Friday, April 24, 2015

Conserving paper in the Dominion of Canada 1868

Courtesy of my friend Gordon Moat, who knows a tremendous amount about 19th century spinning wheel manufacturers in eastern Ontario (and goes on seeking), a curiosity from the first year of the new Government of Canada, 1868. The document is routine:  letters patent acknowledging the invention of "The Conqueror Spindle-Head Extension Arm" by Michael Horton Row of the village of Kemptville.

What's nice about it is the way, in March 1868, the responsible official has taken old stationary from the Upper Canada division of the Province of Canada, crossed out Province, substituted Dominion, and just carried on. Recycling old stationary forms in a practical, penny-pinching fashion: all it lacks is a "please consider the environment" notice at the bottom.

The new government seemed to have been prepared to get along without image consultants, design firms, and PR agencies telling them they needed a new logo and lots of new letterhead for their new distinction. In fact, they had not even updated Upper Canada to Canada West, and had been carrying on happily since 1841.

The other nice thing, of course, is that the official responsible for getting out the letters patent for the new spinning wheel part was John A. Macdonald, attorney-general for U.C. Canada.  In 1868, he had some other responsibilities as well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Prize Watch: Pulitzer to history of the Mandan

The American Pulitzer Prize in history was awarded to historian Elizabeth A. Fenn for her book Encounters at the Heart of the World, a history/anthropology of the Mandan nation of the American plains.
"In this extraordinary book, Elizabeth A. Fenn retrieves their history by piecing together important new discoveries in archaeology, anthropology, geology, climatology, epidemiology, and nutritional science. Her boldly original interpretation of these diverse research findings offers us a new perspective on early American history, a new interpretation of the American past."
The biography prize went to The Pope and Mussolini by David Kertzer.  The nonfiction prize (yeah, it's complicated) went to New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert for The Sixth Extinction, her history of the ongoing mass extinction of species around the world.

Update, April 27:  A different view on extinction history: Stewart Brand says not so.

Lackenbauer on the Canadian Rangers: no gag

I was pleased and relieved to hear Professor Whitney Lackenbauer, historian of the Canadian north and sovereignty issues, interviewed on CBC Radio this morning. Clearly he has not been silenced by the Canadian Forces or by anyone else. (See yesterday's blog post.)

Meanwhile, he had sent me a note and a link to a statement he has issued, correcting the erronous report by the CBC that he was prevented from speaking.

His statement, issued through St Jerome's College at the University of Waterloo is unequivocal: he was never silenced. No one had prevented the media from speaking with him.
Kristen Everson’s CBC story “'Significant number' of Canadian Ranger deaths flagged by military chaplain” (20 April 2015) states that “The military also blocked CBC from speaking to historian Whitney Lackenbauer, who has written a book on the Rangers. Lackenbauer is also the honorary lieutenant colonel of 1 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group. In an email, the military said Lackenbauer was ‘not familiar with the whole story.’” For the record, I was never “blocked” from doing an interview with the CBC. As a professor who values his academic freedom, has written extensively on the Rangers, and has done many television, radio, and newspaper interviews on the Rangers over the years, I state emphatically that this is not a case of military censorship. In fact, the commanding officer of 1stCanadian Ranger Patrol Group has been very supporting and has often encouraged me to speak about the Rangers in the media and in public talks across the country on whatever issues I feel comfortable discussing. In this particular case, I decided to decline the interviewer’s request for an interview when I learned of the specific nature of her inquiry. I did and do not feel comfortable, as an historian and commentator on Arctic security affairs, to answer questions related to the circumstances surrounding specific Ranger deaths, to “accumulated stress”/”burnout” issues, or to medical policy issues. I do not have specific expertise or sufficient background in these topic areas. Accordingly, I decided that comments on these matters would be best left to professionals with expertise in these fields.
That seems clear and reasonable and would seem to end the controversy. I appreciate the friendly note from Professor Lackenbauer that set me straight and alerted me to his statement. As he says, he is often seen and heard in the media, and I look forward to more of that.

Thanks also to Andrew Thomson, who also sent a link to the corrective statement.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Three Weeks: Book at the door, book on the web

150 years and finally a good book about us!

Parcel guy at the door this morning with the first copies of Three Weeks in Quebec Cityso of course I spent the afternoon immersed in my own prose, not looked at or much thought of since Christmas.

And The Walrus has up an excerpt -- on the Senate.  Timely, Senator Duffy, timely.

More book news to follow.

Historian of the Canadian Rangers gagged UPDATE: NOT

The silence of the north
CBC News reports a troubling story today about an unusual number of unexplained deaths among Canadian Rangers, the mostly aboriginal units that assist the regular Canadian forces with northern activities and surveillance.  The deaths are the prime concern, but there's a subtext about academic freedom here.

The Canadian government and the forces are stonewalling the media.  More surprisingly, the radio report declared that CBC news had also been prevented from speaking with a historian who has written about the Canadian Rangers. The CBC website is more specific
The military also blocked CBC from speaking to historian Whitney Lackenbauer, who has written a book on the Rangers. Lackenbauer is also the honorary lieutenant colonel of 1 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group. In an email, the military said Lackenbauer was "not familiar with the whole story."
Whitney Lackenbauer is a professor and chair of the history department at the University of Waterloo. His history, The Canadian Rangers: A Living History was published by UBC Press in 2013, and it's not a little brochure, it's 658 pages.  Lackenbauer is widely published in issues of Arctic sovereignty and security. His Historical and Legal Study of Sovereignty in the Canadian North: Terrestrial Sovereignty, 1870-1939 was published by University of Calgary Press last fall.

And he is not allowed to talk to the press... because some army flack says he is not familiar?  Friends of academic freedom need a little more information here.

Update, April 21:  I have since had the "more information" and Whitney Lackenbauer has not been gagged.  See the new blog post.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Free Speech and Campuses

Historiann supports the rights of universities to maintain and enforce codes of conduct:  yes, you have a right as a citizen to say that, but a student saying that becomes incompatible with being a part of our university community. She disagrees fundamentally with an argument by a fellow historian that says, hey, First Amendment.

What's really impressive is the comments she has accumulated:  a civil, articulate, committed discussion of the pros and cons, mostly disagreeing with her.  The counter-argument, at the level of principle, is mostly that universities do have the right to require conduct that facilitates the educational goals of the university, but that since rough speech doesn't really interfere with those goals, there are no grounds for sanctioning it.

Chez Historiann, it's mostly a Planet America discussion; the Dalhousie dental school is not on the radar. In Canada we have, I think, a much broader tolerance for limiting hurtful speech.  But the issues are as alive.

Partly I'm just impressed to see a comments section that does not descend into drivel and irrelevance after about 2 comments at most.  Hmm

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Martin Gilbert on Churchill is free?

As a public service I feel obliged to report that the many-volume biography of Winston Churchill by Martin Gilbert is said to be briefly available as a free (and legitimate) download from here.via Rosetta Books and the Kindle Store.  Update:  following the links, it seems to be over already, unless you are more savvy than me).

Piracy I understand more or last, but publishing economics.... who knows?  H/t Quillblog.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dreaming about Champlain, Dreamy Champlain, Champlain's Dream

I've been intermittently watching Le Rêve de Champlain on TFO, the French-language TVOntario (the program is also online from their website, and Champlain tweets, too, I understand).

I'd say I'm entertained. It moves fast; it's lively and modern. The reenactments are brief and not forced to carry too much freight. There's lots of digital display, and lively interactive maps.  The talking heads are brief, and lots of the narrative is carried by hip young "correspondents" who stand in attractively shot modern landscapes (Honfleur -- I wanna go) to describe what Champlain did here 400 years ago. So Vincent Leclerc -- correspondent: Ontario -- stands in the parking lot of a Syracuse, NY, shopping centre and explains why it occupies the same space as the Onondaga fortified village Champlain and the Huron attacked in 1615.  Quebec City never looked better, and nor did the rapids of the Mattawa or the French River.

The program's strength is also its weakness: it has a strong hero, which makes for a strong narrative line.  But for the rest of us, it's pretty great-mannish, based on David Hackett Fischer's dream of Champlain the humanist who only came to Canada so that Europeans and Amerindians would live together. Nah.  I wish someone could capture that moment as a handful of European aliens on an Amerindian planet, and make the First Nations more than supporting castmembers and arquebus-fodder.

And 'tseems they are skipping entirely the recently found baptismal certificate that seems to fix Champlain's birthdate at August 1674.  That date makes even more completely impossible the never plausible whimsy that Champlain might have been the son of Henri IV, which the program and Fischer both play happily with.

But I'm still watching.

Image: TFO.

Monday, April 13, 2015

History is where you find it

This is Bessie Starkman in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography:
In August 1921 a ruling by a court in Windsor, that there was no Canadian law prohibiting the export of liquor, set the stage for rumrunning on a grand scale. With Ontario still dry, the Perris expanded from the Hamilton-Kitchener-Windsor triangle and sold large amounts of liquor and beer across the province; boxcar loads went to New York State via Niagara and to Detroit and Chicago via Windsor. It was Bessie who placed orders with the distilleries and breweries, laundered the money and handled the bank accounts, dealt with other gangsters on liquor and drug deals, and paid gang members and bribes. Fond of expensive clothing and jewellery, she often displayed a high-handed manner that would alienate members of the Perri mob.
And this is Bessie Starkman in the catalogue of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario:
 $39.95, limited or seasonal quantities.Sorry, no tasting notes.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

New and recent books watch: UTP

 (Posts to follow will look at other presses.)

In The End of the Charter Revolution,(published in December 2014) Peter McCormick means, I think, that the revolution, not the Charter, is over.The idea that the charter, and interpretation of it by the Supreme Court of Canada, are fundamental to the politics of Canada has become the new normal.  Get over it, he seems to say to court critics who fume that the Supreme Court thinks the constitution is what they say it is. 'Cause it is what they say it is.

In More than Just Games (April 2015) Richard Menkis and Harold Troper look at Canadian participation and the intersection of politics and sport in the Berlin Olympics of 1936.

Donald Wright's Donald Creighton: A Life in History launches next month.

Veronica Strong-Boag's Liberal Hearts and Coronets (February 2015)is said to be the first book to take John Gordon as seriously as his better known spouse, Ishbel Marjoribanks Gordon. Not knowing much about her either, mea culpa, I'm prepared to believe. Just to complicate things, John King Gordon, who is not the same guy, gets his own biography in Keith Fleming's The World is Our Parish (also February 2015).

And many more, that you can browse from here.

At the UTP blog, Linda Morra, author of Unarrested Archives, studies of the papers of several Canadian women writers, reflects on being a "dirty girl."  I've often been amused by highlighting uses of the journalist's cliche "poring [sometimes "pouring"] over dusty archives," and pointing out that most archives are clean, well-lit places, and dust is not a large part of the experience.  Maybe I will back off a bit.  Morra works a lot with "informal" archives, where dirt is real and serious, and even in the official ones, she observes, dust is part of the job.  She goes on to muse about dishing the dirt, getting down and dirty, and other metaphorically dirt-related aspects of doing archival research on marginalized subject.

Also an oddity. The U of T Press online catalogue and store offers A History of Canadian Legal Thought, a collection of essays in legal history by RCB Risk, published in hardcover back in 2006 for $56.  But the ebook version was published in February 2015... and it costs $80.  Howwzat?

Okay $56 is a discounted online price for the prnt book -- presumably because with the ebook available, UTP wants to reduce its warehousing costs on what remains of the print edition. But there will be no warehousing costs, ever, for the ebook edition, and it won't cost anything to ship the ebook to you. Doubtless there have been some costs in creating the digital text, but are press overheads such that an ebook commands such a premium over the print edition?  I guess so... but it doesn't make scholarly ebooks an easy sell, I would think.

Update, April 23:  Stephen Shapiro of UTP explains:
I saw the comment on your blog about the pricing of A History of Canadian Legal Thought, and wanted to explain why there was a discrepancy between the hardcover and ebook price. UTP is in the middle of a big push to make more of our backlist available as ebooks. We made around 200 titles available as e books in February, including A History of Canadian Legal Thought, and will be continuing to add more ebooks throughout the rest of the year. Unfortunately, we are still in the process of updating the discounts on our website for all those new additions, and as well as for many of our other ebooks. Once we are done, they will all have a 30% discount on the website. Unfortunately, right now many are still only available at list price.

That’s why, for the moment, the cloth edition of A History of Canadian Legal Thought is cheaper than the ebook.
Get 'em while you can, then.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

This week in history

Busy week for anniversaries.
  • John Franklin is mostly known for being dead somewhere near King William Island ("The white north has thy bones, heroic sailor soul"), but my friends at the Friends of Fort York remind me that 179 years ago on April 5 he was very much alive and visiting Toronto.  Details from their newsletter Fife and Drum.
  • 147 years ago on April 7, D'Arcy McGee was shot dead on Sparks Street in Ottawa.  The Dusty Bookcase, which turns out to be not quite dead, pursues the story of how McGee apparently foresaw his death... but actually did not.
  • In the United States, today, April 9, is the 150th anniversary of the surrender of General Robert Lee at Appomattox Court House, effectively the end of the American Civil War.  Media attention in the United States seems to be muted. The Atlantic concludes that "the civil war is not over."
  • In Canada, it is the 98th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.  I'm cooling on this anniversary, I must admit, because of the determination of the Government of Canada to twin its centenary in 2017 to the 150th anniversary of Confederation, with Vimy increasingly being presented as the "real" birth of the nation. Vimy and the First World War deserve attention in their own right, but the militarization of confederation is deplorable. Still you might consider the work of The Vimy Foundation:  

Update, April 13:  The Toronto Star editorialists disagree, finding a constitutional amendment was made at Vimy, "from colony to becoming a country in its own right."

And:   on April 12 democracy activists in Toronto marked the 177th anniversary of the hanging of Samuel Lount and Peter Mathews for their participation in the Upper Canadian rising of December 1837.

Archives Canada-France closed -- by France

Archives Canada-France, an online portal providing both lists of collections and digitized documentary series about archival sources in France, Canada, and elsewhere related to New France, seems to be dead, due to a withdrawal of support from the French government.

The Institute d'Histoire de l'Amérique Française has written to French and Canadian archives regretting the loss of this online partnership and urging its reinstatement.

Some information about the site survives here, but the site itself says "Closed for maintenance"

Thanks to André Gousse of Parks Canada for the heads up.

Update, April 23: Help may be on the way. The website Nouvelle-France Electronique has some correspondence suggesting that the Library and Archives Canada may provide a new e-home for Archives Canada-France
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