New Book Review: Enoch on Manufacturing Meltdown: Reshaping Steel Work

Simon Enoch reviews Manufacturing Meltdown: Reshaping Steel Work by D.W. Livingstone, Dorothy E. Smith and Warren Smith:

I approached the new Fernwood release Manufacturing Meltdown: Reshaping Steel Work by D.W. Livingstone, Dorothy Smith and Warren Smith (Fernwood Publishing, 2011, paperback: $27.95) from a rather different perspective than I approach most other historical works. Manufacturing Meltdown details over thirty years of research into the steel industry in Hamilton Ontario, my hometown. As the son of a boilermaker, growing up in a working class community and surrounded by the families of steelworkers throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, the material in this collection is particularly poignant as it revealed to me the driving macro-economic factors that shaped many of the events that characterized my childhood. READ MORE

Active History on the Grand: We Are All Treaty People

Six Nations' protest at Caledonia

It’s been five years since members of the Six Nations began their protest and occupation at the site of the Douglas Creek Estates housing development in Caledonia.  The events at Caledonia garnered national attention and caused heated confrontations between both sides.  Five years later the land is vacant expect for one finished house, a burnt-out tractor trailer and Haudenosaunee flags, remnants of the Six Nations occupation.  The Ontario Government has purchased the land from the housing developer and provided financial assistance to residents of Caledonia affected by the protest and occupation.

But little has been settled.  On the five year anniversary members of the Six Nations, including the three women who started the protest, returned to the site, the land which they call Kanenhstaton or “The Protected Place.”  Many residents of Caledonia are still angry about the ongoing native land dispute, and only a few days ago took their message to Ottawa.  The recent book by Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford about the Caledonia protest and occupation, Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us, has been dogged by controversy.  Last November Blatchford’s scheduled appearance at the University of Waterloo was canceled after protesters took to the stage claiming that Blatchford “does not explore issues central to the aboriginal occupation, such as historic land claims and treaties.” The ongoing land dispute at Caledonia, and other outstanding land claims in the Grand River Valley, as well as elsewhere in Canada, speaks to the significance of history and what Laurier Brantford’s Program Coordinator for Contemporary Studies Peter Farrugia calls “the immanence of the past in the present.” Continue reading

Movie Review: “Swedes and Scots and Sadists…Oh My”

This past weekend I watched two movies that were seemingly more different than any two movies could be. They did have things in common. Both films were intriguing and entertaining in their own way and at their heart is a similar theme: reclaiming and uncovering the “true” past. Continue reading

Some Reflections on Life Histories, Death, and Crossing between “Two Worlds”

 Collecting oral histories can pose significant challenges in crossing between the public spaces of oral history production and the professional space of the university. Bridging this divide can sometimes feel like an impossible task. It has often led me to feel that I’m moving back and forth between two worlds

When I first started doing this, I was surprised to encounter some distrust of academics. One woman shared a story with me that poignantly captured this. She had participated in an academic project once, but she hadn’t found it to be a very positive experience. When she read about a research project in the paper, she was eager to help, and she mailed some of her prized possessions – diaries and other records of her late aunt’s life – to the person conducting the research. And then she never heard from the researcher again. Continue reading


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This week, we have announcements concerning Earth Week, a new educational website for Chinese Canadian women’s history, a documentary on Chinese people and the CPR, as well as the Left History theme issue on Active History!

Earth Week Events

NiCHE (Network in Canadian History and the Environment) is hosting a series of public environmental history talks across Canada in the weeks before and after Earth Day.  Below are a list of talks being held in public libraries from Vancouver to Halifax: Continue reading

From Fukushima to Chernobyl: Bringing the Past to Bear on the Future

Lisa Rumiel

Note: The author would like to thank Linda Richards for her helpful comments and suggestions in preparing this article.

When asked how the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Reactor Complex accident was going to affect the nuclear industry in the long-term, World Nuclear Association Spokesman, Ian Hore Lacey, replied,

short term obviously it’ll be negative, but I think long term, when people sit down and take a good look at things, it should be positive, hopefully, and no more than neutral…If as we have reason to hope there are no fatalities or serious radiation injuries and effects from this incident, then alongside the tens of thousands of people who have been killed by the tsunami, I think people will stand back and say, “what was all the fuss about.” Okay, you’ve written off three reactors, and there’s been plenty of drama in news coverage, but at the end of the day, who has been adversely affected in any real way? [1]

There are several problems with this statement, not the least of which is Hore Lacey’s use of the devastating effects of the tsunami on Japanese people, families, and entire communities as a way of minimizing the seriousness of the Fukushima accident. But his suggestion that no one will be “affected in any real way” is completely thoughtless and untrue, that is, if you allow yourself to think about actual people.
Continue reading

Book Review: Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout

Activehistory has a semi-regular book review section that features articles by non-historians writing their views on books that you might find in the history section of your bookstore or university library. This review is a little different in that I am a professional historian (don’t hold it against me), but I am reviewing a book that would not be considered your typical, or your traditional scholarly work of history.

The book in question is Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout, and the reason that I chose to write this review is that having recently read this book, I can’t seem to shake it from my consciousness. Beautiful, imaginative, inspiring, whimsical, enlightening, are just some of the words that spring to mind when trying to describe this book. In short, this book rejuvenated my love of storytelling, while also challenging me to pursue my own discipline in new ways. Continue reading

Historians and Global Warming

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Rising tide on Dutch coast, 2010.

By Dagomar Degroot

It’s always been my belief that historians either consciously or unconsciously situate their histories in the context of the present. History is inevitably “active,” no matter our occasional insistence on pursuing history for history’s sake. This is no surprise to environmental historians who, more than colleagues operating in any other historical genre, explicitly address contemporary issues in their often declensionist narratives. As part of a small but growing number of environmental historians exploring the relationship between climatic changes and human affairs, I am drawn into modern debates about global warming whether I like it or not. That’s why I decided to use my first few blog posts to reflect on how my research as a historical climatologist has allowed me to address some big ideas in the discourse about global warming today. Continue reading

2012 Olympic Park: Remediating the Environmental and Social Conditions

The clock is counting down to the start of the 2012 Olympics in London. The main Olympic Park [map] is located in East London in heart of the Lower Lea Valley, which happens to be the same place I studied in my recently completed PhD. My research demonstrated the close correlation between the degraded environmental conditions and the disadvantaged social conditions in the sections of West Ham built on the wetlands. I ended my dissertation wondering whether the current  multi-billion dollar project to clean up the environment for the Olympics might result in a comparable effort to clean out the socially undesirable people from this landscape.

An article in the Guardian, “Houseboaters being ‘socially cleansed’ from Olympics area,” suggests this process might be underway. House boaters are concerned that British Waterways are going to increase the mooring costs along canals in the Lower Lea:

British Waterways, which manages 2,200 miles of canals and rivers, has put forward changes to the mooring rules on the river Lea, in east London, that could increase the cost of living on the waterway from about £600 to £7,000 a year. Residents see the move as a deliberate attempt to drive them away. A draft note from British Waterways on 6 December 2010, seen by the Guardian, says: “The urgency … relates to the objective of reducing unauthorized mooring on the Lea navigation and adjacent waterways in time for the Olympics.” Continue reading

Upcoming Event

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The next HerstoriesCafe Toronto takes place on Friday, April 8, 2011 at the Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queens Park, Glass Room, 4th floor, at 5:30 pm.  This free talk “Women and Museums,” features Janet Carding (CEO and director of the ROM); Lynn Teather (Museum Studies, University of Toronto) and Cara Krmpotich (Museum Studies, University of Toronto).

HerstoriesCafe Toronto is an exciting way to connect with the Toronto community and start conversations about local women’s history. Our events provide an opportunity to meet with a diverse group of people–history enthusiasts, historians, archivists, museum practitioners, history teachers and students. Think of it as a salon: a place to share ideas, pool historical resources, and stimulate debate in an intimate and relaxed setting. These events are free.

There is limited space for this event.  If you’d like to attend please RSVP to

This event is made possible by support from the THEN/HIER History Education Network and the Royal Ontario Museum.