My Teaching This Week

12 03 2010

HIST 1407

My lecture on Monday was a history of hockey in Canada. I spoke about the European and colonial antecedents of the game; the etymology of the words “hockey” and “puck”; the role of McGill University students in the creation of the sport; the history of the famous Victoria Rink in Montreal; the encouragement given to the sport by the Stanley family; the growth of inter-city leagues in the late 19th century; the amateur ethos and professionalization; the commercialization of the sport; the formation of the NHL in 1917; the first hockey games broadcast by radio; the impact of the Depression; how NHL managers worked to keep their best players from being conscripted in the Second World War; the first televised game; l’Affaire Richard; post-1967 expansion; games played against the Soviet Union; the introduction of professional hockey players into the Winter Olympics. I also spoke about changing gender roles, with a focus on the rise of women’s hockey and the decline of a sport for women called ringette.

Trudeau in Cuba, 1976

My lecture on Wednesday was on Canada between 1968 and 1984. In lecture, I talked about the epic struggle between Pierre Elliot Trudeau and René Lévesque over national unity. I integrated the Montreal Olympics, the November 1976 election of a PQ government; Bill 101, the 1980 referendum, patriation, “the night of the long knives”, and the 1982 Charter of Rights into the lecture. I also spoke about the National Energy Program, Canadian-American relations, feminism, and the emergence of environmentalism in Canada.

Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed and René Lévesque, 1981

In my lecture, I challenged several widely held myths about Trudeau: that his government’s policies were pro-environment (they actually encouraged people to drive gas guzzlers and Mulroney was a far better steward of the environment); that Trudeau was a solid Canadian nationalist (he allowed the American elephant to test its cruise missiles over Canadian soil!!); that Trudeau’s deficit-spending policies were very left-wing (every Western country did the same thing after the 1973 Oil Shock and the ratio of public debt to GDP continued to climb  in the Mulroney era); that Trudeau was a feminist (he only had one woman in his cabinet); that Trudeau was pro-gay (he decriminalized homosexuality, but this doesn’t mean that he thought gays were normal); that Trudeau gave lots of money away in foreign aid (foreign aid a percentage of GDP dropped from the high targets set under Pearson); that Trudeau was pro-immigration (the number of immigrants allowed into Canada was slashed in the early 1980s and was only increased under Mulroney).

Graduate Seminar

We discussed the following readings this week. Graham Taylor, “Charles F. Sise, Bell Canada, and the Americans: A Study of Managerial Autonomy, 1880-1905Canadian Historical Association Historical Papers (1982); Rob Macdougall,  “The People’s Telephone: The Politics of Telephony in the United States and Canada,” Enterprise and Society, 6 (December 2005), 581-587.

I thought that the timing of our discussion of foreign investment in the telecommunication sector could not have been more perfect, as the Conservative government has just announced plans to remove foreign ownership restrictions in satellites, telecommunications, and uranium mining.  As they say in pedagogy, this is a “teachable moment”.

Trudeaumania in 2009

29 10 2009

Trudeau 1980

Trudeau Speaking in Montreal, 1980

Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1968-2000, the second volume of Professor John English’s authoritative biography of the great Prime Minister, has been published. The book’s revelations about Trudeau’s personal life have gotten a great deal of attention in the Canadian media. See here, here, here, and here.

The Quebec newspapers have had little to say about this book. Perhaps this will change next month, when the French translation appears. For a rare newspaper article in French about the book see here.

Paul Wells of Maclean’s Magazine thinks that Canadian historians pay too much attention to Trudeau.