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.

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