My Teaching This Week

17 03 2010

HIST 1407  (Canadian History Survey Course)

A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reporter interviewing two parachute-qualified officers, one from the Royal 22e Régiment, who are part of the First Rotation Leave, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 8 December 1944.

My lecture on Monday dealt with the history of the media in Canada. I talked about cultural policy as it applied to magazines, radio, television, and feature films. Topics touched on in my lecture included the introduction of Canadian Content regulations for radio stations, the creation of the CBC and CTV, and subsidies for magazines. I also spoke about the history of the media in Quebec. Although my focus was mainly on giving students the basic facts of the case, I supplied a few of my opinions on this issue. I was pretty critical of cultural nationalism/protectionism and pointed that the it involved the diversion of resources into film production, etc., that could otherwise have been put in the hospitals, highway widening, students loans, etc. I also pointed out that some of the movies produced in the Canadian film boom of the early 1980s were total garbage. I think that students could really relate to this lecture.

My lecture on Wednesday was on the history of immigration policy in Canada from 1867 to the present. This is a fun lecture to give because the narrative I present is a fundamentally positive one—Canada used to be a really racist country but it later became a beacon of tolerance and progress in the world beset with ethnic nationalism. It’s fun to tell a story that starts out bad and then has a happy ending! The students seemed really engaged in this topic, although perhaps there is less interest in it than there might be in a major urban centre. I began the lecture by speaking about the constitutional division of responsibility for immigration between Ottawa and the provinces, placing the actual text of the relevant section of the British North America Act on the screen. The then talked about the successive Immigration Acts, the Chinese Head Tax, Clifford Sifton and the development of the Prairies, the voyage of the Komagata Maru, Canada’s shameful response to Jewish refugees in the late 1930s, the enormous changes to Canada’s immigration policy under Diefenbaker and Pearson, the introduction of the points system, and the Cullen-Couture Agreement.

Komagata Maru

West Indian students in Montreal celebrated the anniversary of the West Indies Federation with exhibitions of limbo, voodoo and calypso dances at the Negro Community Centre. Credit: Canada. Dept. of Manpower and Immigration / Library and Archives Canada / C-045104

In the lecture, I showed how the evolution of Canada’s immigration policy was connected to changes in Canada’s identity and the transition from ethnic to civic nationalism. I touched on our declining birthrate and how Canada’s response to this issue has differed from that of other industrialized countries. I also pointed out that for several decades Canada was a country of net-emigration. Many students were surprised to learn that Canada was a net exporter of people for many years. As a way of illustrating this point, I spoke a little bit about the origins of the California town of Ontario and about French Canadian settlement in the factory towns of New England. I usually mention that the author of O Canada died in Boston, although I forgot to say this when I delivered the lecture this year. In the last part of the lecture, I showed how Quebec’s attitudes to immigration are somewhat different from those in English-speaking Canada and I differentiated Quebec’s inter-culturalism from the multiculturalism of the rest of the country. I concluded the lecture on a very positive, upbeat note and stressed that Canada is a global success story when it comes to immigration: an astonishingly high proportion of our population is of foreign birth, yet we have been able to preserve social cohesion in a way that is the envy of other nations. We are so lucky in Canada to have a consensus in favour of multiculturalism, whereas other countries are stuck with Jean-Marie Le Pen, the BNP, and Lou Dobbs.  I pointed out that Australia, Switzerland, and, more recently, the United Kingdom have copied our points system!

HIST 4165

In my 4th-year seminar on British North America in the Confederation era, we heard four students present about their research. One student presented her research on the evolution of abortion law in 19th century British North America. She made some pretty interesting discoveries in the primary sources. The next presentation was on Sir John A. Macdonald and the 1871 Treaty of Washington.

Some good primary source research was presented there. We also heard a fine presentation on the role of evangelical Protestantism in the Sons of Temperance organization. The last presentation to today’s class was on Canadian reactions to 1857 Mutiny in India. This student talked about the formation of a regiment in Canada to help put down the rebellion. The student compared French Canadian and Anglophone reactions to the proposal to dispatch this force to India. I was really impressed with these presentations. After the class the students headed off to the campus pub to drink green beer. They certainly deserve a drink for their hard work this St Patrick’s Day!

My Teaching This Week

26 02 2010

Undergraduate Teaching

HIST 1407.

I delivered two lectures this week in my Canadian history survey course for first-year students. On Monday, I spoke about Canadian history from 1945 to 1963.  The major personalities discussed in my lecture were Louis St-Laurent, C.D. Howe, Maurice Duplessis, and John Diefenbaker. The lecture ended with Lester Pearson becoming Prime Minister in April 1963. I attempted to present a fair and balanced picture of Diefenbaker by stressing his good points, including his opposition to apartheid in South Africa. I felt that it was useful to provide a corrective to all of the Diefenbaker-bashing the students may encounter in secondary sources later in their academic careers. In writing my lecture, I strove to achieve the right balance between Canada’s internal affairs (post-war prosperity, suburbanization, federal-provincial relations, the development of the welfare state, legislation related to race and ethnicity) and external affairs (the Middle Power Project, the golden age of Canadian diplomacy, Korea, Canadian reactions to the Cuban Missile Crisis, Suez, and, of course, Lester Pearson’s Nobel Peace Prize).   I poked fun at Barack Obama’s recent Nobel Peace Prize, contrasting it with Pearson’s award, which was given for actual rather than potential accomplishments.

Canadians Wait to Vote, 1957 Federal General Election

Louis St-Laurent and Mackenzie King in San Fransisco, 1945

Diefenbaker with the Canadian Bill of Rights

Recently Enfranchised Natives Vote in Federal By-Election, 1960

My lecture on Wednesday dealt with Newfoundland’s history from the 1850s to its Confederation with Canada.  The most important figure discussed in this lecture was Joseph Smallwood, the man who brought Newfoundland into Confederation. I did not, however, neglect earlier periods of Newfoundland history, including the rejection of Confederation in the 1860s, Canada’s renewed offer of union, the French shore question and other fisheries issues, the devastating impact of First World War, the growth of mining and pulp and paper development, and railway construction. I also spoke about Commission Government.

I use Facebook to communicate with students in this course in between lectures. I sent the following FB message to my students.

“As you know, a major theme of the course is Canada’s relationship with two great Empires, the British Empire and the empire of the United States, which is, in many ways, the successor of the British Empire, even though few Americans will admit it. In my lectures, I have shown how Canada has struggled to assert its national autonomy in the shadow of these big empires. Canadian history can be seen as story of “colony to nation”. A more pessimistic interpretation is “colony to nation to colony”, the idea that Canada has merely exchanged one imperial master for another. You will have to decide for yourself which viewpoint is most accurate. Exams in HIST 1407 often have a question on this theme.

Although it certainly wouldn’t be on the exam, I thought that you might be interested in an article that recently appeared in the New York Times, “Like Rome Before the Fall? Not Yet” by Piers Brendon. The author discusses the predictions that the Empire of the United States is about to collapse. Anyway, I thought you might find it interesting.”

In my fourth-year seminar on British North America in the time of Confederation, this week’s focus was on Manitoba’s entry into Confederation. Our readings were: Gerry Friesen, “The Métis and the fur trade, and the Red River settlement, 1844-70” in The Canadian Prairies: A History, pp.91-128; Nicole St-Onge, “Saint-Laurent, Manitoba: Evolving Métis Identities,1850-1914”. The students enjoyed discussing the political implications of the decline of the buffalo population in western Canada.

Paul Kane, "Assiniboine Hunting Buffalo" 1851-6

Métis with Red River Carts, 1860

We also listened to a student presentation on the life and times of Donald Alexander Smith, Lord Strathcona.

D.A. Smith, 1820-1915, the Richest Man in the British Empire at the Time of His Death

We also did an in-class document study: I distributed an article on affairs at Red River that appeared in the Toronto Globe on 12 March 1870, which generated a lively discussion.

Graduate Teaching

In my graduate seminar this week, we discussed The Company : a Short History of a Revolutionary Idea by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. The students also announced that their group project is well underway: their website on the history of the Montreal Telegraph Company is now under construction and should be complete by the end of March.

My Teaching This Week

21 01 2010

HIST 1407 (Introduction to Canadian History Course)

1891 Election Poster

My lecture on Monday was called “Macdonald’s Legacy”. It dealt with Macdonald’s last election campaign and the problems faced by his successors between 1891 and 1896. The lecture ended in 1896 with Charles Tupper returning from London and assume the mantle of Prime Minister. The lecture on Wednesday was called “Laurier’s Canada” and covered the period from 1896 to 1911.

Laurier Speaking to Some Non-Voters

Next week, I shall be teaching about Canada in the Great War. I have asked the students to print out and read this document before class.  It’s the enlistment paper of a Canadian soldier who was pretty statistically representative of the army as a whole. He was unmarried, urban, working class, British-born, and he survived the war.

HIST 4165 (Canada in the Confederation Period Honours Seminar)

Our seminar this week dealt with the Province of Canada in the late 1850s and early 1860s. We read and discussed: W.L. Morton, The Critical Years : the Union of British North America, 1857-1873 (Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, 1964), 1-2; Bruce W. Hodgins, “John Sandfield Macdonald and the Crisis of 1863”  Canadian Historical Association Annual Report (1965): 30-45; Bruce Curtis, “On the Local Construction of Statistical Knowledge: Making Up the Census of Canada, 1861”, in Journal of Historical Sociology, vol. 7, no. 4,(1994). A student presentation on the life and time of George Brown was scheduled for but not actually delivered in this seminar.

HIST 5157 (Graduate Course)

In this week’s seminar, we talked about: Tomas Nonnenmacher, “History of the U.S. Electric Telegraph Industry”, EH.Net Encyclopedia; Daniel Walker Howe, “Texas, Tyler, and the Telegraph,” in What Hath God Wrought: the Transformation of America, 658-700; Richard DuBoff, “Business Demand and the Development of the Telegraph in the United States, 1844-1860” Business History Review 54 (1980): 461-477.

My Teaching This Week

15 01 2010

First-Year Course (Canadian History Survey)

On Monday, I spoke in lecture about the 1885 Rebellion. I showed this video clip.

I also asked the students to look at this “Heritage Minute” about the execution of Louis Riel.

On Wednesday, the class was visited by a guest speaker, Ashley Thomson, the university librarian responsible for history and allied subjects. Mr Thomson gave a very useful talk on techniques for researching an essay. I think that the students profited from his discussion of library databases.

4th Year Seminar on Canada in the Era of Confederation

The focus of this week’s seminar was on the place of religion in British North America. We listened to student presentations on the lives and times of John Strachan, the Anglican Bishop of Toronto, and Ignace Bourget, his Catholic counterpart in Montreal. I showed the students some pictures of Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal.

We then discussed Roberto Perin, “Elaborating a Public Culture: The Catholic Church in Nineteenth-Century Quebec” in Religion and Public Life in Canada : Historical and Comparative Perspectives edited by Marguerite Van Die (Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 2001), 87-105 and William Westfall, “Constructing Public Religions at Private Sites: The Anglican Church in the Shadow of Disestablishment” in Religion and Public Life in Canada : Historical and Comparative Perspectives edited by Marguerite Van Die (Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 2001), 23-49.

Caricature of Charles Darwin, 1871

We also talked about how Canadians reacted to the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859.  This part of our conversation as based on Suzanne Zeller, “Environment, Culture, and the Reception of Darwin in Canada, 1859-1909” in Disseminating Darwin: Place, Race, Class, and Gender, ed. Ron Numbers and John Stenhouse. (Cambridge University Press, 1998), 91-122.

I helped to frame our discussion of the article by showing a trailer of the new film Creation.

Graduate Teaching

In my graduate seminar, the students discussed the following readings: J.M.S. Careless, The Union of the Canadas : the Growth of Canadian Institutions, 1841-1857 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1967); Jean-Guy Rens, translated by Käthe Roth, The Invisible Empire : a History of the Telecommunications Industry in Canada, 1846-1956 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s, 2001), chapter 1;  Brian Young and Gerald Tulchinsky, “Sir Hugh Allan,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

I also met with my MA student  to discuss Pat Hudson’s History by Numbers: an Introduction to Quantitative Approaches (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).  I’m teaching this student some quantitative techniques she can apply to the records of the trading post she is studying.