1864 vs. 1914: A Commemorative Showdown

ActiveHistory.ca is on a three-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in next week. This week, we’ve asked the editors of Canada’s First World War to select some of their most popular and favourite posts. 

This essay was originally posted on 11 November 2014

By Sarah Glassford

1864

As I sat by the window of a popular coffee shop in downtown Charlottetown on a warm afternoon in September 2014, two student actors from the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) appeared on the street corner opposite, heading toward nearby Province House, seat of the provincial legislature.  He wore a three-piece suit and top hat; she sported a shirtwaist, hoop skirt, elaborate hat, and shawl.  This is a common sight near Province House during the summer tourist season,[i] but it struck me as noteworthy because I happened to be brainstorming thoughts for a post on Prince Edward Island (PEI) and the First World War centenary.  The sight of 1860s-style citizens promenading down the street in 2014 reminded me that all commemoration takes place in a crowded landscape of competing commemorations, even when the subject is as globally game-changing as the First World War.

PEI, Canada’s smallest province, has been celebrating 2014 in grand style all year long, but not because of anything to do with the First World War centenary.  Instead, the island is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference, when the then-colony of PEI hosted the first serious discussions of a confederation of British North American colonies – a union that eventually became the Dominion of Canada.  Continue reading

Series @ ActiveHistory.ca: 2014-2015

As part of our summer hiatus, ActiveHistory.ca is featuring summaries of the papers and series we’ve run over the past year. Today, we provide a list of the series we’ve published since September 2014:

The Home Archivist (by Jess Dunkin) – Ongoing

Anishinaabeg in the War of 1812 (by Alan Corbiere)

200 Years of the Old Chieftain – January 2015

Infectious Disease, Contagion and the History of Vaccines – March/April 2015

Commemorating 35 years of the Marathon of Hope (Jenny Ellison) – April 2015

Thirty Five Years after the Abortion Caravan – May 2015

Papers @ ActiveHistory.ca: 2014-2015

As part of our summer hiatus, ActiveHistory.ca is featuring summaries of the papers and series we’ve run over the past year. Today, we provide a list of the papers we’ve published since September 2014:

Kenneth C. Dewar, The Social Democracy Question [Politics] (June 2015)

Myra Rutherdale, Bodies of Water, Not Bodies of Women: Canadian Media Images of the Idle No More Movement [EnvironmentalIndigenous HistoriesPolitics] (May 2015)

Crystal Fraser and Ian Mosby, Setting Canadian History Right?: A Response to Ken Coates’ ‘Second Thoughts about Residential Schools’ [EducationIndigenous Histories] (April 2015)

Gregor Kranjc, Memory Politics: Ottawa’s Monument to the Victims of Communism, [PoliticsEthnicity and Identity] (Mar 2015)

Carol Williams, Campus Campaigns against Reproductive Autonomy: The Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform Campus Genocide Awareness Project as Propaganda for Fetal Rights, [Medicine, health care and public health] (Dec 2014)

Beverly Soloway, Victory in the Kitchen: Food Control in the Lakehead during the Great War, [Consumers, buying and retailing] (Nov 2014)

Aaron Boyes, Debating Canada’s Future: A Night at Montreal’s Sohmer Park, 1892, [Language, Ethnicity and IdentityNationalism and RegionalismPolitics and Parties] (Sept 2014)

ActiveHistory.ca accepts submissions of original research-based essays on an ongoing basis. For more information, on our policies and procedures, please visit our papers section or e-mail papers@activehistory.ca.

New Paper: The Social Democracy Question

ActiveHistory.ca is pleased to announce the publication of Kenneth Dewar’s new paper: “The Social Democracy Question”


 

Over the past twenty years, the fate of social democracy has been the subject of numerous inquiries by intellectuals, academics, journalists, and politicians. These have frequently taken the form of questioning whether there is any life left in the movement at all, or alternatively, of asking what needs to be done to revive it. “What happened to the European left?” asked American political scientist Sheri Berman in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, when (counter-intuitively) support for the left declined rather than rose. At the same time, in the same magazine (Dissent) a journalist asked whether European social democracy had a future, while two years earlier in another venue two other writers had asked, like relatives at a bedside, “Is the left alright?” More recently, in 2013, former NDP leader Ed Broadbent delivered the Jack Layton Memorial Lecture at Ryerson University, choosing as his title, “Social democracy: dead as the dodo, or the only option?” It’s not giving too much away to say that he inclined toward the latter.1

Almost all of these discussions assume an identification of social democracy and particular political parties; they are really asking, in other words, why support for social democratic parties has declined in the states in which they operate. Broadbent’s lecture was an interesting exception to this, not because his party had made unprecedented gains in the federal election two years earlier, but because his view of social democracy was more expansive. [see more]


Editors Note: In addition to our group blog, ActiveHistory.ca strives to provide timely, well-written and thoroughly researched papers on a variety of history-related topics.  Expanded conference papers or short essays that introduce an upcoming book project are great starting points for the type of paper we publish. With a current readership of more than 20,000 visits per month we can assure that you will find an interested audience through our site. For more information visit our Papers Section or contact papers@activehistory.ca. All of our papers are peer reviewed to ensure that they are accurate and up-to-date. 

 

“Setting Canadian History Right?: A Response to Ken Coates’ ‘Second Thoughts about Residential Schools’”

By Crystal Fraser and Ian Mosby

As two young historians of Canada’s notorious Indian Residential School System – one finishing her PhD, the other currently in his second postdoctoral fellowship – we were wary when we saw Ken Coates’ recent opinion piece in the Dorchester Review.[1] At a first glance, the title, in particular, had us worried: “Second Thoughts about Residential Schools” brought to mind Thomas Flanagan’s misguided monograph First Nations? Second ThoughtsThough deeply concerned at what lay ahead, Coates is an historian we both respect a great deal, so, from our computers in Alberta and Ontario, we read on.

The commentary itself was clearly written to spark a debate. Like many of the editorials that fill Canadian newspapers, it is written in a conversational style without footnotes or references and – more importantly – it attempts to challenge what Coates’ sees as hegemonic narratives characterizing the study of Indian residential schools. And given that the online version of the article (like every page on the Dorchester Review website) is flanked by quotes from David Frum proclaiming that the journal is “Setting Canadian history right,” the essay’s ambition to upend the sacred cows of the Canadian historical profession, itself, are immediately apparent.

Coates stresses that he has “struggled over the last thirty years to make sense of the impact of residential schools on Aboriginal people” and the essay is presented as a culmination of that “struggle.” To be sure, his is a piece about how academics might struggle with their own politics under the veil of objectivity and how that relates to the kinds of historical research we undertake. Another historian, one specializing in Indian residential schooling, might have more deeply probed, for instance, how Indigenous people have struggled with the long legacy and effects of Indian residential schools. Coates, though, begins in a decidedly personal place located well outside of Indigenous experiences: namely, memories of attending an Anglican summer camp located near the Carcross Residential School and spending a week in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, as “the guest of a Catholic research school” where “the rules and regulations almost turned [him] into a twelve-year-old Che Guevera by the time [he] left.”

This leads us to the two most problematic elements of Coates’ essay that, together, constitute the crux of his argument. [Read More]


 

ActiveHistory.ca is pleased to publish Crystal Fraser and Ian Mosby’s response to Ken Coates’s ‘Second Thoughts about Residential Schools’ as part of our Papers Section. ActiveHistory.ca strives to provide timely, well-written and thoroughly researched papers on a variety of history-related topics.  Expanded conference papers or short essays that introduce an upcoming book project or respond to current affairs are great starting points for the type of paper we publish. For more information visit our Papers Section or contact papers@activehistory.ca

The Sugar Monster Feeds on the Navajo Nation

Former Active History editor, Brittany Luby, an assistant professor of history at Laurentian University, was unable to attend this week’s annual meeting of the American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) in Washington, D.C. and asked if we could host a video of her presentation: “The Sugar Monster Feeds on the Navajo Nation: An Analysis of the Bodily and External Environment in Artistic and Medical Accounts of the Navajo (Diné) Diabetes Crisis”. Click here for more information about the conference. You can follow the proceedings on twitter through the #ASEH2015.

New Paper: Memory Politics: Ottawa’s Monument to the Victims of Communism

ActiveHistory.ca is pleased to announce the publication of Gregor Kranjc’s new paper: “Memory Politics: Ottawa’s Monument to the Victims of Communism.”


 

Know that evil comes in many forms and seems to reinvent itself – Nazism, Marxist-Leninism, today, terrorism – they all have one thing in common: The destruction, the end, of human liberty.

Ideologies that promise utopias lead to the opposite, hell on earth. That’s why […] this monument […] reminds us of the names the stories of those lost to one of the deadliest ideological plagues ever spread, to communism.

The year is 2014, not 1954, and the speaker is the Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, not Senator Joseph McCarthy. These phrases denouncing Communism and celebrating Canada’s commitment to freedom, democracy and justice were extolled in a 20-minute speech at a 250$-per plate fundraising event in Toronto for the building of the Memorial to the Victims of Communism on 30 May 2014. Harper’s speech had in fact very little to do with the actual monument proposed for Ottawa or the historical record of communism, beyond denouncing it as an abomination alongside fascism that “snuffed out the lights and lives of freedom, democracy and justice”. It did have a lot to say about conservatives winning the Cold War (and standing on the shoulders of the “giants” U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Thatcher), about the apologetic and weak-kneed stance towards Communist regimes by successive Liberal governments (although he never mentioned the party by name), and about the large numbers of Canadians (approximately one-quarter in Harper’s estimates) who trace their origins to current or former Communist countries. [Read More]


Editors Note: In addition to our group blog, ActiveHistory.ca strives to provide timely, well-written and thoroughly researched papers on a variety of history-related topics.  Expanded conference papers or short essays that introduce an upcoming book project are great starting points for the type of paper we publish. With a current readership of more than 20,000 visits per month we can assure that you will find an interested audience through our site. For more information visit our Papers Section or contact papers@activehistory.ca. All of our papers are peer reviewed to ensure that they are accurate and up-to-date. 

 

Turmoil and Meddling at the Foundation for Canadian Studies in the UK

Since the new year began, just six-and-a-half weeks ago, considerable changes have been made to the direction of the Foundation for Canadian Studies in the UK. Earlier in the month, the High Commission, which collaborates with this UK charity, added four new members to the board, signalling that problems were afoot. Last week, another four members of the board resigned as a faction of the board (bolstered by the new members) motioned (successfully) towards the removal of Rachel Killick, an emeritus professor of Canadian and French studies. These board members are well known to Canadian academics: historian Margaret MacMillan, Canada 2020 advisor Diana Carney, and UK-based Canadian Studies professors Steve Hewitt and Susan Hodgett. The details of the trouble at the Foundation for Canadian Studies can be found on The Globe and MailThe National Post, and Christopher Moore’s History NewsIn an effort to better understand this situation, below we repost the notice that Steve Hewitt distributed on Facebook explaining his decision to leave the board:

Dear friends (especially those working on Canada in the UK.)

Last June I became a trustee on the board for the Foundation for Canadian Studies in the UK. Continue reading

Epilogue: Critical Indigenous Reflections on Sir John A. Macdonald

Last month Karen Dubinsky published a post with us on Kingston’s preparations for commemorating the 200th anniversary of Sir John A. Macdonald’s birth. In that post she mentioned a symposium on “Critical Indigenous Reflections on Sir John A. Macdonald” that was held in November at Queen’s University. Much of that symposium was recorded and has now been placed on YouTube. The full line up includes a talk by artist David Garneau (who will be in Kingston today) and a book launch of Glen Coulthard’s  Red Skin, White Masks as well as panels on Metis relations, artistic interventions, government policy and re-imagining Canada. As an epilogue to our series on Canada’s first prime minister, we’ve embedded the first of these videos (Garneau’s talk) as an entry point into this useful resource. Continue reading

New Directions in Active History: Institutions, Communication, and Technologies

Members of the editorial team are excited to announce that we’re organizing a conference. This three day conference will create a forum similar to our 2008 founding symposium “Active History: A History for the Future,” where historians interested in the practice of Active History can share their research, methods, and projects with each other. Second, as a primarily web-based and volunteer-run project, we also intend to use this conference to explore new directions for ActiveHistory.ca. With 20,000 unique visitors a month, ActiveHistory.ca is one of the best known history-related websites in Canada. Over the past five years, we’ve published nearly 1,000 blog posts, peer reviewed papers, book reviews, and podcasts. It is time to revisit the project’s goals and look towards what the next five years will bring.

Continue reading