The Return of the History Wars

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Last week a story in Le Devoir caught my attention.  The headline read: ‘Quebec’s history has been left behind by the universities.’  The article reports on a study lamenting the quality and quantity of history-specific training in Quebec universities.  More importantly – and this is what caught my attention – the spokesperson for one of the study’s sponsors, the Coalition for the History of Quebec, argued that the teaching of political and economic history had been subsumed by an over emphasis on social and culture history.  After reading this critique of Quebec’s university history departments, I realized that the so-called ‘History Wars’ are still alive and well in the Canadian public sphere. Continue reading

Announcement: History on the Grand – People and Place

Registration Now Open for History on the Grand 2011: People and Place

This year’s History on the Grand Local History Symposium is being held on Saturday October 22nd, at Cambridge’s Historic and LEED Gold-certified New City Halls.  The theme “People and Place” explores the history of immigration and migration to Southwestern Ontario, and the ethnic and cultural groups that make up our communities.  Participants will enjoy presentations about different aspects of our local history, as well as presentations and projects by local school children.  The complete program and registration forms are available on the City of Cambridge website.  Local history and heritage groups will have displays and materials for participants to enjoy.  The lunch hour will also feature a walking tour of historic downtown Cambridge,  the resurgence of which was recently covered in  an article in the Globe and Mail.

“It’s a great way for people to learn more about the history of our communities,” says organizer Karen Dearlove, “and the contributions made by different ethnic and cultural groups to the diversity of our region.”

 Registration for the symposium, including refreshments and lunch, is available for $10.00 until October 14th, and $15 at the door.  Participants can register in advance at the Clerk’s office at City Hall.  For more information contact Lynn Griggs at Cambridge Archives Email: Phone: (519) 740-4680 ext. 4610 Fax: (519) 623-0058.

History on the Grand: People and Place is sponsored by the City of Cambridge, organized by the City of Cambridge Archives Board and the Waterloo Historical Society, and supported by the Waterloo Region Museum and

For media interviews contact Dr. Karen Dearlove: or 519-621-6374

A Past for the Future: the Portuguese Canadian History Project’s Virtual Exhibits Exploring the Portuguese-Canadian Experience

By Raphael Costa
PhD Candidate, History, York University
Coordinator, Portuguese Canadian History Project

Like many initiatives, the Portuguese Canadian History Project (PCHP) started with a conversation over coffee. Brews in hand, historians of the Portuguese-Canadian experience, Susana Miranda and Gilberto Fernandes, hashed out the basis of the PCHP. It was 2008, with Susana knee-deep in her research on Portuguese-Canadian workers in the cleaning industry and Gilberto continuing his work on the Portuguese Diaspora, both agreed that the history of the Portuguese-Canadian experience, so inadequately represented in public archives, was in danger of being lost. The answer? Find, assess, and not only ensure that documents, ranging from private photographs to newspapers to the papers of community organizations, found their way to an archive where future generations could explore their past, but also that the history contained in community documents would end up back in the public realm.

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Announcements of Upcoming Events

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There are a variety of exciting events being held this fall: Approaching the Past, the Parler Fort series, and the Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Conference.

The teaching history workshop Approaching the Past will be holding its first event of this fall on Wednesday October the 5th.  It is being held from 5 – 8 p.m.  The first half of the event will be held at the Toronto Archives and then we will also visit the Spadina House Museum.  The cost is free but participants need to RSVP.  For more information or confirm you attendance visit:

The Parler Fort series, a forum for citizens exploring Toronto’s Past, Present & Future, is an initiative of the Friends of Fort York.   On Monday October 24th at 7:30 pm at Historic Fort York, Parler Fort presents “Canada Invaded on the Eve of Confederation: The Intertwined stories of the Fenian Invasion and Thomas D’Arcy McGee – journalist, poet and Father of Confederation.”  Join Christopher Moore, David A. Wilson, and Peter Vronsky to learn more about these tense, interconnected Canadian stories that resonate with issues today.  Cost is $10.00 and students are free.  For more information or to register email or call 416-392-6907 ext. 221.  Future Parler Fort events take place on November 14th and December 12.  Details will be posted here.

The Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Conference is being held on October 15th, 2011 at York University.  This one-day conference seeks to address important gap areas in public and media perception of modern slavery and human trafficking issues, including post-enslavement rehabilitation, memory and trauma, sex tourism, best practices analysis, preventive measures, partnerships and avenues to counter the ways in which we all are connected to slavery through the consumer goods we purchase and consume on a daily basis.  It also seeks to illuminate a number of lesser known forms of contemporary slavery that are thriving at home and abroad.  These include domestic slavery, debt bondage, child soldiery, hereditary slavery, forced servile marriage and human trafficking for forced labour.

To register for free or to get more information, please visit:



ORIGINS Avoiding the Scourge of War: The Challenges of United Nations Peacekeeping

[ has entered into a partnership with ORIGINS: Current Events in Historical Perspectives, a monthly ehistory publication hosted by Ohio State University. Please take a look at their most recent article and podcast on Peacekeeping and at their back catalog of content. From now on, we will publish the abstracts of Origins’ monthly articles/podcasts.]

Faced with humanitarian crises, outbreaks of civil war, and working in some of the world’s most unstable places, United Nations peacekeeping missions are taxed to their limit. This month, historian Donald Hempson traces the evolution of United Nations peacekeeping over more than six decades to highlight the challenges associated with an ever more robust approach to international peacekeeping and conflict resolution. The limitations of the current model force supporters of UN peacekeeping operations to confront the hard questions of whether or not the United Nations is equipped for missions that now entail more peace implementation and enforcement than peacekeeping, especially in an environment of evermore diminishing resources and international will for prolonged and complex peacekeeping initiatives.


• This article includes a podcast, images, and maps  •

Avoiding the Scourge of War: The Challenges of United Nations Peacekeeping

What will the future history of today look like? Digital literacy for the next generation.

The network of links stemming from ( alone was too big!). This gives you a visual sense of the power behind hyperlinked information!

We will need to make dramatic changes to history undergraduate curriculums by aggressively implementing digital literacy programmes. This will benefit both our students and the historical profession.

Why? Let’s imagine how a future historian will tackle the question of what everyday life was in September 2011 – today. She will have a tremendous array of sources at her fingertips: the standard newspaper and media reports and oral interviews that we use today, but also a ton of added sources that would help give a sense of the flavour of daily life. Two hundred million tweets are sent every day. Hundreds of thousands of blog posts. Incredible arrays of commentary, YouTube videos, online comments, viewership and readership numbers will all hopefully be available to this historian.

But how will she read it all? Realistically, nobody is ever going to be able to get through all the tweets for even just one day: let alone categorize, analyze, and meaningfully interact with it. She’ll need to use digital tools. We are at a crossroads. This sort of history won’t be the be all and end all of future historical research, but I believe that somebody is going to do this sort of social history. Let’s make sure our future students are ready for it! Continue reading

An argument for regional energy pricing in Ontario

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[Reposted from Troy Media]

By David Zylberberg
PhD Candidate in Environmental History
York University

TORONTO, ON, Sept. 16, 2011/Troy Media/

Industry needs energy, historically cheap energy.

In fact, during the Industrial Revolution? of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, manufacturing became concentrated around the coalfields of northern England and southern Belgium, where energy cost between a fifth and a 10th what it did in southern England or the Netherlands.

Currently, industry in Quebec and Manitoba benefit from some of the lowest energy prices in the world, thanks to the large hydroelectric dams in the northern parts of both provinces. Each province’s manufacturers pay under 3¢/kWh plus distribution costs, while in Ontario they pay a spot market rate that is frequently double that.

An economic advantage

Like the English and Belgian textile and metal manufacturers of the 19th century, industry in Quebec and Manitoba derive a major advantage over competitors in other regions. While northern Ontario also generates substantial hydroelectric power, it is not sufficient to meet all the needs of Ontario’s larger population, so more expensive sources are needed to supplement carbon-free hydroelectricity. Continue reading

CFP: CHA Active History Working Group 2012 Public Workshop: “1812: Whose War Was It, Anyway?”

June 18, 2012, two hundred years to the day since the United States declared war on Great Britain and her colonies, marks the starting point of a period of commemorations, restorations, re-enactments and monument building which will mark the bicentennial of the War of 1812. The Government of Canada, under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, reiterated its commitment to supporting commemorations across Canada in the most recent Throne Speech. Numerous events planned across the country will serve to “perpetuate the identities of War of 1812 militia units,” as well as to demonstrate, in the words of Heritage Minister James Moore, that “This was the fight for Canada.” Continue reading

New Podcast: Ruth Frager on Toronto’s Spadina Sweatshops, 1900-1939

Stephen Cruise’s “Uniform Measure/Stack” located at the corner of Spadina Avenue and Richmond Street in Toronto. Photo by Carsten Nielsen from Flickr under Creative Commons license

Last week, historian Ruth Frager presented a talk entitled “Spadina Sweatshops: Jews and Gender in Toronto’s Labour Movement 1900 to 1939.”  The lecture examined the dynamics of the Jewish labour movement in Toronto and focused on a strike at the clothing factory of the T. Eaton Company in 1912.

Frager’s talk is available here for audio download.

The presentation kicked off the 2011 History Matters lecture series.  Now in its second year, the series gives the public an opportunity to connect with working historians and discover some of the many and surprising ways in which the past shapes the present.  This year’s talks focus on two themes: labour and environmental history.

The next History Matters lecture takes place Thursday, September 29th, when Lisa Rumiel talks about the life and work of environmental activist Rosalie Bertell.   Click here for more details.

Active History on the Grand: History and Bricks

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Two years ago Brant County proposed selling a series of county-owned buildings that they deemed “surplus.”  According to the county, selling these eight buildings would save the county over $3 million over the next fifteen years.  The county would save on operating and capital costs, especially the costs of provincially mandated accessibility up-grades required for all public buildings.  Brant County is a mostly rural county with an overall population of approximately 36,000.  The largest community and county seat is Paris, Ontario, a scenic community on the Grand River with a population of 8,800.  The eight buildings that Brant County planned to sell are scattered throughout the county, spread throughout the small rural communities.  The Harley/Burford Township Hall, built ca. 1904, was used for a variety of purposes: weddings, dances, community celebrations, township meetings, community functions, and most recently as the home of the Burford Township Historical Society.  The St. George Memorial Hall, located in downtown St. George, was built in 1855, and is dedicated as a memorial to local war veterans.  The building currently houses the South Dumfries Historical Society Museum & Archives.   Also in St. George is the St. George Old School, built ca. 1893 as a public school, and recently used as a day care.  Community centres in Onondaga (built ca. 1874), Bethel (built ca. 1844), Pine Grove and Howell (ca.1874) and Northfield (ca.1900), were also on the surplus list.  The last building, the Langford School, built in 1886, began as a one-room school house for the surrounding community, and in 1964, became a community centre, and later housed a day care.

All these “surplus” buildings served the local communities in one use or another: school house, community centre, daycare, township hall, local museum and archives.  Continue reading