration avec le Professeur Gregory Kennedy, directeur de l’Institut d’études acadiennes de l’Université de Moncton. D’abord celui intitulé « La course et les corsaires en Acadie et sur l’Île Royale, 1688 à 1758 », qui a bénéficié d’une subvention de la Faculté des études supérieures et de la recherche de cette institution. Ensuite, celui intitulé « Service militaire, citoyenneté et culture politique; études des milices au Canada atlantique 1700-2000 », en collaboration avec le Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society et le Département d’histoire de la University of New Brunswick.

La période à l’étude dans ce projet s’aligne sur la chronologie de l’histoire-bataille coloniale qui regroupe les guerres d’Augsbourg (1688-1697), de Succession d’Espagne (1702-1713), de Succession d’Autriche (1744-48) et de Sept Ans (1754-1763). En guise d’entrée en matière, nous consacrons néanmoins ce billet à démontrer que l’activité corsaire dans la région est d’abord l’œuvre d’initiatives anglo-hollandaises entre 1613 et 1674. L’activité française, quant à elle, débute plutôt avec la Guerre de la Ligue d’Augsbourg en 1688. Ainsi, en 1613, lorsque le capitaine anglais Samuel Argall, amiral de la nouvelle colonie de Virginie, s’empare de Saint-Sauveur et de Port Royal, il est à ce moment muni d’une commission en guerre du roi d’Angleterre. Il en va de même des frères Kirke qui détiennent des lettres de marque de Charles Ier (décembre 1627) les autorisant à capturer des « French Prizes in the Atlantic during the Anglo-French War »[2]. Les Kirke s’empareront non seulement des postes français du fleuve Saint-Laurent, entre Cap Tourmentin et Tadoussac, incluant le poste de traite français de l’île Miscou et finalement Québec. Fait intéressant à noter, rappelons que les Kirke sont des huguenots et natifs de Dieppe en France. En 1627, suite au début de la guerre entre la France et l’Angleterre, le roi Charles Ier confie à David Kirke et à ses frères la mission de s’emparer du Canada. Quoiqu’ils échouent devant Québec en 1628, ils réussissent l’exploit en 1629.

Champlain cédant Québec à l’amiral Kirk le 20 juillet 1629

Figure 2 – Champlain surrendering Qubec to Admiral Kirke, July 20, 1628, oilette postcard printed in England after the drawing by R. Caton Woodville (Wikipedia)

L’expédition est alors organisée par la Company of Adventurers to Canada[3]. En ce qui concerne le major Robert Sedgwick, nommé par Cromwell, il détient lui-aussi une commission de course lorsqu’il s’empare de l’Acadie en 1654. Il est également sûr qu’en 1674, le capitaine Jurriaen Aernoutsz commande un navire corsaire hollandais, le Flying Horse, lorsqu’il attaque Machias, Saint-Jean et Jemseg, avant de vendre son butin à Boston[4]. Ainsi, avant 1688, les épisodes violents survenant à Terre-Neuve ou entre l’Acadie et la Nouvelle-Angleterre découlent davantage de luttes pour le contrôle des pêches que d’enjeux proprement impériaux[5]. À cette époque, il y aura toutefois des tentatives en vue d’assurer un contexte de paix dans les colonies atlantiques détenues par la France et l’Angleterre. Continue reading

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Spring 2020 Acadiensis

By Suzanne Morton and Donald Wright

The publication of the Spring 2020 issue of Acadiensis takes place in a very different world from that of when it began to come together. Indeed, no one could have anticipated how quickly the novel coronavirus would spread or the toll it would take. Our hearts go out to our readers who have been directly impacted by the pandemic or whose precarious incomes have been made even more precarious.

Still, historians are well-equipped: the study of change over time is our bread and butter, giving us much-needed perspective and the ability to read change in the present.

To this end, we are delighted with the he Spring issue both for its scholarship and its unusually broad sweep, from the late-17th century to the 1970s. Thomas Peace contributes an exciting and original analysis of social networks in early-18th century Kespukwitk and Port Royal, arguing that there was less interaction between Indigenous populations and settlers than has been assumed.

G. Patrick O’Brien offers an article on a family in Loyalist exile in Halifax focusing on the women’s emotions. In his words, “Loyalist women were not simply complicit followers. To the contrary, women had influence over their husband’s decisions concerning the family and were also important public figures in the creation of Loyalist communities.”

The Nova Scotia Cricket League at the turn of the 20th century is the subject of John Reid’s contribution. For a period of time, Reid argues, the NSCL served an important integrative function. When read in the context of Black Lives Matter, his scholarship is yet another powerful reminder of the historical presence and participation of Black Nova Scotians throughout society.

Andrew Secord examines the process of political decision making around New Brunswick’s move into nuclear power in the early 1970s. In remarkable detail, and drawing on the idea of decisions becoming “locked-in,” he uncovers where, how, and why the decision to build Point Lepreau was made.

Finally, we round out the volume with Jacques Gagnon’s research note on a 1686 Beaubassin map and two review essays by Michael McCrossan and Fred Burrill that examine recent books on Indigenous legal issues and modern state planning respectively.

Readers should be able to access the issue through MUSE next week and through other platforms shortly after. And although the mailing of hardcopies will be delayed because of the closure of the University of New Brunswick campus, we are actively looking at ways of getting copies to our subscribers as soon as possible.

On behalf of the Acadiensis team, we hope that you enjoy this issue. We also hope that you and your family are well during this difficult time. We won’t say unprecedented time because, as historians, we know that nothing is unprecedented and that everything has a precedent. In this sense, we are incredibly lucky to be historians.

Suzanne Morton and Donald Wright are Co-editors of Acadiensis.


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The Wake: The Deadly Legacy of a Newfoundland Tsunami

By Linda Kealey

On a recent news broadcast, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Health Officer of Alberta, compared the current pandemic crisis to a tidal wave that sweeps all before it out to sea.  Tidal waves and tsunamis destroy lives and communities often without warning.  Her comparison brought to mind Linden MacIntyre’s recent historical narrative based in the Newfoundland community of St. Lawrence, located on the South Coast of the province.  The Wake: The Deadly Legacy of a Newfoundland Tsunami (Toronto: Harper Collins Canada, 2018) is both a historical recounting of events and a personal coming to grips with a legacy not only of a disastrous tidal wave that killed 28 people in November 1929, wiping out buildings and the fishery, but also of the ensuing turn of that community to fluorspar mining.  The mines replaced the fishery but left in their wake a history of industrial disease and death, taking the lives of hundreds of miners, leaving families to grieve and deal with inadequate compensation.

the wake

The Wake: The Deadly Legacy of a Newfoundland Tsunami.

As a journalist and novelist, MacIntyre tells these stories as a tribute to the residents and victims of the tsunami and as a reminder of corporate greed as well as government failures to act.  His father moved to St. Lawrence in the 1940s to work in mining but stayed only a few years (Linden MacIntyre was born in a nearby community) before returning to Cape Breton. The author’s conversations with his father in the 1960s brought to light the perils of underground mining and the economic factors that led men to risk their lives to earn a living for their families.  His book starts with the tsunami and its impact on the community, drawing on archival documents, government sources, interviews and personal stories, setting the context for the community’s eager embrace of a mining proposition in the subsequent hard times of the Great Depression. Continue reading

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The David Alexander Prize / Le prix David Alexander – 2020 ($400)

The David Alexander Prize – 2020 ($400)

The David Alexander Prize is awarded annually for the best essay on the history of Atlantic Canada written in a course by an undergraduate student in any university. The amount of the prize is currently set at $400.


  • Entries must be undergraduate essays between 1,500 and 5,000 words in length on some aspect of the history of Atlantic Canada, written in English or French.
  • They may be research, interpretive, or historiographical efforts.
  • The author must be part-time or full-time undergraduate student in a degree program at an accredited university or college, and the essay must have been written to meet the requirement of an undergraduate credit course during the 2019-2020 academic year.
  • Previous winners of the prize may not compete.

Submissions: Entries shall be submitted by course instructors no later than 30 June 2020. No instructor shall submit more than two entries. Essays should not bear the instructor’s comments or a grade. Entries may be sent as an electronic copy or a printed copy.

Adjudication: Entries will be judged by a panel of three distinguished historians. The winner will be announced in the autumn of 2020. No runners-up or honorary mentions will be designated.

Entries may be submitted by email attachment to the Acadiensis Administrative Assistant at, or by post to:

Alexander Prize Committee
c/o Office Manager, Acadiensis
Campus House, University of New Brunswick
P.O. Box 4400, Fredericton, N.B.   E3B 5A3

Le prix David Alexander – 2020 ($400)

Le prix David-Alexander est accordé annuellement à la meilleure dissertation portant sur l’histoire des provinces de l’Atlantique réalisée par une étudiante ou un étudiant dans le cadre d’un cours de premier cycle.


  • Les dissertations soumises doivent avoir été effectuée dans le cadre d’un cours de premier cycle. Elles doivent compter entre 1 500 et 5 000 mots, être rédigées en français ou en anglais, et traiter en profondeur d’un aspect de l’histoire des provinces de l’Atlantique.
  • Il peut s’agir d’un travail de recherche ou d’un essai de type historiographique.
  • L’auteur doit être inscrit à temps plein ou à temps partiel dans un programme de premier cycle dispensé par une université ou un collège reconnu. La dissertation doit avoir été rédigée à titre d’exigence dans le cadre d’un cours de premier cycle offert durant l’année universitaire 2019-2020.
  • Les personnes ayant déjà reçu le prix ne sont pas éligibles.

Dépôt des candidatures: Les dossiers de candidature doivent être présentés par les professeurs avant le 30 June 2020. Aucun professeur ne peut présenter plus de deux dossiers. Les dissertations doivent être dactylographiées et ne comporter aucun commentaire ou note de la personne responsable du cours.

Résultats: Les dossiers seront évalués par un jury formé de trois historiens de renom. Le gagnant sera connu au plus tard à l’autumne 2020. Aucun prix de deuxième place ou mention spéciale ne sera accordé.

Les candidatures peuvent être soumises en l’envoyant par email attachement à l’assistant administratif d’Acadiensis (, ou par courrier à:

Alexander Prize Committee
c/o Office Manager, Acadiensis
Campus House, University of New Brunswick
P.O. Box 4400, Fredericton, N.B.   E3B 5A3         

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William Ambrose John Revisited

By David Frank

I came across the file when I was doing research in Immigration Branch records in Ottawa in the 1970s. Those documents told the sad story of William Ambrose John, a young coal miner from Wales, who shot himself at the Salvation Army hostel in Saint John, New Brunswick in September 1920.


A working-class family, Morriston, Wales, c. 1909. William Ambrose John (seated front right) with his mother, father, sisters and brothers. He was about ten years old at this time. Photo courtesy of Georgina Howden.

He, and his companion Robert Johnson, were among a group of workers recruited that year by the Dominion Coal Company for work in the Cape Breton coal mines. When they received their first pays, they found they were not earning the wages they were promised by the company’s immigration agent. Ambrose was convinced he would never make enough money to send for his wife and child. They left for New Brunswick, where they took work at the sugar refinery in Saint John. Johnson went to work in the mines at Minto, while Ambrose made plans to return to Swansea for his family and make a new start in the United States.

During his last days, however, Ambrose became despondent. He received news from home and wrote heart-rending letters to his wife: “If I had wings I would fly over the Atlantic in order to take you in my arms and comfort you.” And in another: “your Ambrose has been through hell this last six weeks.” According to the Saint John coroner, those letters were never sent. Ambrose also left a letter addressed to the local police: “will you please try to stop the Dominion Coal Company from luring any more men from the Old Country under false promises.” Continue reading

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“The Militia and Civic Community in Colonial New Brunswick: Part I, 1786-1816”

The post is published in partnership with our friends at Borealia.
Note de l’éditeur : Service militaire, citoyenneté et culture politique : études des milices au Canada atlantique
Nous vous présentons le premier texte d’une série de contributions qui seront publiées au cours des prochaines années par des membres d’un nouveau groupe de recherche en histoire des milices au Canada atlantique. Réuni autour d’un projet de recherche subventionné par le Conseil de recherche en sciences humaines du Canada, le groupe souhaite approfondir nos connaissances sur les apports pluriels des milices en temps de guerre et de paix, de l’époque coloniale à nos jours. Largement négligés de la production historiographique, les milices et les débats entourant leurs activités, formes et mobilisations n’ont pas pour le moins été déterminants à l’édification du Canada et à l’histoire de l’Amérique du Nord. Nonobstant cette lacune, le Canada atlantique, par sa mosaïque de communautés culturelles – Autochtones, Acadiens, Irlandais, etc. – et la diversité de son aménagement territorial – tant rural qu’urbain – constitue un laboratoire stimulant pour étudier les milices à partir d’un ensemble de perspectives. Tablant sur ces avantages, les membres du groupe de recherche se sont engagés à collaborer de façon régulière aux blogues d’Acadiensis et de Borealia. Qu’il s’agisse de billets, de notes de recherche, de commentaires de document ou d’articles de fond, les membres du groupe feront ainsi périodiquement part de leurs travaux et réflexions sur ces plateformes. N’hésitez pas à joindre Gregory Kennedy, directeur scientifique de l’Institut d’études acadiennes de l’Université de Moncton, pour toute question concernant le projet à
Contribution produite dans le cadre du projet « Service militaire, citoyenneté et culture politique : études des milices au Canada atlantique ».

Military Service, Citizenship and Political Culture: Militia Studies in Atlantic Canada
This is the first text in a series of contributions to be published over the coming years by members of a new research group on militia history in Atlantic Canada. Assembled through a research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada, the group wishes to broaden our knowledge on the many contributions of the militia in times of war and peace, from colonial times to the present. Widely overlooked in the historiography, militias and the debates surrounding their activities, forms and mobilizations were decisive in the shaping of Canada and North America history. Notwithstanding this gap, Atlantic Canada, with its mosaic of cultural communities – First Nations, Acadians, Irish, etc. – and the diversity of its territorial planning – both rural and urban – constitutes a stimulating laboratory for studying the militia from different perspectives. Building on these advantages, members of the research group have committed themselves to collaborating regularly on Acadiensis and Borealia blogs. Whether it be short essay, research notes, document commentary or traditional articles, group members will periodically share their work and thoughts on these platforms. Any questions about the project can be sent to Gregory Kennedy, Research Director of the Acadian Studies Institute at the Université de Moncton at
Contribution produced within the framework of the project “Military service, citizenship and political culture: studies of militias in Atlantic Canada”.

by Elizabeth Mancke and Abbie MacPherson

No provincial institution in pre-Confederation British North America brought more people under its purview as did militias, notwithstanding exclusions, most particularly older men, women, and children.[1] A provincial militia was more inclusive than religion or ethnicity, more comprehensive than the political community defined by the franchise. Men who could not vote still mustered for militia training. Denominational adversaries marched together for militia training but would not share a church pew. Linguistic antagonists and racialized peoples found common cause in a militia regiment. For these reasons, militias were more important for defining and shaping the civic culture of pre-Confederation British North America than we have appreciated.

This short essay reflects on the militia and civic society in early New Brunswick through a preliminary analysis of militia legislation from 1786 to 1816, which was surprisingly expressive of civic values. In its first thirty years, the assembly passed nine successive militia laws, and a further six amending bills. In the first eight, the assembly shrewdly included sunset clauses, initially five years for peacetime legislation (1787, 1792, and 1802), and “during the present war, and no longer,” for the first two wartime militia laws (1794 and 1805).[2] Through sunset clauses, the assembly committed itself to regularly review and renew provincial militia policies, as well as ensure that the militia remained a provincial rather than imperial institution. Indeed, during the Napoleonic Wars, the New Brunswick assembly resisted metropolitan British attempts to bring colonial militias under imperial military authority.[3] The assembly also limited the governor’s fiscal discretion over militia officers by setting compensation caps for adjutants, who the governor paid.[4] In its frequent renewals and revisions, the assembly also modified terms of inclusion, thus offering periodic glimpses into New Brunswickers’ understandings of the intersection of military preparedness and civic obligations. Continue reading

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Where the Boys Are

By Greg Marquis

In his 2015 memoir South End Boy: Growing up in Halifax in the tumultuous ’30s and ’40s, former CBC radio and television personality Jim Bennet recalled the freedom that boys, some as young as five, had to roam the wharves, streets, alleys, railways tracks, shoreline, ponds and open spaces of the Nova Scotia capital. Whereas girls, at least in his family, lived relatively sheltered lives, urban boys were on the move, with little adult supervision, in search of adventure.[1] Similarly, interviews conducted for the anthology Occupied St. John’s stressed that the Newfoundland city-even in war time- was a giant playground for boys.[2]

My research into a 1902 murder case in Saint John, which took place a generation prior to Bennett’s experiences and those of the adults interviewed for the Newfoundland project,  uncovered a similar pattern for that industrial city: boys, especially of the working class, appeared to enjoy considerable freedom, away from the control of parents, teachers, employers and religious leaders.[3] Willie Doherty was an Irish Catholic teenager from a working class neighbourhood, most of it later lost to urban renewal, that was once called the East End.  It was a tenement district of low-story wooden buildings between Waterloo Street and Courtenay Bay. In addition to several corner stores and other small businesses, the East End was home to railway tracks, a tannery and a cotton mill. The population consisted of native-born Protestants and Roman Catholics and a few immigrants, notably ‘Syrians’ (Lebanese immigrants). The area was an early target of housing and other reformers including the playground movement.

Dime novels were thought to contribute to the boy problem

Dime novels were thought to contribute to the boy problem.

The East End was the subject of Saint John’s first housing survey in 1914.  As defined by 1940s urban planning and 1950s urban renewal advocates, the neighbourhood was not only a blighted area, it was also a source of social pathology, especially juvenile delinquency. The implication was that eradication of the neighbourhood- or large parts of it- would remove social problems.[4]  The murder of Doherty in nearby Rockwood Park (another threat to moral reformers) in 1902 threw into sharp focus the ‘boy problem,’ an issue identified by the 1890s if not earlier. Journalists, educators, maternal feminists, members of the clergy, police and municipal officials adopted both soft and hard approaches to the threat, the manifestations of which were truancy, voluntary unemployment, cigarette smoking, the use of bad language, loitering, the consumption of harmful popular culture such as dime novels and motion pictures, the carrying of weapons and involvement in petty crime, notably burglary and shoplifting. Individuals and organizations who advocated or implemented soft responses were motivated by the environmental and sentimental theories of the ‘child saving’ movement.  As detailed by Julia Grant, urban boys of poor, immigrant and minority backgrounds were a special challenge for American educators stating in the 1870s.[5] Continue reading

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Call for Papers: Rainbows of New Brunswick Hope in the Face of COVID-19: Creativity, Safety, and Resilience

Rainbows of New Brunswick Hope in the Face of COVID-19: Creativity, Safety, and Resilience

The Journal for New Brunswick Studies ( invites contributions that address the impact of the novel coronavirus on the people, communities, and economy of New Brunswick for a thematic issue on this topical and important subject, to be published in 2022. Its specific objectives are to assess the response of the Government of New Brunswick to this public health crisis and its economic reverberations, to stimulate discussion on community trauma and mental wellbeing, to discuss the social impact of this pandemic, and to shed light on creative expression inspired by a virus that has drastically altered our lives and the fabric of our province. To anchor a collective reflection on a complex subject, we use a powerful metaphor introduced by the global rainbow movement, which intertwines hope, resilience, and creativity. Contributors are thus expected to provide informed and engaging assessments of this global pandemic that consider the present situation within New Brunswick in relation to a new, post-coronavirus reality, concluding with insights and lessons learnt. Continue reading

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