Performing History, Class and Gender in Billy Elliot: The Musical

Elton John was in Toronto last week for the official opening of Billy Elliot: The Musical, a production I was lucky to recently see.  The musical, which premiered in London in 2005 and won 10 Tony awards in 2009, is a stage adaptation of the popular 2000 coming-of-age film about Billy Elliot, a fictional, 11-year-old, working-class lad who dreams of becoming a professional dancer.  As I watched the musical, I was struck by the ways in which the musical’s overarching historical context – the British mining strike of 1984-1985 – served as the backdrop to examine issues of class and gender through the story of a struggling community and one very talented boy.  Yet I also pondered: what happened to those who lacked the opportunity to leave town like Billy? Continue reading

New paper: What Can “Oral History” Teach Us?

What if the study of the Canadian past was understood as an interdisciplinary field? Steven High’s new paper offers oral history as an example of an interdisciplinary craft that has made such a transition.  High, Canada Research Chair in Public History and Associate Professor of History at Concordia University, examines this and other issues surrounding oral history.

ActiveHistory.ca is always looking for new papers to post on the site.  If you are interested in submitting a paper, please see our editorial guidelines.

Forced Marriage: An under recognized, poorly understood form of enslavement

UK Forced Marriage Unit Handbook

Editors Note: There are two parts to this post.  Part 1 is Karlee Sapoznik’s piece on Forced Marriage.  Part 2 is a summary of the launch and upcoming events for one of our partners, the Alliance Against Modern Slavery.

When we think of slavery, the institution of marriage rarely comes to mind. However, the denial of basic human rights and the enslavement of women and girls continue on a widespread scale, often centering on marriage.

Since the post World War II era, forced marriage has been prohibited under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), forbidden in dozens of international treaties recognizing the right to free and full consent in marriage, and specific forms of forced marriage have been defined as “slavery.” Continue reading

Call for Film Reviewers

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Are you a historical film buff? Can you offer historical analysis to films that explore the past? Then ActiveHistory.ca is the site for you!

We are looking to expand our review section to historically-based films. Film is a popular medium for conveying historical knowledge. It offers great promise in popularizing history, but it is also contained by many limitations. We would like to explore these promises and pitfalls more fully by hosting critical reviews of films dealing with historical themes. Continue reading

Twitter in the Classroom

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Many people use Twitter for personal social/professional pursuits: finding links, having communication with a broad audience, self-promoting your blog on making history relevant (“follow us,” we cry). But you can use twitter in the classroom to create a sense of community, facilitate communication out of class, and hopefully open students’ eyes to the enormity of the world and the role that digital communication plays in ongoing events. As a long-term skeptic about the utility of twitter – and somebody who continues to avoid Facebook – I hope to reach the digital skeptic here.

When I first heard of Twitter in mid-to-late 2006, it sounded inane. 140 characters seemed restrictive for text (SMS) messaging, let alone as a means to communicate over the internet. We have e-mail, I probably snidely dismissed, and then went back to predicting the eminent end of Facebook. It wasn’t really until 2009 that I realized I had been wrong. Continue reading

Nature’s Past Canadian Environmental History Podcast

Book Cover

By Sean Kheraj

Podcasts are yet another digital medium for historians to reach new audiences and communicate their research findings. Elisabeth Grant at AHA Today recently surveyed some of the history podcasts available online today. Since 2008, the Network in Canadian History & Environment has produced a monthly audio podcast called Nature’s Past. Through interviews, round-table discussions, and lectures the podcast explores the environmental history research community in Canada.

A new episode of Nature’s Past, the Canadian environmental history podcast, is now available for download. This month, we take a look at the 1918-1919 influenza epidemic and its impact on Winnipeg. Continue reading

Quite the World, Isn’t It? Why Wisconsin Matters to All of Us

Cover of the June 1914 issue of The Masses by John French Sloan, depicting the Ludlow Massacre

By Scott Martelle

The unfolding of the absurd events in Wisconsin hasn’t had the same drama as the revolutions sweeping across North Africa, but it could have a longer-lasting effect on America’s (growing) working and (shrinking) middle classes. Below is an op-ed I wrote last week but couldn’t find a home for. It still deserves an airing, I think:

It’s one thing for a political leader to take a principled stance against the power of public employee unions in state and local politics. It’s another thing entirely when you threaten to unleash a military force against them. And in raising the specter of calling out the National Guard in a possible showdown with public employees in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has touched one of the most painful scars in American labor history.

No wonder union supporters have reacted with so much anger. Continue reading

March 10th Public Lecture: “A Brief History of Canadian Utopias: Is There a Canadian Utopian Tradition?”

A reminder to our readers that you are all invited to the inaugural lecture in the Mississauga Library System’s ‘History Minds’ series, co-hosted with ActiveHistory.ca. The first talk will be on Thursday, March 10th at 7:30PM in Classroom 3 at the Mississauga Central Library (see below the cut for directions).

“A Brief History of Canadian Utopias:  Is There a Canadian Utopian Tradition?”
With Professor Colin M. Coates.

Since the arrival of European settlers, various ethnic, religious and political groups have attempted to establish self-consciously utopian communities in different parts of the country.  This talk examines some examples of these utopian communities as well as some of the literary expressions of utopian literature related to Canada.  It assesses the range and coherence of utopian thought in Canada from the 17th century to the late 20th century. Continue reading

Want to Write With Us? We’re Looking for More Bloggers!

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The ActiveHistory.ca team is looking for more contributors for our collaborative blog on how history and historians actively engage communities and contribute to current debates.  This blog has a growing readership – last month we had nearly 4,000 distinct visitors – and it provides potential contributors the opportunity to reach a wider audience. If you’re interested in contributing, please read more to find out what we’re looking for! Continue reading

Call for Papers – History on the Grand: People and Place, Local and Public History Symposium

The City of Cambridge Archives Board invites you to join them on Saturday October 22, 2011 for History on the Grand, a one day local history symposium being held at Cambridge’s City Hall in Downtown Cambridge Ontario. Continue reading