My Teaching This Week

8 03 2010

Undergraduate Teaching

HIST 1407 (Canadian History Survey Course)

My lecture on Monday was on the history of the automobile in Canada. I talked about the origins of the car industry, tariffs and the branch plant economy, pioneers in the field, unions and industrial relations, the origins of the Rand Formula, Canadian-American relations, the 1965 Autopact, the growth of Japanese car manufacturing in Ontario.

My lecture on Wednesday was on “Canada in the 1960s”. I spoke about Canada’s external relations, but my main focus was the relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada. I began my lecture by talking about Jean Lesage the Quiet Revolution. I pointed out that English-speaking Canada experienced its own Quiet Revolution between 1945 and 1971. I related the “Other Quiet Revolution” to the diplomatic career of Lester Pearson. I spoke about Pearson’s elusive quest for a majority government. Other topics covered in the lecture included bilingualism and biculturalism, the establishment of medicare,   and flag debate.  The students enjoyed my anecdote about President Lyndon Johnson telling Lester Pearson not to piss on his rug. (Pearson had criticized the US war in Vietnam in a speech delivered in Temple University in Philadelphia). I also showed the following video, which many students found rather amusing.

On Monday, I handed some marking back to the students. The assignment I returned was based on two episodes of the Nature’s Past podcast. I designed this assignment as a way of introducing the students to the vast and rapidly growing body of literature on Canadian environmental history.

The assignment was as follows:

“Historians are increasingly using podcasts as a vehicle for research dissemination. Although podcasts will never replace peer-reviewed publications such as the Canadian Historical Review, they are becoming an important way of learning about the past. In the field of Canadian history, the best example of academic podcasting is Nature’s Past, a series of documentaries released every month by NiCHE, the Canadian Network in History and the Environment. The Nature’s Past podcasts typically feature an interview with the author of a recent publication on Canadian environmental history. This assignment requires you to listen to episodes 3 and 8 of Nature’s Past. Then write a three-page description that answers these questions.

1)    Who is the host? What sorts of people are his guests? Are they credible sources of information? What distinguishes these people from other potential sources of information on the internet?
2)    Do the guests mention the primary sources that they used to research environmental history? What special challenges do environmental historians face in doing their research?

3)    Does knowing about a historian’s sources change your assessment of his or her credibility?

4)    What is the central argument that each guest is making?
5)    Based on these two podcasts, what can you say about environmental history and environmental historians?
6)    Is environmental history about the environment, people, or both?
7)    Why do you think that historians get interested in environmental history as opposed other sub-disciplines (e.g., gender history, military history)? How did each guest become interested in his or her particular topic?
8)    Has this podcast increased your interest in environmental history?”

I will probably design assignments around podcasts in the future. Most students did an adequate job of summarizing the two podcasts.  Most students said that they had been unaware of the existence of environmental history prior to doing this paper. Some students said they really liked the concept of environmental history and wanted to learn more in their upper-year history courses. A majority, however, said that they weren’t that interested in environmental history. One student wrote: “I’m more of a couch potato, but I guess if I was into camping and hiking, I would like environmental history.”

HIST 4165

Our seminar reading this week dealt with the entrance of British Columbia and PEI into Confederation. We read  W.L. Morton, The critical years : the union of British North America, 1857-1873 (Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, 1964), 223-263; Paul Phillips, “Confederation and the Economy of British Columbia” in British Columbia and Confederation (Victoria: University of Victoria, 1967); Rusty Bittermann, Margaret McCallum “Upholding the Land Legislation of a ‘Communistic and Socialist Assembly’: The Benefits of Confederation for Prince Edward Island” Canadian Historical Review (2006): 1-28. We also talked about the lives and times of  Amor De Cosmos and Anthony Musgrave (the students read their short biographies in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography).

Graduate Teaching

In my directed readings course with an MA student, we discussed secondary sources related to the history of the Canada-US border in the Great Lakes region:  Karl Hele,  “Manipulating Identity: The Sault Borderlands Métis and Colonial Intervention.” In The Long Journey of a Forgotten People: Métis Identities and Family Histories , ed. David T. McNab (Waterloo: Wilfrid University Press, 2007); David R. Smith, “Structuring the permeable border : channeling and regulating cross-border traffic in labor, capital, and goods” and John J. Bukowczyk “Trade, war, migration, and empire in the Great Lakes basin, 1650-1815” in Permeable border : the Great Lakes Basin as transnational region, 1650-1990 (University of Calgary Press, 2005).

In my graduate seminar, we discussed the following readings: Robin Winks, The Civil War Years: Canada and the United States (MQUP, 1998); Roger L. Ransom, “The Economics of the Civil War”, EH. Net Encyclopedia; Joe Patterson Smith, “American Republican Leadership and the Movement for the Annexation of Canada in the Eighteen-Sixties,” CHAP, 1935.


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