Book Launch: Contesting Clio’s Craft

21 05 2009

I thought I would bring people’s attention to the launch of a book that will take place next week at the Canadian Historical Association. (12.30 pm, Tuesday, 26 May 2009, Congress Book Fair, Carleton University).  The book is an edited collection called Contesting Clio’s Craft. (I contributed a chapter). The book looks at a number of methodological issues confronting Canadian historians. I think that it’s an important book because it advances the debate over the future of the Canadian historical profession beyond the rather childish struggle between Jack Granatstein and the social historians that raged in the 1990s.

My June Conferences

18 05 2009

The middle of the month of June promises to be very busy for me, as I shall be presenting two conference papers in quick succession. I’m going to be presenting at the Business History Conference in Milan, 11-13 June. My paper for this year’s BHC looks at what the British companies that lobbied for Canadian Confederation. More specifically, it looks at what happened to these firms after 1867. The paper title is: “The Dollars and Cents of British Imperialism: The Political Economy of British Investment in Canada, 1867-1914”.

On 15 June, I shall be presenting at a symposium at the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King’s College London. This symposium is about Finance, Empire, and the British World, c.1850-1914. My paper for the event at the Menzies Centre is called “Culture, Preferences, and Rationality: The Political Economy of the Investment in Canada, 1867-1914.” The symposium will re-examine the role of British finance in the history of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada. It will examine not only the economics of the relationship, but also its political, social, and cultural aspects, drawing on debates about Gentlemanly Capitalism and the British World. The symposium was organized by Dr Andrew Dilley.

Both conferences look really promising. The BHC has attracted some top talent from around the world. Andrew Dilley has invited some very promising scholars to the symposium in London, including Peter Cain, someone for whom I have tremendous admiration.

Canadian Political History – Making a Comeback?

18 05 2009

Matt Hayday, a historian at the University of Guelph, has spearheaded the formation of a new organization to represent Canadian political historians. The first meeting of the Canadian Political History Group will take place at the Canadian Historical Association Annual Meeting at Carleton University on Monday May 25th from 12:00-1:00 in Mackenzie (ME) 4494. The group is intended for anyone with an interest  in the many aspects of Canadian political history. The first meeting will involve the approval of a constitution, election of officers, etc.

Dr Hayday explained the rationale of the group as follows: “First, I believe that there are more people working on political history topics than many of us realize, and I would like to try to foster more of a sense of a research community for us to exchange ideas and keep each other apprised of what we are working on.  Second, I would like there to be more of a political history presence within the Canadian Historical Association.  One of the first objectives that I had in mind for such a group would be to organize political history panels for the CHA Annual conference.  Third, I believe that there is a “new” political history emerging, one which takes into account many of the new ideas and methods that have been developed in other branches of history.  I think it would be productive to have a more active discussion about where Canadian political history is heading – and to demonstrate that it still has some vitality!”

I plan to become a member of the new group. I’m looking forward to its first meeting, which will take place a week from today.

Historians of 19th Century Canada Presenting at the CHA 2009

8 05 2009

Most historians of Canada concentrate on the twentieth century. As a result, the annual conference of the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) is normally dominated by papers on the period after 1914. It is therefore gratifying to see a significant number of papers on pre-Confederation history. Here are the panels that to which I am going to listen. Most of these panels will be taking place on the first day of the conference, Monday, 26 May.

830-1000  “Authority and Political Culture in Upper Canada/Ontario”

2.1 Neil Ferry, Nipissing University, “Partaking Plentifully of the Fruits which their Hands have Earned: Conflict, Accommodation and Popular Liberalism among Skilled Workers in Ontario, 1848-1876”
2.2 Laura Joanna Smith, University of Toronto “Rebel Ireland Abroad: Irish Violence in British North America”
Reconsidered 2.3 Rebecca Beausaert, York University “Bad Girls in the Country: Assessing the ‘Girl Problem’ in Oxford County,
Ontario, 1870-1914”
2.4 Michelle Vosburgh, Brock University “Meritorious Officers” and “Occupants in Good Faith”: Negotiations of Authority and Autonomy in the Canada West Crown Lands Department and its Policies”

1030-1200: Roundtable on Liberalism and Hegemony (although it isn’t evident from the title, this paper focuses on the 19th century)

1330-1500 “Religion, Educational Authority, and the State in British North America”

Bruce, Curtis,  “Comment sanctifier la journée: Religious Authority and Common Schooling in the Lower Canadian 1830s”
17.2 Anthony Di Mascio, University of Ottawa “The Authority of Public Opinion and the Making of Educational Legislation in Upper Canada, 1793-1832”
17.3 Paul John Reale, University of Chicago “The Making of an Imperial System of Education in Upper Canada, 1791-1871”

I’m also looking forward to Chris Tait, Department of National Defence “The Politics of Holidaymaking in Canada: Wilfrid Laurier, Imperialism, and the 24th of May”

My Presentation to the Canadian Historical Association

8 05 2009

I will be presenting on Wednesday, 27 May  between 1530 to 1700 as part of the panel “Constructing Confederation and Constructing the Nation” .  Location: Tory 206
The title of my paper is: “Which Inventions Contributed to the Most to Canadian Confederation.”  My fellow panellists are Bradley John Miller, University of Toronto, who will be presenting a paper called “From Colony to Member State: Copyright and the Canadian Constitutional Order 1867-1886” and Ruth Frost, University of British Columbia, “Canadian Authorities and Immigration Policy, 1870s 1890s” I’m looking forward to hearing two really interesting papers. I’m also hoping to get valuable feedback on my research from the audience.

The Canadian Liberal Revolution

4 05 2009

I’ve been making my decisions about which panels I will be going to at the upcoming meeting of the Canadian Historical Association. I’m looking forward to the panel on Authority and Political Culture in Upper Canada/Ontario. The panel I’m most interested in is the roundtable on Liberalism and Hegemony: Debating the Canadian Liberal Revolution. The panellists are: Janet Ajzenstat, McMaster University, Sarah Carter, University of Alberta, Nancy Christie, Trent University, Jean‐Marie Fecteau, Université du
Québec à Montréal, and Martin Pâquet, Université Laval.

For the uninitiated, the term “Canadian liberal revolution” refers to the theory that British North America experienced a liberal revolution in the first half of the 19th century. (The leading proponent of this theory is Professor Ian McKay of Queen’s University). This liberal revolution saw the dismantling of feudal and communal institutions such as the seigneurial system, the rise of a more individualistic conception of property, and the victory of (classical) liberal political movements.
I’m very interested in the whole concept of a liberal revolution, although frankly I think the proponents of this theory overstate liberalism’s victories and underestimate the extent to which pre-liberal and collectivist modes of political thought persisted in British North America. Historian Jerry Bannister has made this point very effectively, arguing that what distinguished British North America from the hyper-liberal, hyper-individualistic United States was a strong Tory collectivist tradition.

I’ve never accepted the view advanced by Ajzenstat and McKay that the ideology that motivated Canadian Confederation was an individualist or classical liberal one. Far from it! In fact, I showed in a recent journal article that the ideology that drove Canadian Confederation was interventionist Toryism, an ideology that ran completely counter to the main tenets of classical liberalism as handed down by Adam Smith.

There is one curious thing about this panel: Michel Ducharme, who recently edited a collection of essays debating whether the Canadian liberal revolution actually existed, was not invited to participate even though he will be present at the CHA.