Cheering for Global Warming: What Europe’s Climatic Past can tell us About our Attitudes Today

By Dagomar Degroot

Last March, 15,000 heat records were shattered across all American states. While monthly temperatures soared over 15 degrees Celsius above twentieth century American averages, unseasonal warmth also affected much of Canada. In Toronto, hushed, apologetic admissions that there might be something to climate change after all quickly yielded to unabashed celebration of global warming as spring sprung a month early. Of course, if a similar heat wave settled over the city in July or August a very different – if equally shrill – chorus might have drowned my Twitter or Facebook feeds. Still, much of the Northern Hemisphere is uncomfortably cold more often than it’s uncomfortably warm. A month ago I couldn’t help but think that individual, corporate and state responses to climate change in the west might be more serious if the world was cooling. Continue reading

Refreshing the Site

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We’re happy to announce that ActiveHistory.ca is getting a new look! Over the next few days, we will be implementing some major changes to our website. This process should take about a week or so, so things may be in some flux.

If you have any comments about our new site, such as any features that may have been moved during our migration, or things you’d love to see, please let us know below.

A Plea for Progressive Taxation in Ontario

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By Ryan Kelly

At risk of a credit rating downgrade, Ontario is grappling with the task of closing a presumably skyrocketing debt in the coming years. In search of creative ways of closing this fiscal gap, the Liberal government has been remarkably uncreative in its proposed solutions. Most notably, the proposed budget is void of new or progressive revenues, and is decidedly austere in design. Plainly, with artificially low interest rates, and deficit resulting from the economic downturn of 2008-09, the Liberal government seeks to cut essential public services. Let there be no mistake that Ontario’s financial standing is not in any way the result of over-spending on essential services. Quite the opposite is the case. Per capita, Ontario spends less than any other province on public services. This tells the story of highly efficient programming and servicing. Continue reading

Remembering the Night to Remember: Titanic in Public Memory

by Mike Commito

Titanic at the docks (Wikipedia Commons)

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the luxury ocean liner, R.M.S. Titanic. The vessel was on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City when it struck an iceberg on the night of 14 April 1912, sinking in the early hours of the morning.

The ship was supposed to make history through its luxury, power, and efficiency. However, after fatally colliding with the iceberg, it still made history but in a much more profound and unintended way. The incident resulted in the deaths of 1,517 people, making it one of the worst maritime disasters on record. Moreover, it was a watershed moment in human history: it highlighted the limitations of technology and the idea of human infallibility. But it also spurred a memory industry that has continued to re-remember the ship and its fateful night in April 1912. Continue reading

The Popularity of Remembrance

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The Battle of Vimy Ridge, a painting by Richard Jack. Canadian War Museum.

By: Laura Piticco

The week of April 9-13 is important for marking two major events in history: the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and the 95th anniversary of the battle at Vimy Ridge. Both events have as of late been dominating the media coverage, one in particular, the Titanic, more than the other.

Underlying the coverage of both of these events is the actual history that seems to have gotten lost. As historians, we want to see that people are actually thinking critically and being provoked to ask questions; not simply accepting the material that is being presented. The Titanic was more than just an ocean liner sinking. It is a story that encompasses topics about class, race, and gender in a society that is not that far removed from our society today. We should be thinking about and discussing these issues in relation to how it was representative of the society of the time. Equally important, in terms of Vimy Ridge, are the countless other battles fought in World War I that showed the strength and collectiveness of our nation. Are they not as important? Can and should the battle of Vimy Ridge be the most significant representative moment of this war? Should we not honour the other battles with the same respect? Continue reading

Gaming the Future, Parsing the Past: the EXtreme climaTe events prepaRedness and Adaption (EXTRA) Invitational Drought Tournament

By Merle Massie

A major drought of unknown intensity and duration is about to hit the Oxbow Basin in Canada. With a population of about three million people over a landbase of 175,000 square kilometers devoted primarily to agriculture, water management will consume all levels of governance, from the farmstead to the largest city.

What are you going to do?

Send members of the University of Saskatchewan’s Global Institute for Water Security and the School of Environment and Sustainability into action! And oh yes — include an environmental historian. Continue reading

The Public’s Role in Active History

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"The Discovery of Canada" by Kate Beaton (www.harkavagrant.com)

by Jeffers Lennox

Historians of Canada specifically, and academics generally, have found themselves of late at the business end of some harsh criticisms.  To believe the editorials in major newspapers, academics write about obscure topics for the benefit of a small handful of other academics; we find students and teaching to be a distraction from our esoteric research projects; and we have no qualms about abdicating our public responsibility, even though most of us are paid from the public purse.  Based on these kinds of charges, it is no surprise that many Canadians are calling for reform in the university system.  But what about demanding more of Canadians themselves? Continue reading

Aboriginal History in Ontario’s Cottage Country

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By Thomas Peace

LAC DAPDCAP97038 MIKAN No. 3192578Frequently, when I am ‘up north’ and discussing my research on northeastern Aboriginal peoples during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, I am asked one of two questions:  Why were there no Aboriginal people living here?  Or, what happened to the Aboriginal people who were here?

The questions are good ones, and reflect the absence of Aboriginal people from general discussion of Muskoka’s (and much of cottage country’s) past.  Though it is changing, many of cottage country’s local museums, community websites and history books focus on the arrival of Europeans and creation of the towns with which we are familiar today, leaving the discussion of Native people to a short handful of sentences to mark what took place before Europeans arrived.  Aside from Bruce Hodgins and Jamie Benidickson’s The Temagami Experience, which doesn’t exactly focus on the heart of cottage country, and Patricia Blair’s Lament for a First Nation, there are few scholarly monographs or articles that address Aboriginal people in central Ontario.  Like in many places across Canada, history in this part of Ontario is told as a veritable clear-cutting of the past where Aboriginal people were replaced by the lumber industry and subsequent European settlement of the region.

It was with this context in mind that, a week and a half ago, I was pleased to see that Peter Kent, the cabinet minister overseeing Parks Canada, designated the displacement of the Anishinaabeg of Southern Georgian Bay a National Historic Event as one of 13 new National Historic Sites, Persons and Events related to Aboriginal people.  Continue reading

Where’s the History? The absence of history on History Television

By Alison Deplonty, MA Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Western Ontario

What do Top Gear, Ax Men, and Rodeo: Life on the Circuit have in common with Greatest Tank Battles, Lost Worlds, and Battle 360?  They’re all programs on History Television.  If you’re like me and you’re wondering what the former have to do with history, you’re not alone.  What happened to the evenings of Digging for the Truth, Underworld Histories, and Patton 360?  The History Television bio on Twitter says that they provide “entertaining programs that bring to life people and events from the past and history in the making.”  Maybe the folks at History Television think that Around the World in 80 Ways, Ice Road Truckers, and similar programs depict history in the making, but I don’t—no matter how entertaining they may be. Continue reading

The Ordeal: Evaluation and the Production of Historians

By Greg Kennedy

I remember being so exhausted that I seriously considered breaking from the column and lying down in a ditch. I remember being so angry that I almost punched my instructor. And I remember the sense of accomplishment when I finally finished basic training, the confidence that has become a continual source of strength. In the military, “the ordeal” is not just a test, it is a fundamental experience which forces recruits to experience exhaustion, anger and frustration so that they can master these emotions and be able to perform in the most stressful of situations.

Many professions, including that of historian, employ an ordeal to test its candidates. I remember my PhD thesis defence. From the sound of the bell, my external examiner tried to knock me out with an all-out attack, criticizing everything from the organization and the methodology to the conclusions of my work. My certification and my job prospects depended on this man. My heartbeat elevated and I felt cold. I remember taking a few moments to gather my thoughts and steady my voice, and virtually nothing else. But I must have done all right because here I am; a historian and professor. Continue reading