10th Annual Year in Review (100 Years Later): Final Four

By Aaron Boyes and Sean Graham

We’re down to the Final Four. Be sure to cast your vote for which should move on to next Friday’s final

After two rounds of intense voting, we have our Final Four. And, much like in Round One, we are (mostly) in agreement with how the people have thus far voted.

Elite Eight Results

TV Receiver Patented over Nosferatu Released (29-5)

Japan Launches Purpose Built First Aircraft Carrier over Canadian Tire (21-11)

Vitamin D Isolated over First Steel Tape Measure (28-7)

Ottoman Empire Collapses over USSR Founded (20-14)

In this penultimate round, we have two tough matchups. We have a technological innovation against a medical/scientific discovery, and one Empire’s collapse against a purpose-built ship of, at the time, a budding Empire.

We have provided our thoughts on which we think are the most important, but which events make it to the finals is up to you.

You can vote by using the Twitter polls embedded herein, by sending us a DM (@theseangraham and @aaronboyes1), or an email to historyslam@gmail.com. Voting ends on Monday and the Enrico Palazzo Pre-Memorial Championship will go live next Friday, December 16.

Final Four

Ottoman Empire Collapses


Japan Launches First Purposefully Built Air Craft Carrier

Sean: Plot twist – I actually think the collapse of the Ottoman Empire is the more important of the two in this matchup. I know that goes against everything I have advocated for over the last 10 years (PLANES!), but that just goes to show how significant the Ottoman Empire and its demise was in human history.

A good way to think about the Ottoman’s comes from Alan Mikhail, who has suggested that if we look at history from an eastern rather than western perspective, we would find that the Muslim world was the driving force in global events for centuries. He argues that nations in Western Europe viewed things like colonial expansion as part of their larger struggle against Islam. Within a framework where containing the Ottomans was central, things like the slave trade, Protestant Reformation, and militarization are inextricably linked to the Empire. Mikhail has even gone so far as to argue that the Ottoman Empire made our modern world.

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A Samurai Suit in Fort Smith & A Blanket of Butterflies – What’s Old is News

By Sean Graham 

Samurai armour at the museum in Fort Smith, NWT.

Fort Smith, NWT is probably not where you would expect to find a suit of samurai armour and sword, but at the local museum that’s exactly what you can find. When he first saw it, author Richard Van Camp started to think about all the possibilities of how it got there. The result is A Blanket of Butterflies, which is the first volume of The Spirit of Denendeh. This beautiful new edition, illustrated in full colour for the first time, tells the story of a young Dene boy and his grandmother helping a Japanese man recover his grandfather’s armour. Through the story, Van Camp addresses questions of colonialism, knowledge transmission, and the complicated legacy of Second World War-era mining in the North.

Historical Headline of the Week

“Echoes of the Atomic Age: Cancer Kills Fourteen Aboriginal Uranium Workers,” Calgary Herald, March 14, 1998

To learn more about RIchard’s work, visit him at RichardVanCamp.com

You can watch A Village of Widows here.

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Should non-Indigenous scholars learn Indigenous languages? What it’s been like learning Kanyen’kéha as a settler historian

Photo of a blonde woman in a green sweater holding three books. The book at the front of the stack is titled "Kanyen'keha Tewatati (Let's Speak Mohawk)."

Elizabeth McKenzie holding three Kanyen’kéha dictionaries.
Image Credit: Elizabeth McKenzie

Elizabeth McKenzie

A few weeks back, I was presenting at a conference in Niagara Falls on some of my research that looks at the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s longstanding, continual sovereignty, and the failure of the League of Nations in 1924 to uphold the rights of the traditional governing council in the wake of a Canadian military coup at Six Nations of the Grand River. The paper was one of my first attempts at integrating Kanyen’kéha (Mohawk) into my work as a settler historian. Not only is the title of my paper in both Kanyen’kéha and English, but I also began my presentation with an introduction in the language that paid my respects to both the audience and the land that I was visiting. I hope to do more of this in the future because I believe that it is essential for settlers, and particularly settler scholars, to participate in language revitalization movements. When we talk about reconciliation and restoring our relationships with Indigenous communities, we need to understand Indigenous worldviews and what it means to honour the true spirit and intent of the treaties that were established over the territories we call home, or conduct research in. Learning an Indigenous language is a powerful step towards doing so.

I’ve been learning Kanyen’kéha for a little over a year now. Continue reading

10th Annual Year in Review (100 Years Later): Elite Eight

By Aaron Boyes and Sean Graham

Last week we launched our annual Year in Review (100 Years Later), but this time with a bit of a twist: reader voting to determine who moves on. After hundreds of votes on Twitter, Instagram, and through email, we tallied everything up and determined which events have moved on in their quest to be crowned the most important of 1922 and join the elite group of past winners. With one glaring exception, we’re ok with the first round results, which played out like this:

Discoveries Bracket

Vitamin D Isolated defeated King Tut’s Tomb Discovered (105-30)

Steel Tape Measure Invented defeated Good Humor Bar Invented (111-24)

Around the World Bracket

USSR Founded defeated Mussolini Becomes Prime Minister of Italy (108-27)

Ottoman Empire Collapses defeated British Mandate of Palestine Begins (81-39)

Entertainment Bracket

Nosferatu Released defeated First Little Rascals Short Films (69-42)

TV Receiver Patented defeated BBC Founded (72-63)

Potpourri Bracket

Japan Launches First Purposefully built Air Craft Carrier defeated First Mid-Air Collision of Commercial Air-Liners (66-45)

Canadian Tire Founded defeated MLB Monopoly (96-33)

So this week we assess the winners as we see who will make it to the Final Four. Like last week, you can vote via the Twitter polls embedded here, through a comment on the post, or through email at historyslam@gmail.com

Discoveries Bracket

2) Steel Tape Measure Invented


4) Vitamin D Isolated

Sean: What is particularly notable about any science-related topic we cover in these brackets – at least as two non-scientists – is that the discovery is frequently just the start of something bigger. In the case of vitamin D, for instance, it led to further experiments on animal fats and UV rays as cures for rickets. Essentially, now that scientists had access to Elmer McCollum’s experiments, they could push the science forward in an effort to find the best possible way for people to get the vitamin D they needed. It serves as a stark reminder that science isn’t static. Knowledge through experimentation continues and we, as lay people, need to be conscious of that.

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Substance Use, Overdose Deaths, & Shared Humanity: What’s Old is News

By Sean Graham

In this episode, I explore the history of substance use disorders and overdose deaths in Canada, which have regularly be presented through a moral lens. By othering those experiencing substance use disorders, policymakers have created an environment where ensuring support is available to users and their families is not a priority. To highlight the importance of approaching this issue with humanity, I am joined by Tara McGuire, author of Holden After and Before: Love Letter for a Son Lost to Overdose. In telling the story of her son, Tara honours him while also sharing their collective story. Poignant and powerful, the book shows how community and compassion are central to addressing the issue.

Historical Headline of the Week

“Death of Dope,” Vancouver Daily Sun, April 28, 1921

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Raising Awareness about Canada’s Indian Day Schools with Digital History

Jackson Pind and Sean Carleton

Many Canadians are finally coming to terms with the truth that the Canadian government, in co-operation with Christian churches, ran a genocidal school system targeting Indigenous Peoples for more than a century.

What most people do not realize, however, is that Canada’s system of “Indian education” was not limited to Indian Residential Schools. It also included combined schools (for settler and Indigenous students), sanatoriums and tuberculosis hospitals, and a vast network of nearly 700 federally funded and church-run Indian Day Schools, which were attended by an estimated 200,000 Indigenous people between 1870 and 2000.

In its 2015 Final Report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) showed Canadians the truth about the IRS system, but there will be no such truth-telling commission for Indian Day Schools. Instead, there is a national Class Action that seeks acknowledgement and compensation for the damages and abuses suffered by Survivors who attended Indian Day Schools and were excluded from the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. The Class Action deadline closed on July 13, 2022, but Class Members can now apply for an extension until January 13, 2023.

To help support Survivors and to raise more awareness about Indian Day Schools in Canada, we are writing this article to share more information about the system through our recent work using digital history and GIS (or Geographic Information System) mapping.

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Archiving Twitter During the Upheaval

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Derek Cameron runs a twitter collection code. Photo Credit: Kyle Stringer

By Derek Cameron

When Jim Clifford and I started archiving the Canadian conversations about COVID-19 on Twitter, it did not seem an urgent task. While Musk had made overtures to buy twitter on 13 April 2022, he had cooled by May. Similarly, we didn’t have the forethought to imagine that six months later, Musk would fire half of the 7,500-strong workforce or that he would follow this up by canceling remote work, and demanding “hardcore” commitments, which led hundreds more to quit. In recent weeks, our leisurely approach to mining Twitter for the Remember Rebuild Saskatchewan project gained new urgency.

Jim and I are exploring how COVID-19 policies in Saskatchewan were received by residents of the province. While it would be possible to get glimpses of this through traditional print sources, or cursory glances into social media, we knew that a fuller picture would emerge by systematically analyzing social media. We also see this as a way to test the new digital methods historians will need to learn to study the history of the pandemic, where the internet is now the main repository of primary sources.  As a result, we decided we would capture tweets from politicians, activists, and journalists. More importantly, however, we wanted to know what everyday people were saying in reply. Luckily for us, Twitter provides great access for Academic researchers for free to capture ten million tweets per month and the ability to request tweets from the platform’s launch until the present. But that access, as discussed below, may not last. Continue reading

10th Annual (?) Year in Review (100 Years Later): Round 1

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By Aaron Boyes and Sean Graham

We offer our two cents on the biggest events of 1922, but ultimately the decision on what moves on is up to you

It’s hard to believe that this year marks our 10th year of the Year in Review (100 Years later) bracket. We could not have imagined back in 2013 when we wrote the first bracket that this would actually become an annual event (hence the question mark in each year’s title), but that little joke has grown into something so much more.

This year, in celebrating our 10th year, we wanted to do something a little different. In the past, we have written about what we think is the most important person/event of a given year and then have asked for your thoughts in comments. This year, however, YOU get to help decide what is the most important event of 1922. This will be done by voting. As always, we will provide a brief history of the events, but now you will vote to determine which event will move forward. Voting can be done in several ways: by voting in the Twitter polls included here, commenting on the post (at the bottom of the page); by email (historyslam@gmail.com); or sending us a Tweet (@theseangrahamr and @aaronboyes1). Plus, if you see us on the street, tell us what you think. We will tabulate the votes and announce the winners the following week. The process will then recommence.

The Sweet Sixteen are presented below for your consideration. We have given our two cents, which may sway your opinion, or, more likely, not.

The Elite Eight will be presented on Friday, December 2.

The Final Four on Friday, December 9.

And the Enrico Palazzo Pre-Memorial Championship will be held on December 16. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter so make sure you vote early and vote often!

In all sincerity, thank you to everyone who has read and continues to read these posts. We truly love preparing it each year and we hope that you enjoy this year’s entry.

Discoveries Bracket

(1) King Tut’s Tomb Discovered


(4) Vitamin D Isolated

Sean: Around 1324 BCE, King Tutankhamen died following a decade-long reign as Egyptian pharaoh. Only 19 at the time of his death, King Tut did reverse some religious reforms during his life, but was largely forgotten in the centuries after he died. That all changed in November 1922, however, when British archaeologist Howard Carter and his team found the young pharaoh’s tomb. Appearing to still be sealed and largely undisturbed, the discovery provided a previously unavailable wealth of information for researchers about life in ancient Egypt. Many of the objects, which were placed in the tomb to accompany King Tut into the afterlife, toured around the world and generated a newfound interest into antiquity, an interest that is still fueling new digs and discoveries at the site.

Aaron: In the early 1920s at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, biochemist Elmer McCollum and John Howland noted that rickets – the condition of soft bones in children – could be caused by a poor diet, as observed in rats. McCollum and Howland fed the rats a pure cereal diet and noted the onset of rickets; through trial and error, they found that cod-liver oil could prevent rickets in rats. Testing their theory, they heated cod-liver oil so that Vitamin A was destroyed, and found that cod-liver oil indeed cured rickets. McCollum named the discovery after the next available letter in the alphabet – letters A, B, and C already in use – Vitamin D. McCollum and Howland also postulated that sunshine could also prevent rickets, and they were proved correct. Because of this discovery, a new generation of children grew up on cod-liver oil and rickets was basically eliminated.

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John Turner & Political Leadership – What’s Old is News

By Sean Graham  In our premier episode, I’m joined by Steve Paikin of TVO’s The Agenda to talk about Prime Minister John Turner, whose lengthy career spanned the decriminalization of homosexuality and abortion, stagflation, and free trade. We discuss Turner’s career, legacy, and what we can learn about modern politics from studying Canada’s 17th Prime Minister.

Our discussion comes out of Steve’s new biography John Turner: An Intimate Biography of Canada’s 17th Prime Minister.

Historical Headline of the Week:

John Turner Maps his Future” – Maclean’s, September 17, 1984

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Introducing What’s Old is News

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By Sean Graham

In the spring of 2012, I was in Guelph, Ontario at a conference. What I thought would a typical couple days turned out to be a pretty important event in my life. Not only did it provide me with my favourite conference story, but it was there where I met several members of the Activehistory.ca editorial team. I don’t recall the specific circumstances, but at some point I strongly (obnoxiously) suggested that the site would greatly benefit from a podcast. As any wise person would, the response from the team was that if I felt that way, I should be the one to do it. From that conversation, the History Slam was born and over 10 years, we produced 221 episodes with nearly 300 guests.

For as proud as I am of the podcast and grateful to all those who supported the project over the years, since we increased the episode frequency at the start of the pandemic, I started to feel like something needed to change. When we started, podcasting was still relatively new, so I didn’t spend too much time thinking about the finer details of the show. My approach was – and still is – if I wouldn’t want to listen, why would I expect anyone else to listen? That guiding principle provided a lot of freedom to the show, allowing me to go from Prime Minister Fantasy Draft to Death Masks to Reconciliation.

At the same time, though, I started to think that I would benefit from having a direct line through the series. That, coupled with some back end changes that I realized would benefit the entire project, led me down the lengthy path towards re-branding the podcast and re-launching the entire project.

With that, I am excited to introduce What’s Old is News, the new podcast from Activehistory.ca. Like the History Slam, I will continue to chat with people doing groundbreaking historical work and shine a light on the outstanding stories being told across the discipline. At the same time, however, we’re going to lean into how current events are shaped by the past, focusing on how we can all learn from the stories and experiences of those who came before us. As part of this, we’re introducing the Historical Headline of the Week segment, where we will look at how old news continues to resonate today.

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