Colonialism and the Words We Choose: Lessons from Museum and Academy

About two months ago I was in a local museum with my family learning about the eighteenth century history of the community in which the museum was located. In many ways we had a typical country museum experience. We were met by costumed interpreters and told the stories of the building and the people who lived there. Then we learned about some of the broader historical context. For our guide, the story this museum told hinged on the European settlement of the “savage wilderness inhabited only by Indians.”

As a historian who studies Native communities during the eighteenth century in the places best-known today as Quebec, New England and Maritime Canada, I felt that I had been transported to a different era. Though wilderness remains pervasive, isn’t the noun savage an artifact from an earlier century? And don’t Native people have a history that predates their encounter with Europeans? Continue reading

History Slam Episode 3 with Guest Craig Heron, Author of Booze

By Sean Graham

In this episode of the History Slam I talk with the author of Booze: A Distilled History, Craig Heron from York University. We chat about the place of alcohol in Canadian history, changing patterns of consumption, and what we think about our politicians’ drinking. Special thanks to the history department at the University of Toronto for allowing us to record in the best seminar room I have ever seen!

Sean Graham is a doctoral candidate at the University of Ottawa where he is currently working on a project that examines the early years of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He has previously studied at Nipissing University, the University of the West Indies, and the University of Regina and like any red-blooded Canadian his ultimate dream is to be a curling champion while living on a diet of beer and poutine.

Gin and Tonic: A Short History of a Stiff Drink

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Gin and Tonic. Image from Wikipedia.

By Jay Young

The Gin and Tonic – what better a drink during the dog days of summer?  Put some ice in a glass, pour one part gin, add another part tonic water, finish with a slice of lime, and you have a refreshing drink to counter the heat.  But it is also steeped in the history of medicine, global commodity frontiers, and the expansion of the British Empire.  Continue reading

Reunions as an Oral History Source

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Constructing a tipi at the Home Again 2012 reunion. Photo by the author.

By Ryan O’Connor

One of the defining countercultural phenomena of the 1970s was the back-to-the-land movement. During this period, tens – maybe hundreds – of thousands of North Americans abandoned their urban dwellings for a rural lifestyle. This movement, which eschewed the postwar consumer culture, brought thousands of people “from away” to Prince Edward Island. Some stayed a few weeks; others a few seasons. Some never left. Continue reading

Capitalist Theology on the CBC

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By Dr. Joseph Tohill

There’s nothing like a bit of neoconservative propaganda gussied up as a hip, edgy CBC radio program to get your blood boiling on a hot summer’s day. The Invisible Hand, a mid-week staple of Radio One’s summer schedule hosted by Vancouver broadcaster Matthew Lazin-Ryder, bills itself as “a defiantly non-dismal take on the ‘dismal science’ of economics.” Revelling in its role as cheeky iconoclast, the show seeks to upend the conventional wisdom about greedy price gougers, rapacious capitalists, and exploitative sweatshop owners.

Behind The Invisible Hand’s irreverence, however, runs a deep-seated conservative ideology that the show seeks to pass off as hipster wisdom or indisputable truth. From beginning to end, each episode of the show is a resounding affirmation of the basic tenet of capitalist theology, that nothing promotes the public good more than the grasping, amoral pursuit of individual self-interest. Greed is good; government is bad; and any well-meaning attempt to interfere with the invisible hand inevitably causes more harm than good. Continue reading

Combating the ‘Haters:’ Social Media and Public Memory in Contemporary Germany

Völkerschlachtdenkmal Leipzig, Anti-Nazi-Plakat, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

By Erica Fagen

Share. Like. Tweet. Favourite.

Social media has a large presence in today’s culture, but how can it be useful for historians? For the past three months, I have worked on “Hate 2.0: Combatting Right-Wing Extremism in the Age of Social Technology,” which looks at how individuals and organizations are using social media to counter hate. I am exploring this question of social media for historians in an article I am co-writing with Jennifer Evans (article excerpts and reflections on the project can be seen here). Beyond the questions of what social media can do for historians, the research done for this project makes me think of the role of social media in public memory and historical consciousness. This is apparent in both activists who get rid of Nazi symbolism, and those who use Nazi imagery to oppose neo-Nazis. Continue reading

Oblivion stalks Postal Station K

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Postal Station K. Image from “Save Historic Postal Station K” Facebook page.

by Tom Cohen

“Postal Station K!” Poetic resonance: none! Just one more slightly surplus postal station – in this age of electronic mail, a property easily unloaded, after all. A splendid spot on Yonge Street, in booming North Toronto, just perfect for a big condominium, with a shopping podium at sidewalk level. So sell it, right!

Now wait a minute. Take a good hard look at Station K. Look above the door, right between the lion and the unicorn. That’s “ER” – Elizabeth Regina, The Queen.

Ooops! Look again! Between the E and the R we have not “II” but “VIII”! Who in heaven’s name is that? Why, it’s Edward. Edward the Almost Eighth! The King Who Never Was, gave up the crown to marry Wallis Simpson and eke out his exiled life in love of Hitler. That “royal cipher” is a royal rarity. There are few indeed in Canada, or anywhere. Continue reading

Fresh, Local, and Financially Sound: Community Supported Agriculture in Canada

One weekly share of produce from a CSA

By Krista McCracken

In recent years Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operations in Canada have increased dramatically in number and their popularity continues to grow.  The state of CSAs in my area speaks to the rising success of the CSA movement; all of the established CSAs in my area are no longer taking members or have a waiting list.  Across the country CSAs have become an increasingly popular way to obtain local, seasonal, or organic produce.

So how does as CSA work? Typically a CSA operates by having consumers provide farmers with a set fee prior to the growing season.  In return for this fee, the consumers receive weekly shares of vegetables throughout the harvest season. Typically, no farm work is required by the shareholders and their financial contribution helps support the farm and local agricultural community. Some CSAs also include dairy or meat products.  Variations of this CSA model, with different levels of participation can now be found in both rural and urban centers across the country. Continue reading

Sex, Crime and Power: A Testimonial

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By Christine McLaughlin

My background in the history of women and gender has led me to be critical of treating history as a linear march towards progress. In spite of this, I have very much taken for granted what I thought was a much safer and open space for women in my contemporary time and place.

I realized how deeply my own personal experience shaped this point of view when I was sexually violated. This experience emphasized that a safe space in many ways is very much a state of mind, while a state of mind can very much be shaped by experience. Continue reading

History Slam Episode 2 with Guest Victoria Lamb Drover

Creative Commons ShareALike Image

In this edition of the History Slam I talk with Victoria Lamb Drover about the history of Participaction. Discussion includes Body Break, the use of the media, and Hal Johnson’s mustache. Got any personal stories of your involvement with Participaction? Let Victoria know at and be sure to subscribe to the History Slam on iTunes!

History Slam Episode 2 with Guest Victoria Lamb Drover