Saturday, May 03, 2014

LRC: Hill on Trudel on slavery; Canadians and their Pasts

Not bad to get a major review of one of your books half a century after it was published, and after you are dead. But Marcel Trudel's two books on slavery in New France, the first published in 1960, have just produced an English translation. And Lawrence Hill's review for the Literary Review of Canada is now up at its website.

The English translation is entitled Canada's Forgotten Slaves. Now it is true you can make a case that almost anything in Canadian history -- in any field of history, if you like -- is insufficiently remembered. But it seems to me a tough case to make that slavery is a particularly forgotten or denied topic in Canadian history. Indeed, I can't help feeling the title speaks more to that lazy PR trope that presents some topic as entirely new and unknown (delinquent historians!) just because the publicist or journalist was not paying attention.

I'm happy to say Lawrence Hill is not drawn into that trap.  Indeed he starts with the quite-a-bit he already knew about Canadian slavery, and by listing some of the substantial works on slavery that already exist. Beyond that, it's a lively and interesting review of the subject and of the book.  And even if the subject is not "forgotten," it is well worth remembering.

Also in the current LRC, though not in the online edition, history blogger Ian Milligan (the cover calls him David -- awkward) reviews Canadians and their Pasts, the collective research project by Margaret Conrad, Jocelyn Letourneau, Peter Seixas, Gerald Friesen and others, collectively "The Pasts Collective." You should read the review, but Milligan does what reviews rarely enough manage: actually make you want to go read the book.

One of the things Milligan notes is that the Pasts Collective has found that despite what you have heard ad nauseum, Canadians actually know quite a lot about Canadian history (yes!).  And that the source they find most useful and accurate is... museums and historic sites.
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