Love’s Labours Found: The Autumn 2020 Issue of Acadiensis

History isn’t easy. In fact, it’s bloody hard. The hours of research; the loneliness of writing; the tedium of revising draft after draft after draft: it takes a toll. And yet, we keep going back to the drawing board because we love what we find in the archives. Riffing on Shakespeare, history isn’t love’s labours lost; it’s love’s labours found.

In the autumn issue of Acadiensis, Ian McKay uncovers race in the Nova Scotia Archives, reminding us that race is historical, not natural, and that it is negotiated and renegotiated over time. But if the examples of everyday racism that point to structural racism are not easy to read, they are important to read in our own historical moment, when people literally around the world insist that Black Lives Matter. Meanwhile, Michael Pass studies Commodore Matthew Perry and the1852-53 fishery question in Prince Edward Island for what it can tell us about Anglo-American diplomacy and Perry’s Japanese expedition in 1853-54. Although “A Black Ship on Red Shores” is not explicitly about race, it does reveal America’s chauvinism and even its racism. Taking us back in time, to the early seventeenth century, Joseph Wachtel examines anti-Jesuitism and the collapse of the mission to Port Royal in 1613. Especially interesting is his use of the Factum du procès entre Jean de Biencourt et les PP. Biard et Massé. If the Factum cannot be read factually, it can be read for what it can tell us about French religious history after the Wars of Religion. David Bent is similarly creative in his reading of The Gillans, a CBC radio series documenting the fictional Gillans of Sunnybrae Farm from 1942-1972: the series can’t be read for what actually happened on Maritime farms, but it can be read as public education, as an attempt to educate the region’s farmers in agricultural modernization, in science, efficiency, and markets.

In addition to the above research articles, this issue contains a novel Forum of three short essays on the transatlantic north. In a neat opening hook, Sasha Mullally asks us to consider the 24 Volvos – lost in a 1969 shipping accident – that lie at the bottom of the Bedford Basin as a metaphor for the region’s lost connections to Sweden. For her part, she looks at the transatlantic circulation of slöjd, a form of manual and moral training, in the Macdonald schools funded by William C. Macdonald, the tobacco manufacturer. John Matchim studies rural-remote health care in Labrador and Swedish Lapland. Ultimately, he concludes that because of the International Grenfell Association’s long history in Labrador, and because of Newfoundland’s late entry into Confederation, “health care provision in Labrador followed a different trajectory from other Canadian provinces, and by the 1970s was, in many respects, more akin to that of northern Sweden.” Finally, Bliss White looks at New Brunswick’s Program of Equal Opportunity and one technocrat’s Swedish study tour. If Alexandre Boudreau’s recommendations were not followed, his 1963 study tour points to the existence of a transatlantic north. After reading this forum, you may not be able to look at a Volvo in quite the same way.

Two research notes also push us to consider new ways of looking at the past. As part of her larger project on Early Modern Maritime Recipes, Edie Snook invites us to consider the recipes of Jonathan Odell. The history of settler colonialism is not only contained in laws and the official dispatches of colonial administrators. It’s also contained in a medicinal recipe for “Indian Chocolate.” Using Hyperbase, a text analysis software, Nicole Boudreau and Chantal Richard measure word frequencies, co-occurrences, associations, and clusters in late nineteenth-century newspapers in order to study larger questions of gender and collective identity in English-speaking and French-speaking New Brunswick. This paper also stems from a large, SSHRC-funded project: Vocabularies of Identity/Vocabulaires Identitaires.

Always a reader favorite, two review essays are published in this issue, one by James Muir on Canada’s legal history, the other by Joel Belliveau on Acadie’s revolution and the “long seventies.”

Finally, the Autumn issue includes the second of three bibliographies on aspects of Atlantic Canadian history. John Matchim’s “Bibliography on Indigenous Peoples” is more than a simple research tool, although it is that too. Turning the pages, one after the other, is a visual reminder of Indigenous history in particular and of historical scholarship in general. And noticing the number of Acadiensis articles is a reminder of the role it has played in that scholarship.

As we near the end of our terms as co-editors, we know something of the genuine labour of love that Acadiensis has been for editors, authors, and board members for nearly half a century. To quote from Love’s Labour’s Lost, “how can that be true love which is falsely attempted?” The question implies its own answer: it can’t be.


About The Acadiensis Blog

The Acadiensis Blog is a place for Atlantic Canadian historians to share their research with both a scholarly and general audience. We welcome submissions on all topics Atlantic Canadian. If you are interested in contributing to the blog, please contact Acadiensis Digital Communications Editor Corey Slumkoski at
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