By Alban Bargain-Villéger

864563Even today, literary fiction can still provide an ideal entry point into historical studies. Although this might seem like stating the obvious, one has to recognise that the increasing overspecialization of history as a discipline has hindered the ability and/or willingness of many historians to explore universes outside of their respective fields. Nonetheless, it is clear that some historians still consider themselves engaged intellectuals – Active History provides almost daily examples of such attempts to transcend the limits of historical study.

But in addition to reading and rereading classics (and non-classics), paying attention to present-day fiction can also help historicize the present. Now, for methodological and conceptual reasons, historians tend to let several decades pass before exploring a subject. These precautions stem from the unavailability of some archival materials and from the need for hindsight. That said, such precautions should not prevent historians thinking about our day and age, or engaging in intellectual exercises. In that regard, French author and contrarian intellectual Michel Houellebecq’s latest book, Soumission, constitutes an ideal guinea pig for an experiment of that type. [click to continue…]


The Home Archivist – Making Arrangements

by Contributor on April 22, 2015

Home Archivist LogoBy Jess Dunkin

In February, I shared two posts on the subject of conservation. The first post introduced readers of the Home Archivist to institutions and individuals working to preserve Canada’s documentary heritage, and described the safety equipment and tools that paper conservators use to process historical records. The second post saw those tools being put to use in the preservation of paper documents like those in the MacKendrick collection that are affected by dust, mold, soot, adhesives, and other accretions.

Now that (most of) the MacKendrick letters have been opened and the contents cleaned and flattened, we can turn our attention to thinking about how archival documents are readied for public consultation. In particular, we’ll explore why documents are catalogued the way that they are.  [click to continue…]

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Terry Fox Was a Rock Star

April 21, 2015

This is the third of four posts marking the 35th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope. By Jenny Ellison Terry Fox had character, and Canadians picked up on this right away. He was courageous, perseverant, pure at heart and youthful. Fox’s decision to run across Canada was a sign, as MP Stanley Knowles said in […]

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Public Spaces and Indigenous Land: Whitefish Island

April 20, 2015

by Krista McCracken Whitefish Island is tucked in near the northern bank of the St. Mary’s River that runs between Sault Ste Marie Ontario and Sault Ste Marie Michigan. The island is minutes from downtown Sault Ste Marie but is devoid of development and has rural feeling.  It is tear shaped, approximately 1 km long, […]

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Ten books to contextualize the history of infectious diseases and vaccinations

April 17, 2015

By Kate Barker [Editors Note: This is the first in a number of follow up posts from the Infectious Disease, Contagion and the History of Vaccines theme week edited by Ian Mosby, Erika Dyck and Jim Clifford. We would like to thank Sean Kheraj for putting us in contact with Kate Barker for this post.] As a journalist, […]

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Burrard Inlet, Beaches, and Oil Spills: A Historical Perspective

April 16, 2015

by Sean Kheraj Last week, British Columbians once again witnessed the effects of oil on Burrard Inlet. Local authorities cautioned residents to avoid the water along the shores in Vancouver and West Vancouver after a large slick of bunker fuel oil appeared on the surface of Burrard Inlet. Around 5pm Wednesday, April 8, 2015, a […]

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History Slam Episode Sixty: Studying Professional Wrestling

April 15, 2015

Podcast: Play in new window | Download By Sean Graham Between the ages of 5 and 12 I spent many Saturday mornings scanning the television channels looking for the wrestling shows. Whether WWF (now WWE) or WCW, I loved watching the matches and seeing how the storylines unfolded from week to week. As I slowly discovered […]

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Terry Fox: A Unifying Influence on Canada?

April 14, 2015

This post is the second in a series of four marking the 35th anniversary of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. By Jenny Ellison Just months before his death in June 1981, Fitness and Amateur Sport Canada (FAS) announced the first annual “Terry Fox Marathon of Hope Day.” A series of 10-kilometre runs in locations across […]

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“What Next for WITH?”: A Scandalously Brief History of a Feminist Listerv

April 13, 2015

By Beth A. Robertson In 1983, eminent historian of technology, Joan Rothschild wrote “the omission of the female affects how we know and what we know, and our very deepest beliefs and concerns about technology…” [1] Her words were one of many that began to challenge how women were strategically distanced from technology, science and […]

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The Ideological Work of Commemoration

April 9, 2015

By Jamie Swift In the 1985 Argentinian film, The Official Story, one of the characters, a student, angrily proclaims that his country’s history textbooks had been “written by assassins.” Stories, as we know, vary considerably in the telling. The dominant narrative – to use the now shopworn term – tends to be recounted by the […]

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