Wednesday, May 25, 2022

GG Awards in History; Canadian Historical Association Prizes

At the recent Governor-General's History Awards in Ottawa, Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was awarded the Pierre Berton Award for "exceptional achievement in the exploring and sharing of Canadian history through popular media." Don't think of truth and reconciliation work as popular history?  Consider the argument in the citation.

 The combined work of Sinclair and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was monumental in scale and scope, having created unique historical archives that document the experiences of multiple generations of Indigenous people,” the award jury said in making its selection.

The records in their many forms give voice to grief and hurt, resilience and renewal. Furthermore, the commission’s work, with its ninety-four calls to action, has been crucial in revealing the need for a new national narrative. Sinclair’s articulation of that mission has helped to create a profound shift in many Canadians’ understandings of this country’s history, while also charting a path forward based on respect, reciprocity, and good relations.

The Governor General's History Awards, administered by Canada's National History Society, are presented in five categories: Teaching, Scholarly Research, Museums, and Community Programming, as well as the Berton for Popular Media.

The Awards were presented May 16. Canada's History has published a full list of recipients (listed as 2021 winners; the presentation was this month).  Here's the Winnipeg CTV story about Manitoban winners, which provided the quotation about Murray Sinclair. 

The Canadian Historical Association, meanwhile, has published the complete list of prizes awarded at its recent conference. The prize for the best work in Canadian history went to Benjamin Hoy for A Line of Blood and Dirt: Creating the Canada-United States Border Across Indigenous LandsThe CHA prize doubles as the Governor General's Prize for Scholarly Research. Last year's CHA Prize winner, Brittany Luby, received her GG History honours this month; Hoy will get his invitation to Rideau Hall next spring. (Did I say this awards stuff is simple?)

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

History of leadership

Why is this man laughing?

May 21:  When his party loses the Australian election, prime minister Scott Morrison announces he will step down as leader of the Liberal Party. 

May 22:  The Guardian reports that the Liberal Party caucus has chosen Paul Dutton, an outgoing minister, as the new leader of the party.

Imagine party leadership choices that did not involve six months of indecision while the party engages in the multi-million dollar orgy of vote-buying and corruption that Canadians call a leadership "race."  

Drunk History

The fortress city of Louisbourg is offering a taste of history:  rum, imported from les iles, barrel-aged in the fortress's caves, and now available to you from your local liquor store (Ontario ones at least).  

I only wish I had thought of this myself when I was writing some of the first planning memos on food-and-drink interpretation at the fortress many years ago. 

Celebrate the historic New France rum trade. Distilled by Authentic Seacoast, at their Nova Scotia distillery, Fortress rum is matured in barrels at the Fortress of Louisbourg in Cape Breton. Flavours of maple, fig and toasted oak leading to a smooth and lengthy finish. Enjoy neat after dinner or with apple coffee cake.  ($54.20/750ml at the LCBO)

Friday, May 20, 2022

A Woman on the Franklin Expedition (well, almost, sorta)

At Active History, Sara Wilmshurst tracks the story of Judith Dejarlais (Cardinal, Hope) a M├ętis woman who in 1900 reported that she had gone north with Dr John Rae on his expedition to seek Franklin Expedition survivors. It's a nice piece of research on another corner of that endless Franklin Expedition story. She writes:

Nearly every time I review archival documents, I bump into a story that I’m desperate to pursue, but it is not relevant to the project at hand. This time I decided to just do it.

Know the feeling! 

Meanwhile at Sheekon Neechie, Mary Jane Logan Macallum has posted (some time ago, actually) a long and useful bibliography on mostly online pieces that mark "moments of convergence for Indigenous History, Historians and History Departments especially in the years 2020-2022."

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Prize Watch: Cohen Prize to China Unbound

The Writers' Trust announced the winner of the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for 2022.  The winner is Joanna Chiu for China Unbound: A New World Disorder, published by House of Anansi Press.

I've heard impressive things about China Unbound, not the least that the Chinese-Canadian author has been harassed by agents or supporters of the Chinese government who do not appreciate the honesty of her reporting.  But it was a pretty strong list overall this year: Shortlist here   

History of following

Last November I learned some people used Feedburner to get notifications about blog posts here, and that unfortunately Feedburner had, well, burned and crashed, and they were stuck. And that was about the first time I ever considered what Feedburner was

Anyway, I belately looked into and sorted out Blogger's "Follower" gadget, and have now put it up -- at right.  If you choose to "follow," and go through a few steps, you should start getting an email notification and a link whenever this blog has a new post, and you won't have to come here blindly searching for yourself. 

If this removes an inconvenience for anyone, I'm delighted.    

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Data points for the history of the New Gilded Age

From Adam Tooze's Chartbook #122, "What drives inflation?"

Whereas in recent decades, unit labour costs (wages/productivity) have accounted for 62 percent of price increases and corporate profits for only 11.4 percent, with non-labour input costs (like energy) making up the rest, since 2020 the balance has been reversed. Since the COVID shock in 2020, wages have accounted for less than 8 percent of US price increases, as against corporate profits which accounted for almost 54 percent. Input costs, notably energy, have accounted for 38 percent.

You can subscribe to Chartbook on SubStack  

Monday, May 16, 2022

More royal-watching? Yes, but I do have a point

I was mistaken in writing recently that Canada is entirely absent from Tina Brown's Palace Papers, a compendium about absolutely everything significant about the British royal family in the last half century. Actually, Canada does get a complete sentence in a section mostly about media obsession with the royals. For Harry and Meghan, she writes:

Toronto... was a magic bubble made possible by the generally low-key Canadians, who tend to leave celebrities alone and provided the couple with privacy in their walks through Toronto's Trinity Bellwoods Park.

This is maybe more significant than Brown sees. She is confirming (without seeing) that, while the technicalities may take some time, Canada has already abolished the monarchy in effect. The British royals just are not that interesting to most of us any more. Canadian stories and the royal story just don't coincide.

Some royals are dropping in this week. How much bigger will their crowds be than Harry and Meghan's?

Controversy at the War Museum

Too much war machines; too little war art?

I had not been aware of this controversy at the Canadian War Museum, over the dismissal of film and photography curator Joanne Stober, to whom an arbitrator has now granted reinstatement. There seems to be a troubling number of sudden departures in senior ranks at the national museums.  

Stober left a job as a senior archivist at Library and Archives Canada in 2016 to take on a mission that included showcasing the war museum's existing art holdings while bringing the collection into the digital age. [emphasis added]

For all my admiration of the War Museum, I've long thought it has undervalued its remarkable collection of art.  The museum has a vast trove of magnificent works by many of Canada's leading artists, and only shows a few in out of the way corridors and special exhibits.  I hope Stober's departure/return will not impede the part of her mandate that concerns art holdings.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Public History of the Canadian Historical Association

Ira Basen writes in the Globe and Mail today about controversy in the Canadian Historical Association and the academic historical community about genocide, reconciliation, and history.

"Since the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report in 2015, the CHA has worked to confront the generations of Canadian historians who have written the nation’s history as a triumphant narrative from colony to nation, while largely ignoring the impact that same history had on Indigenous peoples.

But that effort has split the community of professional historians in Canada, pitting the CHA against some of the country’s most distinguished practitioners."

Meanwhile, Twitter today is lively with political, diplomatic and military historian members of the CHA denying Basen's report of their non-existence:

Since the 1990s, the organization has been dominated by social historians; people studying issues of race, class and gender, whose politics generally lean toward the progressive side of the political spectrum. Political, diplomatic and military historians, who once dominated the CHA, have all but disappeared from its ranks.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Baldwin and LaFontaine symposia

When an elegant Montreal court building designed by Ernest Cormier became surplus to requirements,  the Fondation LaFontaine-Cormier (for the architect and for the former Chief Justice of Quebec, Louis-Hyppolite LaFontaine) emerged to guide the building's future. One offshoot of the Foundation was a plan to mark the 175th anniversary of responsible government with a symposium on that topic in Montreal. The Osgoode Society for Legal History became involved, and the upshot is a two-part symposium, one in Montreal honouring LaFontaine, one in Toronto honouring Robert Baldwin, both to be held in the spring of 2023.  

Calls for papers are now going out.  Here's the one from the Osgoode Society:

14 April and May 6, 2023. Two symposia on Baldwin, LaFontaine and Responsible Government.

The first symposium will be held in Montreal, at the Ernest Cormier Building, the second in Toronto, location TBA. A collaboration of the Fondation LaFontaine-Cormier and the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History.

If you are interested in contributing to the Montreal symposium please send your proposal to If you are interested in contributing to the Toronto symposium please send your proposal to Jim Phillips at All paper proposals must include a 250-word abstract and a one-page curriculum vitae (or brief biography). Proposals should be received by May 30, 2022.

A proposal to have John Ralston Saul give the keynote in Toronto seems to have been aborted, most unwisely in my opinion, but.... 


History of Barbados

Watson, at right, with some sun-struck visitor.
When we visited Cuba a few years ago, I became entranced with el historiador de Havana, the official historian of the city of Havana, whose office owned and ran most of Old Havana, turning retail profits into preservation activities over many decades.

Well, the historiador of Barbados must be Karl Watson. Karl is a retired professor of the University of the West Indies, scholar, historian, author, archaeologist, preservationist, heritage manager, public historian, speaker and broadcaster -- and sometimes a costumed interpreter of George Washington (who has a Barbados connection). He also had a stint in the Barbadian diplomatic corps, speaks a slew of languages, and is fluent in both Bajan Creole and the French Creole of Martinique.  (I learned from him that both "Barbadian" and "Bajan" are used, with "Barbadian" being a little more formal, maybe.)

We had the pleasure of doing a tour of his island with him last week. We walked all over Bridgetown and drove all over the island, with lunch at the Fisherman's Pub, Speightstown. (Try the flying fish and cou-cou, with a Beck's beer.). What might have been six hours grew into more than eight nine, partly because we couldn't stop talking Bajan history, but also because everywhere we went he was diverted into multilingual chats or at least brief greetings with about a thousand of his friends, students, colleagues, and acquaintances.

Karl's ancestry in Barbados goes back hundreds of years, but pretty much entirely on the "poor white" side of society, as this article sets out. His theory of Barbadian history is that it is important that, at the time of emancipation in the 1830s, 1) the white population did not leave en masse, and 2) a large proportion of the black population was already long established, Christian, and literate. (Barbados permitted schooling for the enslaved from the 1780s.) He thinks that transition contributed to Barbados's longterm status among the more peaceable and prosperous of the Caribbean societies. He also thinks Barbados might have awaited the end of the Queen's reign before abolishing the monarchy, but that's another story.

Thanks, Karl.  It was a pleasure and an honour.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Blog on hiatus

The blogger is taking a holiday, and blogging will be slim to none for a week ... though of course one can blog from anywhere, and who knows, there may be historical discoveries too good to neglect.

Separated before birth?

In the movie of Confederation that will never be made, it may be that Leonard Tilley... 

will be played by Bill Hader

and that Charles Tupper 

will be played by Hugh Bonneville.  (Photo research by Christopher Dummitt, whose podcast 1867 and all That is into season Two).

Monday, May 02, 2022

History of Crime history

Halifax writer Dean Jobb's crime history “The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer” (published by HarperCollins here and Algonquin Books in the States, also recently published in translation in Quebec) won the first-ever Crime Book Prize of the new Clue Awards offered by CrimeCon, held this year in Las Vegas.

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