By Anne Marie Lane Jonah
This week the Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society is finally available. We have to apologize, but the Journal had a very challenging year last year, losing the founding editor, Brian Cuthbertson, to a well-deserved retirement, but also, very sadly, coping with the passing of beloved genealogy editor Terry Punch. After some time to regroup, the Journal is up and running again, although not yet right on schedule. I have been entrusted with the role of editor, and Kenneth Paulsen that of genealogy editor. Along with long-standing and very supportive book review editor Karen Smith, we have at last produced our first edition, Volume 20, out this week.
In this period of changes, we are happy to have the guidance of the editorial board, and the society executive, and the support of the new president Sara Beanlands.
Together we decided that henceforth our publication needs to include an acknowledgement of ancestral, unceded Mi’kmaw territory. This change was made with the support of the board and the executive, and with the guidance of John Reid, whose familiarity with the contents of all the society’s publications for its close to 150 years of history is mind boggling. John pointed out that in a paper published in the Collections of the Society in 1881, the Reverend George Hill had described the Indigenous people (not the Reverend’s words) as “the undisputed owners of the soil.” It is not news or new to historians to acknowledge the reality of Indigenous territory. We feel that in this moment it is vital that a publication based on place acknowledges the history of that place and includes it fully.
This volume represents the Society well, I believe, with a range of papers from new and long-standing contributors. There are two excellent papers of Mi’kmaw scholarship: Martha Walls of Mount Saint Vincent University, in “Mi’kmaw Politicism and the Origins of the Micmac Community Development Program, 1899–1957,” addresses organization and resistance in response to the imposed move of the King’s Road Reserve in Cape Breton, and to the federal Centralization program; while Courtney Mrazek, a doctoral candidate at the University of New Brunswick, in “‘after planting their few potatoes they wander about the Island’: The Mi’kmaq and British Agricultural Policies in Nineteenth-Century Nova Scotia,” analyzes Mi’kmaw responses to British colonial and Canadian agricultural policies in the 19th century.
As new scholarship has been inspired by the recent centenary of the Halifax Explosion, Barry Cahill, emeritus of the Nova Scotia Archives, shares his recent work on the political response to the tragedy, “The Canadian Federal Government and the Politics of Disaster Relief during Nova Scotia’s Great War.” Julian Gwyn, professor emeritus of the University of Ottawa, and stalwart of Nova Scotian history, shares the essay he presented as the Phyllis R. Blakeley Memorial Lecture in 2016, “The Private Life of Jessie MacCallum, Diarist of Windsor & St George, 1901-1910,” providing an intimate insight into the life and struggles of a young woman of the Anglo-Protestant elite of Nova Scotia in the early 20th century.
This issue introduces a new section, “Research Notes,” to present shorter essays on a single, previously unstudied, source. In “‘Race prejudice unfortunately dies hard’: the 1929 proposal to return racial segregation to Halifax’s public schools,” David Sutherland, David States, and Judith Fingard (I think this blog would be too long if I tried to summarize the careers of those three) present their study of the signatories of a community petition against the proposed segregation, providing an incredible insight into the community at that time. This essay is supported by a database that will be available through our website, but that requires sign-in authorization found in the article (you have to read the journal first!). In, “William Shires of Chester,” David Bryden, a British scholar of technology history, analyzes a sketch of an observatory designed and built by a young astronomer from Chester in the late 18th century (a bit of an early-modern MacGyver). That sketch, recently gifted to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, is also the cover image for this issue.
Finishing off the journal is an intriguing genealogy, supported by a very cool artwork, contributed by Deb Trask, curator emeritus of the Nova Scotia Museum, and her mother Gwen Trask, titled “The Taint of Witchcraft, from Salem Massachusetts to Yarmouth Nova Scotia.” And, of course, the journal concludes with our very useful book reviews!
One more new thing is that, drawing upon the more than a century of publication, the Society, and those who seem to remember everything that it ever published, are able to offer articles pertinent to today’s news. We, being those wiser than I, have elected to choose such gems from time to time and make them available in their entirety on our website. Right now, under the “Journal” tab at rnshs.ca you will find, for completely free (also generously shared by their authors), “The Three Lives of Edward Cornwallis,” an article by John G. Reid in Vol. 16 of the RNSHS Journal (2013); and in honour of Dalhousie University’s bicentennial, “The Perils of Dalhousie History and Analogous Ventures,” an article by P.B. Waite in Vol. 1 of the RNSHS Journal (1998). Happy reading, and stay tuned, our plan is to get the journal mostly back on track by publishing volume 21 before the end of 2018, and then Volume 22 will be on time, in September of 2019.
Anne Marie Jane Lomah is an historian with Parks Canada and the editor of the Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society.