Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Methodology, Historiography and Theory oh my

The March 2011 issue of the Canadian Historical Review (vol.92, no.1) is now available online.

An intriguing set of articles in this one:

Ian Radforth, Political Demonstrations and Spectacles during the Rebellion Losses Controversy in Upper Canada

Simon Jolivet, Entre nationalismes irlandais et canadien-français : Les intrigues québécoises de la Self Determination for Ireland League of Canada and Newfoundland

Karen Wall, PearlAnn Reichwein Climbing the Pinnacle of Art: Learning Vacations at the Banff School of Fine Arts, 1933–1959

Stuart Henderson, Off the Streets and into the Fortress: Experiments in Hip Separatism at Toronto's Rochdale College, 1968–1975

Joan Sangster, Invoking Experience as Evidence

Jocelyn Letourneau, David Northrup, Québécois et Canadiens face au passé : similitudes et dissemblances

Along with the usual reviews.

While no doubt all are up to the CHR's generally high standard, and admirably showcase the impressive innovation and diversity of current historical research in this country consonant with the journal's mission, to my mind the most exciting are the Sangster and Letourneau/Northrup pieces. These address the kind of deep-political and historiographic 'big' questions for which a national review is the appropriate venue.

Here are the two abstracts, which should show what I mean.

This paper uses the hundreds of private letters that women sent to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1968–9 to explore women's changing interpretations of paid work in the twenty-five years after the Second World War. These working women often invoked their own experiences as evidence the commission should heed, although its staff tended to see the letters as subjective and personal, and thus less useful than official briefs. The letters offer us insight into how women negotiated and interpreted changing patterns of paid work, as the number of working mothers increased significantly in this era. An analysis of the letters revisits feminist debates about the concept of experience: while some feminist writers have become increasingly skeptical of using women's words as ‘authentic’ evidence from the past, others remain committed to the ‘retrieval of experience,’ arguing that we can use the concept in a way that does not reify experience, gloss over differences between women, or ignore the way in which it is interpreted by historical actors using the cultural resources at hand. Following from the second line of argument, the paper also suggests that the letters offer us a sense of connection to and feeling for the past, which should remain important aspects of feminist history.


Based upon a large survey about the historical consciousness of Canadians, this paper explores the similarities and differences in the way Québécois and other Canadians engage the past in their everyday life. The difference between these two groups is not the one that might be expected. We find that Québécois, mostly francophone Québécois, are more likely than other Canadians to report indifference about the past. Why is this so?
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