History Slam Episode Six with John Resch: The American Perspective on the War of 1812

History Slam! Host Sean Graham with Professor John Resch.

By Sean Graham

The History Slam has gone international! In this edition I chat with John Resch of the University of New Hampshire – Manchester and get the American perspective of the War of 1812. So while people across the country commemorate the Canadian point of view of the war, Professor Resch describes how the Americans feel about the conflict. We talk about the American desire to obtain Canada, national sovereignty, and William Henry Harrison even makes a cameo! Continue reading

The Historical Roots of Today’s Climate of Apathy

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Ludolf Backhuysen, Ships in Distress off a Rocky Coast, 1667

By Dagomar Degroot

In recent weeks widespread outrage over the publication of Kate Middleton’s topless photos has existed in strange parallel with a decidedly muted response to a shocking acceleration of Arctic melting. While every day brought new stories of royal indignation and litigation to the front pages of major newspapers, concern over the plight of our increasingly topless planet was tucked away in corners of the internet, where many comments were, as ever, skeptical at best. Nevertheless, our destruction or, at least, transformation of the planet’s environment continues despite our apathy and cynicism. This summer Arctic ice cover fell to 3.41 square kilometers, a decline by an area the size of Texas against the previous minimum and some 50% lower than the average between 1979 and 2000. The reasons for enduring public skepticism of climate science and global warming have been examined at length – most eloquently in Naomi Oreskes’ and Eric Conway’s Merchants of Doubt – but the causes for the apathy of believers are less clear. Continue reading

The Day the Music Died: Remembering Sam the Record Man

“Sam the Record Man,” photo by 24by36. Creative Commons License.

By Jay Young

The passing of Sam “the Record Man” Sniderman at the age of 92 filled the airwaves, newspaper pages, and conversations on the street in Toronto this past week.  Sniderman owned the largest chain of record stores in Canada and ardently promoted the Canadian music industry.  Many people expressed warm memories of the entrepreneur and his flagship shop on Yonge Street.  His death has also prompted Canadians – and especially Torontonians – to reflect on change along downtown Yonge Street and within the Canadian music industry over the past half century. Continue reading

The Sound Canadian Research Behind Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring

By Mark J. McLaughlin

September 2012 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. In this influential book, Carson argued exhaustively that the indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides such as DDT for industrial and agricultural purposes was detrimental to ecosystems and human health. Generally well received by the public, Silent Spring helped fuel the development of modern environmentalism around the world in the 1960s and 1970s. This growth in environmental awareness subsequently compelled various governments, among other things, to put in place regulatory frameworks for the use of pesticides and to even ban certain kinds, including DDT. Continue reading

Myth-making and the Non-Commemoration of the War of 1812

By Greg Kennedy

The government is trying really hard to make Canadians feel like the War of 1812 was important.  Variations of these themes announced on the government’s website, 1812.gc.ca, are routinely expressed by politicians, directors of heritage sites and members of local historical societies:

“Canada would not exist had the American invasion of 1812-15 been successful.”

The war “set the stage for the emergence of an independent Canada.”

The war “gave Canadians a sense of shared experience and relationships.”

 This is nonsense.  American war aims, the rhetoric of the war hawks notwithstanding, did not centre on annexing the colonies of British North America.  Carl Benn explains that the Americans intended to occupy Upper Canada, and perhaps Montréal, in order to force the British to give in on other more important issues, namely, American territorial expansion to the south and west, as well as freedom for American transatlantic commerce Continue reading

Marie-Joseph Angelique: Remembering the Arsonist Slave of Montreal

Montreal’s Place Marie-Josèphe Angélique. Photo by author.

By Mireille Mayrand-Fiset

When wandering around the streets of Old Montreal, one may come across a public square facing City Hall named Place Marie-Josèphe Angélique. Most people will not give much thought to it, unaware that the woman who gave her name to the square was once accused of setting fire to the very streets they are walking on.

Marie-JosephAngélique was a black slave who lived in New France during the early eighteenth century. Her fascinating story reveals a facet of our history that remained hidden for a long time and that is, still today, widely unknown to the public: the presence of slaves in New France. Continue reading

New Paper: Jason Ellis: The History of Education As “Active History”: A Cautionary Tale?

ActiveHistory.ca is pleased to announce the publication of Jason Ellis’s paper The History of Education As “Active History”: A Cautionary Tale?

This paper looks at the long tradition of “active history” within the history of education field. It traces the active history of education’s influence on teacher preparation programs, on educational policymaking and reform, and on activism in education, from approximately 1890 to the present. The paper also examines some of the consequences of the active history of education. In the history of education field, right wing school reformers in the 1980s and 1990s used active histories written by New Left historians in the 1960s and 1970s to draw up and justify blueprints for market-based school reform and privatization. In 2012, some people see these reforms as imperilling the continued existence of the American public school system. Is the “active history” of education therefore a cautionary tale? What happens when active histories are used to further political goals that the authors of those histories may not have foreseen or intended?

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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. This is an area of our website that we would like to develop further. If you have a paper that you think resonates well with our mandate please consider submitting a paper to us.  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 about 10,000 people 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. 

Review of the People’s Citizenship Guide: A Response to Conservative Canada

Esyllt Jones and Adele Perry, eds. People’s Citizenship Guide: A Response to Conservative Canada (Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2011).

Reviewed by E.L. Payseur

I was asked to write a review of the People’s Citizenship Guide as someone who has fairly recently taken the Canadian citizenship test, and not as the historian I am. It is extremely difficult to separate these two identities, but I will do my best to write as a mere mortal, rather than as an historian. Continue reading

Cemetery Tour Reveals War of 1812 Stories

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By Kayla Jonas

Group on Tour of the Hamilton Municipal Cemetery, Photo by Author

As a heritage lover I’ve been on walking tours in cities all around the world. Everywhere I go I like to get the city’s history by walking around and seeing the sights. But I’d never been on a cemetery tour, and surprisingly never on a tour in my hometown of Hamilton. A recent tour given by historian Robin McKee of the Hamilton Municipal Cemetery was one of the best walking tours I’ve ever been on and revealed many layers of the War of 1812 in Hamilton. Continue reading

Active History on Stage: Party People at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

By Daniel Ross

Party People. Christopher Livingston. Photo by Jenny Graham.

How do we create art about history? Can we make it powerful, relevant, and pedagogical? What happens when the people whose lives and struggles we portray are still alive – and in the audience? Anyone making art about the past has to come to grips with questions like these. But it’s rare to find artists comfortable enough with the practice of history to build an entire piece around answering them.  Bronx-based collective UNIVERSES does just that with the play Party People, which tells the story of the Black Panthers and Young Lords movements in the 1960s and early 70s. Continue reading