History, Memory, People, and Place: The Spring 2021 Issue of Acadiensis

For half a century, Acadiensis has supported a scholarly conversation between past and present, expanding the definition of history, memory, people, and place in the process and making it an impressive run of intellectual life both in the region and in the country.

The Spring 2021 issue continues that run. It opens with an article by Miriam Wright on Chinese immigration to Newfoundland from 1918 to the mid-1940s. Specifically, Wright examines Chinese restaurants as sites of economic opportunity and mobility as well as sites of racial tension and gender trouble. By 1946, Chinese immigrants owned 18 of 27 restaurants in St. John’s. Indeed, the King Café, the Dominion Café, and the European Café, among others, remind us that St. John’s was a “diverse and complex urban environment.”

Also writing on Newfoundland – in this case, on the thorny question of religion and schooling – Rebecca Ralph introduces readers to an 1890 essay contest, Brother John Slatterly, and his winning essay on, his words, “how the present denominational system may be retained.” His essay led to the creation of the Council for Higher Education a few years later, entrenching church control over schooling for more than a century. But schools were not, Ralph writes, a “sectarian mess.” In fact, education was characterized by denominational co-operation in advancing Newfoundland through public education, “not undermining it.”

Broadening the definition of historical source, Hilary Doda uses sewing scissors found in four archaeological digs to offer new insights into Acadian social hierarchy and womanhood before 1755. In her words, “Fine sewing and its associated toolkit played a crucial role in the definition of early modern elite European womanhood, and the presence of embroidery scissors in pre-deportation Acadia sheds new light on some of the Acadian value systems and means of navigating complex social structures in the colonial environment.” The images alone, especially in the PDF version, are worth the price of admission. At once illustrative and evocative, they encourage us to think about the many possibilities of material history.

Where Doda studies Acadian history before the deportation, Adeline Vasquez-Parra studies it after the deportation, focusing on Acadians who had been deported to France and their new connections to the Indian Ocean. And where Doda draws on material history, Vasquez-Parra draws on micro-history, on 60 Acadian sailors from 1762 to 1785, to make large conclusions about Acadian social networks after 1755. “Cet article insiste sur les connexions établies entre Acadiens et acteurs extérieurs à leur réseau, mais utiles sa reconstitution dans l’Empire français.” How wide was the Atlantic? Very, in fact. It reached the Indian Ocean.

In addition to the research articles, the Spring issue contains a short document analysis – Jacques Gagnon studies the seventeenth-century observations of intendant Jacques de Meulles and the related maps of Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin – and two review essays, one on environmental history by Blair Stein, the other on the First World War and the homefront by Bradley Shoebottom.

Finally, it contains two bibliographies in our three-part series of bibliographies in Atlantic Canadian history. The first, compiled by Teresa Devor Hall and copyedited by Stephen Dutcher, is a bibliography of environmental history that reveals the breadth and depth of the field and speaks to our present climate anxieties and our need to recover and repair our many relationships with the natural world. The second, compiled by Suzanne Morton and Donald Wright, copyedited by Stephen Dutcher, and introduced by George Elliott Clarke, addresses the region’s Black history and its enduring Black presence. Clarke remembers his first encounter as a young man with the Black history of Nova Scotia and the Maritimes in the Dana Porter Library at the University of Waterloo. “I began to see myself see myself, not only as a subject in history, subjected to historical processes, but also as a subject worthy of history, who had a history credible for magic realist mythologizing.” If our bibliography has a similar impact, we will be thrilled.

Given the number of references in both bibliographies to articles first published in this journal, the bibliographies prove yet again the ongoing role that Acadiensis has played in expanding our understanding of history, memory, people, and place in what we call the Atlantic region, la région Atlantique, and Ckuwaponahkik.

SUZANNE MORTON and DONALD WRIGHT

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 corey.slumkoski@msvu.ca.
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