Thursday, July 30, 2015

History of racism: the confederate flag in Canada

That debate over display of the Confederate flag that developed after the Charleston church murders is no longer exclusively American. The Nova Scotia-based Citizens against White Supremacy has launched a campaign to have display of the Confederate flag considered a hate crime across Canada.

Among the leaders of the project is Dalhousie University historian and director of its Transitional Year Program, Isaac Saney, a scholar of Cuban and African history.

A lot of Canadians probably associate that flag mostly with Duke boy cars, Texas barbecue, and immoderate beer consumption.  But there has been an interesting revaluation going on in the United States, much of it driven by historians of public memory, of how closely the Confederate flag maps with resistance to civil rights and to efforts to preserve the triumphs of segregationist and white-supremacy regimes. The removal of Confederate regalia from the South Carolina legislative grounds may be only the start, as retailers stop stocking it and manufacturers abandon its imagery.

Canada has a much more developed tradition of hate-crime legislation and empowered Human Rights Tribunals. Watch for someone to try applying those to Confederate flag displays in Canada.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Go Fund Canada150

Harry van Bommel's Canada150 project ("This is not the federal government's Canada150 website," it says prominently), was one of the first citizen-led 2017 projects to get started. Now it is running a GoFundMe campaign for a little seed money.

The project is Our Canada Our Stories/Notre Canada Nos Histoires, a digital collection of Canadian individual, family, and community narratives.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Big Narrative History?

Erik Loomis argues for a renaissance in (American) historical writing:
We are living in a renaissance of historical writing. There’s always been a good market for popularly written histories, but that market consisted of books on presidents and wars written for a white, male, conservative reading audience. That’s not going away of course. But what has developed in the 21st century is an alternative market of big narrative books by academic historians written for a left-leaning market that take seriously both the insights of the historical profession over the past thirty years and the disturbing history of the American and global past.
Signs of this developing in Canada? I'm not sure we have the writers aspiring to hit this niche, but what we really lack is the market... So it's tough.

Champlain goes to ROM

On September 22, the Royal Ontario Museum, mostly an institution not much engaged with the history of Toronto, Ontario, or Canada, observes the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain's first visit to what is now Ontario.  ROM will host a ROM Speaks panel discussion, "Champlain: The Man, the Explorer, the Enigma."

It's in partnership with the Champlain Society, another happy sign of that organization's renewed energies and historical entrepreneurship.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Canada's historic action plan, cont'd. Who's skewing historical and geographical reporting?

Following up its recent queries about how sponsorship may have skewed coverage of the recent discovery of HMS Erebus, the CanadaLand website is now looking into how sponsorship has been skewing coverage more generally at the magazine Canadian Geographic, involving corporate as well as government sponsorship. Part one of its investigations is here.

I'm reminded of a post here from last December, in which I noted how government subsidies seemed to be shaping and skewing historical content at the websites run by academic institutions and historical NGOs.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Moi, in the press

Some time ago, my friends the Friends of Fort York asked me to reflect on the impact of the now concluded War of 1812 bicentennial events on the fort and on Toronto.  I thought it wise to draw most of it from the reflections of a variety of more expert observers of the Fort and the bicentennial: former curator Carl Benn of Ryerson University, Warrior Nation co-author Jamie Swift, several others.  It's available online now in Fife and Drum's July 2015 issue.
The first time around, York and Fort York were hit hard by the War of 1812. Happily they have done much better by the Bicentennial. With the Treaty of Ghent now fully two hundred years in the past, it is time to examine what the commemoration has done for the fort and the city and what lessons might be carried forward. Recently I talked with some of the people most directly engaged with what has happened to Fort York in the Bicentennial years
The July issue of The Literary Review of Canada has Philip Girard's review of my Three Weeks in Quebec City -- though paywalled, so it's mostly for subscribers. I admit I read it waiting for the "however" paragraph in which all my failings and shortcomings would be exposed.  Gee, it never comes!
Christopher Moore has provided a sparkling, succinct and thought-provoking account of those three rainy weeks in La Vieille Capitale, and in so doing provides a handy refresher on our constitution’s basic principles. 

Must say Iiked this bit:
As for the Senate, which occupied much of the delegates’ time and almost caused its break-up, Moore maintains that it was never meant to be a powerful institution. The delegates insisted on its being an appointed body precisely in order to ensure that it could not rival the elected House of Commons, which would remain the real centre of Canadian political life. It is for this reason that our constitution provides no mechanisms for dealing with deadlock between the Senate and the House of Commons—as, for example, the Australian constitution does. The Senate was expected to have the good sense to defer to the elected body on important issues of principle—as it (mostly) does. Moore must have taken some satisfaction at the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in the recent Senate Reference, which, though without citing him, essentially agreed with his position

This month at Canada's History

Canada's History this month has two covers.  That is, you might get one or, as they say down home, t'other.

The New France cover links to a long and thoughtful essay on the end of French power in North American -- not just fifteen minutes on the plains, it insists -- by Canadian Museum of History historian Peter MacLeod, veteran eighteenth-century guy.
Eighteenth-century France maintained a network of overseas colonies in a world where Britain was the paramount military power and where every French possession around the world was vulnerable to seaborne attack.

The squid-eats-ship cover is only available in Ontario and east, it says here -- though the issue that came to me in Toronto has the New France one.  The squid cover links to a story of encounters with giant squid off Newfoundland in the 1870s and of the first scientific description of one by Rev Moses Harvey of Saint John's.

Also: censorship in WW1, uranium in WW2, and British gents on the early prairies. My own column is on immigrants, sort of, but Czechs Vladimir Krajina and Jan Drabek in particular.

If you subscribed like you otta, squid or soldiers would be gracing your (digital or analog) mailbox already

Friday, July 17, 2015

Parliamentary notes from all over

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron, fresh from an election triumph that gave him a majority government, was unable to get a bill (to loosen limits on foxhunting, go figure) through the British House of Commons. Too many of his own Conservative backbenchers were committed to vote against the measure, and the opposition was solid against it.

In Greece meanwhile, the vote to accept the suicide pact demanded by the crazy austerians in the north of Europe did pass.  But it needed opposition support, as only 145 of the 162 members of the Syriza coalition majority were willing to support it -- and 151+ was needed..

There are little asterisks here:  in Britain votes on fox-hunting are actually considered conscience matters (!) and therefore are free votes. And in Greece Prime Minister Tsipras has the authority to expel the dissidents from his party, and is doing so. But still the rule holds: in parliamentary regimes around the world, MPs have authority and hold responsibility for what their parliaments do, and frequently use their authority against the will of their party leaders.  As Aaron Wherry was musing a while ago (though very reluctantly), could this not work in Canada?

Sure it could.  It's worth noting, in light of some recent discussion here of proportional representation, that Greece is a PR country, yet its MPs were actually able to defy the leadership despite being representatives of their parties and not of their constituents.  PR surely does enhance party authority over MPs (in a FPTP parliament, the Brit dissidents have no fear of expulsion), but in the end it is a matter of culture more than rules and systems.

Ultimately, it is the culture of deference to arbitrary and unaccountable leadership that permits leadership autocracy in Canada's parliaments. We can change that culture just by saying so. When we want to.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tour 2015: the moo point

Okay, the day the herd of cows crossed the road has gotta be one of the unforgettable moments of Tour de France 2015. Rider Warren Barguil won't soon forget that descent of the Tourmalet.

Meanwhile Chris Froome and Sky look to be locked on to the lead.  If my boy Ryder Hesjedal is going to be noticed for anything more than riding right at the back of the peleton where the camera bikes linger, he's gonna have to pick his day soonish. His team Cannondale-Garmin are way out of contention and it is teammate Dan Martin who is doing the bold freelancing Hesjedal sometimes brings off.  Two second places for Martin.

Still a long way to go, and as beautiful and complex as ever, if you have the taste for it.

Only time you will find a Friends episode quoted here. Joey:  It's a moo point. Someone: Don't you mean a moot point?  Joey: No, a moo point. Like a cow's opinion; no one cares.

Update, July 21: By the weekend, Hesjedal had his shot.  On the run down the beautiful Ardeche Valley into Valence, he was out all day shaping and then escaping from a long breakaway, only to be swept up by the surging peloton a few km before the end.

Now they are heading into the high Alps, will he blow himself up every day supporting team leader Andrew Talansky, seventeenth in the GC standings, or will he get to do some freelance big-hill climbing for the glory of it? Probably the first, since Talansky's form ain't bad, actually, and he might do enough to move up in the big climbs

History of the Boomer Future

A spot-on prediction of the future from 1974:
Forty years from now today’s kids will have become the biggest pain in the ass generation of old people ever. If only because there’s so many of them! Their kids (and grandchildren) will never stop hearing about the good old days, when “we” “stopped the War” and a bunch of other equally preposterous claims. Through sheer demographic force, they’ll probably ensure that some kid born in 1995 can sing along to Beatles and Stones songs.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Coming to Booksellers: Truth and Reconcilation Report

.... the summary volume, in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats, on July 27 from Lorimer Books.

Another reason why we are fortunate to have (a few) independent Canadian publishing houses still hanging on.

Update, July 16: But, should have added: if you are not into supporting Lorimer Books, you can download the text from the Truth and Reconciliation website

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

History of Pluto and France and the monster zombie statue and historical publishing and...

"So can I be a planet again?"

  • This morning the New Horizons spacecraft went past Pluto like a bat out of hell... a bat with a camera and a hard drive and some kind of wireless that gets signal at 5 billion km. (Photo credit Emily Lakdawalla).  And the history of our knowledge of the solar system is being transformed before our eyes, if we care to watch.
  • Today is also Bastille Day+226 years.  (And my nephew's birthday -- Hey, Alan!)
  • Just sayin' -- Tina Loo's recent essay on the wrongness of the Mother Canada zombie monster proposed for Cape Breton Highlands National Park is the best thing on the subject I have seen in any media. It may be that the whole thing is running on fumes and hype, rather than real dollars.(CBC News"To complete the first phase of the project by the planned deadline of 2017, the foundation needs $25 million. It ended the year with $6,000 in the bank.") Peter Mansbridge has backed away, which is a straw in the wind.
  • Also at Active History, Ian Milligan, one of the founders, is retiring from that blog. His own blog, I might say, is ground zero for Big Data History -- history that mines the internet for digital sources, more or less. 
  • Historiann has a new post up on writing and publishing an academic-trade book crossover, an notion that seems to tantalise a lot of scholars. And it's on a Canadian subject (also feminist, First Nations, francophone...). Note: the current post is only part I, and most of the payoff looks to be in part II. Update, July 16:  actually II is a bit of a letdown: not really goin' cross over, after all.

Monday, July 13, 2015

History of Rogers Majestic War Worker medals? A bleg

Reader Colette wonder if anyone can enlighten her about the medal shown. Rogers Majestic was the Toronto-based radio and broadcasting company begun in the 1920s by Ted Rogers Sr. (father of Ted Rogers of Rogers Communications, the cable/internet/mobile phone giant).  But she has found nothing about the circumstances of the awarding of medals to  war workers (in the Second World War, presumably), and nothing about their potential value, scarcity, or collectibility:
Why was is given out? Who received these pins? I remember Mom saying  that she had worked for Campbell’s Soup and something about radio tubes (hence Rogers Majestic). Would appreciate any information that you have or if you could suggest where to look next. 
Any details sent by email (cmed[at] will be posted and forwarded to Colette.
Follow @CmedMoore