Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This Month at Canada's History

I write regularly for Canada's History and I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had there, so I'm not an objective outsider. But I think the February-March issue showcases a lot of things the magazine is doing right.  Smart design, interesting mix of features and sidebars, even a flash of more nudity than you usually get in a history mag. (No Beaver jokes please; they changed the name.)  Full lineup here

It's a general interest history magazine.  People who specialize in the field may think they know enough of John A. Macdonald (last time's cover) or Louis Riel (this time).  But you cannot run a magazine on the kind of topics that mostly inspire scholarly monographs.

And this month I'm glad to see Canada's History engaging in a little clash of ideas. In an Explorations feature, Ian McKay and Jamie Swift go hammer and tongs after the Harper government for politicizations of history, including the reconceptualization of the (former) Museum of Civilization in Ottawa-Hull.  A few pages away, Deborah Morrison, publisher of the mag and ED of Canada's History Society (which supported the renaming project) pushes back, arguing that the new museum will be good for Canadian history.

My own piece, which the editors nicely titled "Democrazy," is about the history of voting, here and across the border.  It ends up a little bit opinionated too, moving from public election to private ones..
When a governing party holds a leadership race, the winner gets to be premier or prime minister and may lead the government for months or years without facing a general election. But the party’s private election process is mostly just a vote-selling competition. Rival candidates strive to sign up “members” by the tens of thousands.         
          Worst of all, the day the race ends, the “electorate” dissolves. The new leader is not accountable to all those “members,” and least of all to the party’s MPs, MPPs, or MLAs -- the people we in the voting public thought we had elected to represent us and to keep governments and leaders in check.
If you subscribed, it would all be in your mailbox.

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