Parler Fort: Four Wars of 1812

      No Comments on Parler Fort: Four Wars of 1812

We’re pleased to tell you about our next PARLER FORT discussion taking place next Wednesday evening, July 4th at 7:30pm.

Our commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 has begun in Toronto and across Canada with many opportunities to look with fresh eyes at what took place 200 years ago. Parler Fort’s latest contribution is our event titled: The Four Wars of 1812: Remembering Our Independence this July 4th. Continue reading

Active History and the Importance of Place

      No Comments on Active History and the Importance of Place

By Andrew Watson

Stories bring places to life, and places attach special meaning to stories. Every story takes place somewhere, and every place has a story to tell. Historians, especially ‘Active’ historians have a responsibility to tie the stories we tell to the places where they unfolded. The evidence historians uncover and the insight historians apply to that evidence combine to create stories that include lessons from the past. While academics often find these lessons useful at a theoretical or abstract level (stories about ‘freedom’ or ‘Canada’), most people, I suspect, appreciate a story if the lessons they derive from it provide a better understanding of their own lives. This is why ‘place’ is so important for active history. Continue reading

In the beginning there was… Canada?!?

      1 Comment on In the beginning there was… Canada?!?

This is my favourite time of the year to be in Quebec City.  With the school year drawing to a close, a seemingly endless train of tour buses bear down on the city. Ontario’s youth are here to learn about Canada’s roots in the berceau of the nation. Our story starts here… or at least so the tale goes. Sitting at my hotel-room desk in Quebec – straddled between two days of national celebration – I can’t help but consider the stories we use to describe who we are and where we have been as a country. Continue reading

The Loyalists

      No Comments on The Loyalists

For readers who are in Toronto, we have been asked to pass along information about a production that is having its closing night tonight.

Closing night 22 June 2012
7 pm & 9 pm
Tickets: $25 (buy online, visit for more information)
Location: 520 Wellington St. W, Victoria Memorial Square (map)
Prepare yourself for an immersive and interactive experience unlike any other!

York, 1813… The Americans have occupied the town. The people of York must choose to remain loyal to Great Britain or embrace the American conqueror.

Developed in residence at Canadian Stage for the Festival of Ideas and Creation, The Loyalists focuses on concepts of domesticity, loyalty and above all, the decision to remain a distinct people.

The town of York consists of fifteen ‘stations’ designed by architect Jay Pooley. A cast of fifteen actors populate the town. A team of fifteen artists, including composers, carpenters, weavers, props experts, and installation artists have collaborated to create the sound, feel and texture of the world.

Christianity and Active History

      2 Comments on Christianity and Active History

By Andrew Nurse

More often then not, Christianity does not enjoy a positive public image. Canadians may be willing to select Tommy Douglas as the “Greatest Canadian,” but one suspects that this had more to do with medicare than his evangelical background. Interestingly, Christianity’s PR problems have a lot to do with history. Continue reading

Podcast: “Whose War Was It, Anyway?” A Roundtable Discussion on the War of 1812

A full room at the Waterloo Public Library for "'Whose War Was It, Anyway?' A Round-Table Discussion"

By Jay Young

Not only are interpretations of war up for debate; the reasons behind how and why we remember it are too.  On May 30th 2012 a packed Waterloo Public Library hosted a roundtable titled “Whose War Was It, Anyway?”  Organized by the Active History Canadian Historical Association (CHA) Committee and supported by The History Education Network/Histoire et Éducation en Réseau (THEN/HiER) and the CHA, the event brought together a handful of historians to discuss not only various perspectives on the War of 1812, but also the meanings that lie behind the most recent moment of commemoration. is happy to feature a podcast of the roundtable.

The roundtable concluded an engaging mini-conference on the War of 1812.  The conference included presentations on topics such as augmented reality, the relationship between local tourism and the war’s commemoration, and the role of historic peace churches in Upper Canada during the conflict. Continue reading

Joe Beef and the Invention of Culinary Tradition

By Ian Mosby

Charles McKiernan, the original Joe Beef ca. 1875. McCord Museum, UAPT5014

As countless Canadian undergraduates have learned after reading Peter DeLottinville’s classic 1982 article, “Joe Beef of Montreal: Working-Class Culture and the Tavern, 1869-1889,” Joe Beef’s Canteen was more than just your ordinary tavern. Described as the “Great House of Vulgar People” by its larger-than-life proprietor Charles McKiernan – or Joe Beef as he was popularly known – a nineteenth century visitor to this ramshackle Montreal institution would likely have seen a brown bear named Tom drinking ale in the corner, two human skeletons hanging behind the bar, and piece of beef that had caused the death-by-choking of an unfortunate customer on display for all to see. For middle class Montrealers, it was a source of drunkenness, criminality and moral hazard. But, as DeLottinville argues, McKiernan’s working class patrons saw Joe Beef’s Canteen as more than just a place to find food, alcohol and sociability. McKiernan’s support for the unemployed, hungry, and sick – as well as for striking workers – saw the tavern become a kind of makeshift safety net for Montreal’s workers during hard times and, partly as a result of this function, a “stronghold of working class values and culture.”[1]

Although the recently published The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts (2011) begins with selections from DeLottinville’s article – albeit with the discussions of working-class politics and culture noticeably absent – it quickly becomes clear that the form of living described within would be much more recognizable to the educated leisure class that makes up today’s ‘foodie’ universe than the original Joe Beef or his clientele of “sailors and longshoremen, unemployed men and petty thieves.”[2] Written by the founders of contemporary Montreal restaurant Joe Beef – which has been described by celebrity chef and tastemaker David Chang as his “favorite restaurant in the world” – the ‘cookbook’ establishes its distance from this world of unskilled labourers and thieves by presenting the reader with the decadent “Fois Gras Parfait with Madeira Jelly” as its first recipe and by including an entire chapter dedicated to fine French wines. Continue reading

The History of Oil Pipeline Spills in Alberta, 2006-2012

May 2012 clean-up of oil spill near Rainbow Lake, Alberta

By Sean Kheraj

Late Thursday evening on June 7, 2012, the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group, a not-for-profit society, notified Plains Midstream Canada of a major oil pipeline failure near Sundre, Alberta that spilled an early estimate of between 1,000 and 3,000 barrels of light sour crude oil (~159-477 cubic metres) into Jackson Creek, a tributary of the Red Deer River. The river is one of the province’s most important waterways, providing drinking water for thousands of Albertans.
This recent spill occurred just weeks after another oil pipeline burst in Alberta in late May, spilling an estimated 22,000 barrels of oil and water (~3,497 cubic metres) across 4.3 hectares of muskeg in the northwest part of the province near Rainbow Lake. According to the Globe and Mail, this rupture, which occurred along a pipeline operated by Pace Oil & Gas, Ltd., “ranks among the largest in North America in recent years,” and certainly in the province of Alberta. A couple of weeks after the accident, the company downgraded the estimate to 5,000 barrels of sweet crude oil with no water (~795 cubic metres).

Continue reading

Reclaiming History Through Photographs

      1 Comment on Reclaiming History Through Photographs

King Family, Gull Bay, Nipigon, Ontario.

By Krista McCracken

Historical photographs can be used to serve a variety of research, personal, and community interests.  Images can be used for genealogy, legal testimony, supplementing written historical accounts, and providing windows into the past. Photographs can also be used as important tools in healing, reconciliation, and in the reclamation of lost history.The use of photographs in the reclamation of history resonates most frequently with minorities and repressed peoples.  Historically many underrepresented groups simply did not have access to the means to take photographs.  This does not mean that photographs were not taken of them by other groups. Continue reading