When the Inuit Were Put in Zoos

1 12 2009

In 1880, a group of Inuit were transported to Germany to be exhibited in a zoo alongside wild animals. One of the Inuit, Abraham Ulrikab (c. 1845-1881) kept a diary during his captivity in trip to Europe. This diary was recently translated into English and published by the University of Ottawa Press. Ideas, CBC’s Radio 1’s flagship documentary program, is currently broadcasting a two-part documentary based on the diary. You can download the podcasts and check out images here. It is worth checking out.

Kudos to Ideas director Paul Kennedy for his stewardship of this program. Ideas has been broadcasting some very good documentaries  of late.





Historian Andrew Ross on Canada’s National Hockey Team

1 12 2009

Image Source: Library and Archives Canada, via Wikimedia Commons

The image above is of boys playing hockey in Sarnia, 29 December 1908. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Andrew Cohen, Ottawa-based public intellectual

Historica-Dominion Institute, the Canadian history think-tank, recently published the results of a survey on Canadians and hockey. The poll reveals that a third of Canadians believe that the Montreal Canadiens best represent Canada’s sport. Andrew Cohen, the representative of the institute, was interviewed about the results of the study. Interviewed by CBC Montreal, Cohen said he actually thought support for the Habs would be higher. “A third of Canadians — which is still higher than any other team — is still a substantial number of Canadians,” he said. “It may be because the Canadians haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1993, and when you’re not winning, as it were, you’re not top of consciousness.” In an interview with Montreal’s La Presse, Cohen attributed the popularity of the Canadiens to “le populaire livre pour enfants «Le chandail de hockey» de Roch Carrier”.

Andrew Ross, Canadian Historian

Andrew Ross of the Department of History, University of Guelph has some thoughts about this poll on his blog. Dr Ross has written about the history of the NHL and is probably the leading academic historian of professional hockey in Canada. Ross is also an economic and business historian and is currently working on a business history of the NHL. His other publications include  “Arenas of Debate: The Continuance of Commercial Hockey in the Second World War,” in John Wong, ed., Coast to Coast: Hockey in Canada (University of Toronto Press, forthcoming);  “The Paradox of Conn Smythe: Hockey, Memory, and the Second World War,” Sport History Review 37 (May 2006), 19–35; “‘All this Fuss and Feathers’: Plutocrats, Politicians and Changing Canadian Attitudes to Titular Honours,” in Colin M. Coates, ed., Majesty in Canada (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2006), 119–141; and “Hockey Capital: Approaches to the Study of Sports Industry,Business and Economic History On-Line 3.





Toronto Star on Inuit Relocation

29 11 2009

During the Cold War,  a group of Inuit were relocated to a remote and inhospitable location in the High Arctic as part of a Canadian government effort to assert Canadian sovereignty in the face of the United States the Soviet Union. The move was a disaster for the Inuit involved, since the area to which they were shipped had little food.

Today’s Toronto Star has a lengthy and well-researched article on this topic.





Interesting Legal History Article in the CHR

29 11 2009

The new (December 2009) issue of the Canadian Historical Review contains an article with an interesting title:

Bradley Miller, “A carnival of crime on our border’: International Law, Imperial Power, and Extradition in
Canada, 1865-1883”

I’m looking forward to reading this article in December.





Andrew Cohen on the New Citizenship Guide

27 11 2009

Andrew Cohen, Ottawa-based public intellectual

Andrew Cohen has published some thoughts on the new citizenship test in the Ottawa Citizen. He is much more positive in his assessment of the guide than I am, but he also points out its many curious omissions. He points out that there is no mention of Prime Ministers after Sir John A. Macdonald. As he puts it, “Jim Balsillie (Research In Motion co-founder) and Dr. John A. Hopps (inventor of the pacemaker) are in, but not Mackenzie King or Lester Pearson. Peacekeeping is a footnote. The Golden Age of Diplomacy is ignored.”

Cohen is right to comment on the guide’s silences on huge swathes of Canadian political and diplomatic history. Any guide that is supposed to cover the recent political history of Canada but which leaves out the Prime Ministers and the names of the political parties is clearly not doing its job!  It would be unfair to ask prospective citizens to memorize all of the Prime Ministers, given that some of them were in office for very short periods. I confess that when I am lecturing to university students, I go over the Prime Ministers between Macdonald and Laurier rather quickly. Joe Clark and John Turner also get rather cursory treatment in my course for first-year students. I have to prioritize.  But surely being an informed citizen means knowing a little bit about, say, those Prime Ministers important enough to have international airports named after them. Most immigrants enter Canada through Pearson airport. Shouldn’t they know a few key facts about Pearson?!?!?

Cohen also mentions that “The Constitutional Wars are largely unmentioned, as is the FLQ. This is uncomfortable, but, if we can speak of domestic violence, why not domestic discord?” This is another major omission from this guide. This guide isn’t even good political history (it gets a key date wrong), and it also avoids any discussion of social history. The really big trends of post-1867 Canadian history (i.e., urbanization, industrialization, de-industrialization, secularization, the Demographic Transition) all go unmentioned, which is especially problematic when we consider that most of our immigrants now come from countries that are only have half modernized themselves.   This guide is terrible. Since it will have to be reprinted anyway to deal with the factual errors pointed out by Christopher Moore and myself, it makes sense to start talking about what sort of omissions should be recitified.

After reviewing some of the faults of this guide, Andrew Cohen describes it as “splendid”. I respect Andrew Cohen, but I am at a complete loss to understand how he could use the adjective “splendid” to describe this piece of crap. The fact the old citizenship guide was even worse and essentially ahistorical does not justify praising the new guide to the skies.

Check out Christopher Moore’s list of factual errors in DC.





Historian Matt Hayday on the Vancouver Olympics and the Canadian Identity

26 11 2009

University of Guelph history professor Matt Hayday published a podcast on the Olympics and the Canadian identity crisis. The podcast is part of the Globe and Mail’s Intellectual Muscle series.

The student newspaper at the University of Guelph has published this summary of his talk:

“Because the Olympics are such an international forum, it’s a way of showing excellence on an international scale [it’s] almost like Canada breaking out of its little bubble of self-doubt, of constantly being in the American shadows… Canada seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis.  As a country that was founded as a colony for France and England, four hundred years later we appear to be having a tough time trying to figure out our national personality. After World War II, some realizations seemed to emerge for Canadians: we are not American, we need to be recognized on the international stage, and sporting heroes provide a rallying point for us to do it.”

Update: for more on the history of the winter Olympics, see here.





Landry vs Granatstein Podcast

20 11 2009

Benjamin West's Death of General Wolfe

Last week, I posted about an upcoming debate in Toronto on the consequences of the British conquest of New France. A podcast of the debate is now available online. The debaters with Bernard Landry and J.L. Granatstein.

Landry

Bernard Landry is a Quebec lawyer, teacher and politician. He served as Premier of Quebec (2001-2003), leader of the Opposition (2003-2005) and leader of the Parti Québécois (2001-2005). In 2008 he was appointed Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec, the highest civilian honor in Quebec.

Jack_Granatstein

Jack Granatstein is a Canadian historian who specializes in political and military history. He is the Distinguished Research Professor of History Emeritus at York University and the author of more than 60 books. In 1992 the Royal Society of Canada awarded him the J.B. Tyrrell Historical Medal and in 1997 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Desmond Morton is a historian who specializes in Canadian military history. Morton is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and in 1996 was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He is also the Hiram Mills professor of History at McGill University.” He published an article on the Plains of Abraham in the National Post on 10 November 2009.

Thanks to the PR staff at the ROM for alerting me that the podcast was now online!





Department of the Absurd: Apology to the Home Children

17 11 2009

The Australian government has apologized to the Home Children, British orphans who were sent to that country in past decades. The government of Canada, the “white Dominion” to which the largest number of Home Children were sent, has said that it has no plans to formally apologize to its Home Children. Canada does, however, plan to issue a commemorative stamp. New Zealanders are debating whether an apology is in order. Britain plans to apologize to all of the Home Children next year.

For British press coverage of this issue, see here, here, and here. For Australian news reports, see here, here, and here. For Canadian press coverage, see here, here, and here.

The ongoing campaign for an apology in Canada is as ridiculous as the one in Australia. It would be odd for Canada to apologize for accepting British child immigrant so soon after it apologized for excluding Chinese immigrants during roughly the same historical period! Both policies stemmed from the same racist-imperialist ideology: the Dominions wanted to get as many British people in as possible and to exclude those it deemed racially inferior. In both Canada and Australia, the Chinese were the victims of the immigration policies and the Home Children were the beneficiaries! One could argue that the aboriginal populations of the Dominions also suffered from the arrival of the Home Children and other subsidized British immigrants, since they had to share their countries’ resources with yet more white intruders.

As for the kids themselves, the children who came to the Dominions were better off as orphans in the Dominions than as orphans in Britain. We forget that  because incomes in the UK are today equivalent if not higher than those in the former white Dominions.  But in the early 20th century, an unskilled labourers could earn roughly twice as much in an hour in North America or Oceania as in Europe. Perhaps Canada should apologize to the whites who bought Japanese-Canadian businesses at fire-sale prices in 1942.  Maybe the government of South Africa should apologize to whites who benefited from the famous job-reservation rules under apartheid!

I would like to point out two historians who can speak on some authority about this topic. One is R. Douglas Francis of the University of Calgary, who is both the son of a Barnardo boy and one of the authors of the  textbook used in most Canadian history survey course. The second historian is Dr Tanya Evans, a research fellow at Macquarie University. It would be interesting to know what their views of the apology demands are.





My Teaching This Week

12 11 2009

In my first-year course, the focus was on the 1840s and 1850s. On Monday, I spoke about the achievement of Responsible Government. I showed part of this clip:

On Wednesday, I talked about the advent of the railway in British North America. I stressed the revolutionary impact of the technology on society, the economy, and, above all, politics.I showed the following clip at the end of my lecture:

In my honours seminar on British North America in the period of Confederation, we focused on the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. We discussed the following readings: Jean Barman, The West Beyond the West: a History of British Columbia (Toronto, Ont. : University of Toronto Press, 1991), 52-98; Chris Clarkson, “Property law and family regulation in Pacific British North America, 1862-1873” Histoire Sociale / Social History 30 (1997): 386-416. Charles C. Irby, “The Black Settlers on Saltspring Island in the Nineteenth Century” Phylon 35  (1974): 368-374

One student gave an excellent presentation on the life of Sir James Douglas. I am including a video about Douglas here:

I’m also including this video about Black settlers in British Columbia.

I also met my graduate student to discuss two readings related to her research project. Edward S. Roger, “Northern Algonquians and the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1821-1890” in Aboriginal Ontario : Historical Perspectives on the First Nations edited by Edward S. Rogers and Donald B. Smith (Toronto : Dundurn Press, 1994), 307-344; J.R. Millers, Skyscrapers Hide The Heavens (Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 1989).





Debate on the Conquest of New France

10 11 2009

Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum will be hosting a debate tomorrow, 11 November, on the consequences of Battle on the Plains of Abraham. In an earlier post, I proposed inviting the descendants of Wolfe and Montcalm to this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa. The federal government, alas, did not act on my blog post, and invited Prince Charles instead! But I am glad that at least some people in Canada will be thinking and talking about the Plains of Abraham on Remembrace Day 2009, the 250th anniversary of the battle.

I have posted the ROM’s press release below.

“Bernard Landry versus Jack Granatstein

The impact of one of Canada’s most significant battles will be debated at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) as part of its Director’s Signature Series. The debate, between Bernard Landry and Jack Granatstein, examines whether Britain’s victory over France on the Plains of Abraham in 1759 was ultimately good for New France, its inhabitants and their descendants. The two-hour debate, moderated by ROM Director and CEO William Thorsell, will be held in the Samuel Hall Currelly Gallery on level 1 of the Museum’s Historic Wing on Wednesday November 11, 2009 beginning at 6:30 pm.

800px-Benjamin_West_005

Benjamin West's Death of General Wolfe

“The topic of this debate is inspired by the ROM’s painting The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West. This year also marks the 250th anniversary of the Battle on the Plains of Abraham. It seems fitting to discuss the impact of these events, not only on the nation’s history, but also on current relations between French and English-Canada. It promises to be a lively debate,” says Thorsell.

In addition to the debate, General James Wolfe’s copy of Thomas Gray’s poem An Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard will be on display in the Hyacinth Gloria Chen Crystal Court on level 1 of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. On loan from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, this copy of Gray’s famous poem traveled with Wolfe on his voyage from England to Canada. Wolfe is said to have referenced the poem frequently while preparing for the Battle on the Plains of Abraham. For many, Gray’s Elegy represents a direct link with a critical point in Canada’s history.

The Director’s Signature Series features renowned thinkers and intellectuals discussing topics of historical and cultural importance. In June, the series featured three provocative presentations analyzing the Ten Commandments and offering suggestions for new commandments. In this edition of the series, visitors are invited to witness what is sure to be a lively discussion about the significance of the Battle on the Plains of Abraham on French and English Canada. Desmond Morton will introduce the evening and give a historical overview and context of the battle. Admission for the debate is $22 for the general public, $20 for ROM members and $10 for students.

Landry

Bernard Landry

Bernard Landry is a Quebec lawyer, teacher and politician. He served as Premier of Quebec (2001-2003), leader of the Opposition (2003-2005) and leader of the Parti Québécois (2001-2005). In 2008 he was appointed Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec, the highest civilian honor in Quebec.

Jack_Granatstein

J.L. Granatstein

Jack Granatstein is a Canadian historian who specializes in political and military history. He is the Distinguished Research Professor of History Emeritus at York University and the author of more than 60 books. In 1992 the Royal Society of Canada awarded him the J.B. Tyrrell Historical Medal and in 1997 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Desmond Morton is a historian who specializes in Canadian military history. Morton is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and in 1996 was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He is also the Hiram Mills professor of History at McGill University.” He published an article on the Plains of Abraham in the National Post on 10 November 2009.