Friday, July 29, 2016

This month at Canada's History

Churchill at Ship Harbour, Nfld, August 1941

There's a strong Dirty Thirties image on the cover of the August-September Canada's History, introducing a strong article by Bill Waiser on the On-to-Ottawa trek of 1935.

Just as strong is environmental historian Alan MacEachern's account of 1816, "the year without a summer," experienced as a mystery -- or God's wrath -- by British North American farmers, but actually caused by an immense volcanic eruption in faraway Indonesia.

I'm a little conflicted about Champlain scholar K. Janet Ritch's essay in the issue, since it's mostly an argument that Champlain could have been the son of French king Henri IV.  Well, he could have been the son of a visiting Martian, too, but he wasn't.  Marcel Trudel long ago dismissed attempts to give Champlain a great pedigree as the stuff of "a very inferior detective novel" and that's still about right.
I fear this pernicious rumour will live forever, and I hold responsible David Hackett Fischer, who should have known better, but played with the idea in his biography Champlain's Dream in a way that has embolded many other Champlain dreamers.

To its credit, Canada's History does include a comment by Douglas Hunter. Hunter rightly salutes the impressive career of scholarship of Ritch, who died recently, but is politely agnostic about her case for Champlain's alleged royalty -- and for his new reputation as a "legend of tolerance" too.

My own column this month is on the Atlantic Charter of 1941, and the inventive way that Ship Harbour, Nfld, the site of the Churchill-Roosevelt shipboard conference, has taken up the 75th anniversary commemorations. It's also a small tribute to the ever energetic Professor Peter Russell, who has done much to spark the international conference being held next month in Newfoundland.

And much more, as they say.  Subscribe print or digital  
Follow @CmedMoore