Sixth Annual(?) Year in Review (100 Years Later)

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By Aaron Boyes & Sean Graham

We give our two cents on the events of 1918. Let us know what you think

Every time you open a new tab you are bombarded with “Best [TV, sports, news, etc.] Moments of 2018!” At this time of year, it’s unavoidable. While some lists are appropriate – such as the worst sports ?blunders of the year, or best dressed of the year – others require some more time to truly showcase significance. That’s why we’re back with the Sixth Annual (?) Year in Review (100 Years Later) Bracket.

We took what we consider the most significant events, births, and deaths of 1918 and used the advantage that hindsight provides to determine what was the most important a century ago. We divided the events into four categories – International, Mortality, Culture, and, of course, Potpourri – and then pitted the top 4 seeds against one another in a March Madness-style bracket. Note: the scores are arbitrary and totally made up. (Editor’s note: this is fake news. It is a highly classified, proprietary algorithm that determines the scores)

As in year’s past – which you can read here – we have omitted any event associated with the First World War. This is because our friends at Canada’s First World War provide excellent insights into War, and events from the War would have dominated the Bracket. It is a safe bet to say that the Armistice at 11am on 11/11/1918 would be the most significant event had we not omitted the First World War.

Similarly, we have decided to eliminate from contention topics that have won in year’s past so as to not have repeat winners. As an example, women’s suffrage in Denmark won for 1915, so women winning the right to vote in subsequent years have not been included.

Whether you are a first timer or a returning reader, thank you very much for taking the time to check out our list. If you think we got something wrong, believe another event was overlooked, or if you disagree with our rationales, please let us know by posting a comment below or writing to us at:

First Round

International Bracket

(1) United States Passes Standard Time Act


(4) Nelson Mandela Born

Aaron: As Sean astutely argued in 2016, time is very much a human creation. Our planet spins on its axis as it revolves around the sun; but the measure of time it takes for one revolution – 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.0916 seconds – is entirely a human creation. I will not delve into the philosophical debate about “what is time”, but suffice to say time is useful, especially since it helps to regulate aspects of our lives. Greenwich Mean Time was established in 1675 to assist sailors in determining longitude at sea; the first standard time was introduced in Britain in 1847 for use on railroads. Here in North America, Canadian and American railroad companies instituted a standard time in 1883, which improved both communication and travel. However, not everyone got on board with these time zones. That’s why in March 1918, the United States Congress passed the Standard Time Act, which implemented both Standard time and Daylight Saving Time across the nation. The act gave the Interstate Commerce Commission the responsibility of defining each time zone. The impact of standardizing time across the United States, as well as clearly defining time zones, has undoubtedly had significant positive impacts, especially with increased trans-continental communication and trade.

Few figures in the English-speaking world are as revered as Nelson Mandela. Born Rolihlahla Mandela, a Xhosa term that colloquially meant “troublemaker”, he was given the English name “Nelson” by his schoolteacher. He reminisced in 1994, “Why this particular name, I have no idea.” Mandela was the first in his family to attend school; he eventually studied law at the University of Fort Hare and the University of the Witwatersrand. While living in Johannesburg, Mandela became increasingly anti-colonial and an African nationalist. He joined the African national Congress (ANC) in 1943 – he eventually became its President in 1991. In 1948, South Africa’s ruling National Party, which was all-white, established apartheid, the system of legal, racial segregation. Mandela and the ANC were committed to overthrowing the National Party, first non-violently, then using force. In 1961, he helped to create the Umkhonto we Sizwe, “Spear of the Nation”, which led a sabotage campaign against the government. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1962 and sentenced to life in prison. Mandela served 27 years in prison before being released in 1990. Upon his release, he worked with then president F.W. de Klerk to end apartheid. In 1994, he was elected President of South Africa, the first black person to assume the office. After one term, he refocused his energies on the AIDS/HIV crisis in Africa. A controversial figure, both on the right and left, Mandela’s life and his commitment to equality cannot be understated.

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What Makes Oshawa So Special?

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Steven High

Most mills and factories close with a whimper and not a bang. Few were therefore prepared for the media fire-storm sparked by General Motor’s (GM) decision to close its auto-assembly plant in Oshawa, putting 2,500 Canadians out of work.

What makes this closure so special?

Unifor Local 222 members on Nov. 26. Jason Liebregts / Metroland

For starters, there is the historic centrality of the auto industry in Southern Ontario. The auto makers have provided generations of Canadians with work and wages that have allowed working-class people to achieve a middle-class standard of living. For more than a century, Oshawa was synonymous with the auto industry.

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200 Years of Treaty Annuities

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Treaty payments at Fort Vermilion, 1927 or 1928 (LAC, PA-134996)

Betsey Baldwin

Indigenous people have received treaty annuities in Canada for 200 years (1818-2018). These annuities are annual payments made to Indigenous people in fulfilment of treaties. They were promised for all time, are still paid now and will be paid in future. The amount is not indexed to inflation. For example, this photo shows a Treaty 8 payment made in Fort Vermilion, Alberta. Treaty 8 (1899) promised $5 per person distributed each year, and Treaty 8 members continue to receive $5 per person today.

Despite the small amount, treaty payments remain an important annual event, which begs the question—what is the ongoing meaning of treaty annuities? Historical records allow us to glimpse the intent and understanding of annuities when they were first introduced.

The First Treaty Annuities in 1818

Annuities were first included in three treaties made in October and November 1818.[1] For example, on November 5, 1818, the Ojibwa and British made a treaty pertaining to the Rice Lake area, with financial terms described as $10 worth of goods at Montreal prices to be distributed annually to each man, woman and child. This was explained by Crown representative William Claus, who introduced the new system of payment that would continue “as long as any of you remain on Earth.”[2]

While Claus didn’t say so, the Crown was likely financially motivated to avoid larger, one-time treaty payments. During this period, there was tremendous Imperial pressure to reduce the Indian Department’s annual expenses, as funded from Britain’s military budget. After the War of 1812 and the Treaty of Ghent (1815) the British foresaw lasting peace in North America, and wished to reduce military expenditures for Indigenous people. By 1818, there were frequent instructions from London to find means to reduce this cost.[3]

Surviving records of the November 5, 1818 treaty council report the Ojibwa Chiefs’ concerns regarding depletion of local game, continued hunting and fishing rights, and protection of islands for their use, but their reaction to the new system of annuity payments was not recorded.[4] They may have been surprised, or potentially dismayed, at not receiving an upfront payment as had been the usual practice.[5] However, the idea of an annual distribution was not a new one. Indigenous people in Upper Canada already engaged in a long-standing official distribution of annual presents as a means of Imperial diplomacy to express gratitude, and to ensure loyalty and military alliance of Indigenous allies with the Crown.[6] After 1818, the treaty signatories simply received a further $10 worth of goods over and above their regular presents. Therefore, while treaty annuities were a departure in how treaties were paid, they mimicked a system already in place. Continue reading

Growing Pains: The Great War Veterans’ Association, Early Poppy Day Campaigns, and the Seeds of Commemorative Tradition

Jonathan Scotland

As Andrea Eidinger reminded us in her recent post on the changing nature of poppies and Remembrance Day, the poppy has been central to Canadian commemorations of wartime sacrifices since its adoption ninety-seven years ago.[1] Despite this ongoing effort to remember, the iconic red flower’s history is often taken for granted, its early years almost completely overlooked. Even the Canadian Legion’s literature recalls only that “the Great War Veteran’s Association in Canada (our predecessor) officially adopted the poppy … on July 5, 1921.”[2] What is often forgotten is that the poppy’s history began to work its way into Canada’s commemorative ether even before war’s end. The flowers were grown in Canada, planted on Canadian graves, used in wreaths, and, by the early 1920s, worn on lapels. Dubbed “flowers of remembrance,” they drew inspiration from John McCrae’s famed poem and were embraced as a symbol to remember the war’s dead. But to wear a poppy in the war’s aftermath meant more than just remembering Canada’s fallen.

Interwar-era lid of a Vetcraft poppy box. Source: Canadian War Museum, “Remembrance Day Commemorative Print” (c1920s-1930s), Object number: 19940057-001. Accessible online here.

Early campaigns stressed that buying the artificial flowers supported veterans facing economic hardship. It was no idle concern: unlike the men and women who returned after the Second World War, no post-war boom welcomed the veterans of 1914–1918. In its place were a failed bonus campaign, labour strife, and a gruelling fight for pensions. With the economy in recession, the stakes for selling poppies were high – so high that their sale would become embroiled in a scandal that wound its way to the Canadian Senate. Between 1921 and 1926, these blood-red flowers had come to stand for more than remembering the war’s sacrifices. They were a potent reminder that the “square deal” veterans fought for had not yet come to pass.

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Historians in Public

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[This post was originally published in the “Word from the President” column in Intersections 1.3.]

By Adele Perry

The CHA|SHC is one of the organizations involved with The|La Collaborative, a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council [SSHRC] of Canada-funded network dedicated to fostering Social Sciences and Humanities knowledge and skills in society at large.[1]  In part, this involves discussing and promoting a range of different ways of being a social science or humanities scholar outside of the formal academy: in elementary and secondary classrooms, in media both new and old, and wherever we might find opportunity and cause to demonstrate the capacity of scholarly practice.

What historians can contribute to this is a long and I think notable history of practicing our scholarship in public. In 2010, Joy Parr explained that historical practice “attentive to contemporary concerns, engaged in policy and with an engaged citizenry has existed as long as historical scholarship has existed in Canada.”[2]  The causes, communities, and issues that historians engage with have changed, as have the tools and technologies that historians use to engage and communicate.  But the basic fact of historians’ willingness to connect their research to the present and to speak to communities beyond the archive and classroom is longstanding.

In the last decade, Canada’s historical community have seen a number of new initiatives that mobilize historical knowledge and expertise to contribute to wider discussions.  These are notable and worth discussing in a forum like Intersections unto themselves.  That these initiatives are significantly organized and maintained by junior scholars, many of whom who have done so without the resources of tenure-track or tenured appointments, should give us all additional pause.  As a profession, our capacity to engage robustly with wider conversations and publics is not threatened by scholarly disinterest as much as it is by a precarious condition that a generation of historians are compelled to navigate. Continue reading

Queen’s Park Looks to the North: Mining, Treaties & Transportation

Thomas Blampied

In the run up to the 2018 Ontario provincial election, Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford spoke about his party’s plans for the Ring of Fire mining development in Northern Ontario. The project, which experts claimed could be worth billions of dollars, was stalled as the federal and provincial governments negotiated with mining companies over who would pay for the necessary access roads and other infrastructure. In his largely unsuccessful attempt to win votes in Northern Ontario, Ford had an answer.  Speaking three months before the election, he explained that the Ring of Fire would “benefit everyone in Ontario” and that he would see it built, even “If I have to hop on that bulldozer myself … we’re going to start building the roads to get to the mining.”[1]

His promise echoes one made by Liberal Premier George Ross at the start of the 20thcentury as Queen’s Park sought to open New Ontario (as Northeastern Ontario was then known) to settlement and resource extraction. In Ross’s case, however, the mining road was the provincially-owned Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway (T&NO, renamed the Ontario Northland in 1946), one of the Ontario government’s first transportation projects.[2] The means of legally extending the government’s reach across this land was through treaty.

View on the T. & N. O. Railway (Canadian Mining Review, vol. 24, no. 5 (May 1905), p. 95

Ross’s fixation on building a provincially-owned railway was an attempt to prove to the electorate that his government was committed to the economy by opening up the Temiskaming district, which had no railways at the turn of the 20thcentury. At the time, the closest railway to the region was the Canadian Pacific at North Bay, and Ross feared it would siphon off trade as its mainline ran to Montreal and bypassed Toronto altogether. To prevent this, Ross sent ten survey parties to examine possible routes for a new railway stretching as far north as James Bay.[3] The initial survey area was covered by the 1850 Robinson-Huron Treaty between the Crown and local Anishinaabe communities. By 1905, both Toronto and Ottawa were pushing Treaty 9 to ensure clear title for all the land to Hudson Bay – land that would be needed for mining, timber and the T&NO. In their separate work on this treaty, John Long and Alanis Obomsawin have shown how the federal and provincial governments’ deliberate distortion of the treaty process in the early 20th century was a way of accessing these resources by displacing and containing Indigenous inhabitants while also claiming title over the North.[4]

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History Slam Episode 126: Christmas Toy Fads

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By Sean Graham

It’s that time of year again where people yell about Christmas being under attack while others scream about how the festive season is too long. Oh, and sometimes people buy each other gifts. The commercialization that surrounds Christmas is a big reason why retailers immediately replace Halloween costumes with Christmas decorations – if they even wait that long.

Selling to kids is a major part of this effort. If Hollywood is to be believed, Christmas is a time where youthful innocence and optimism solves all our problems and is rewarded with a smile, a wink, and a sleighful of presents. And to ensure their children have a magical Christmas that preserves that sense of wonder, some parents have taken to punching others in order to secure the perfect gift.

For as much as people may lament the current state of commercialization that dominates the year’s final two months, it is not a completely new phenomenon. Back in the 1930s, the Shirley Temple doll was all the rage as kids across North America wrote to Santa asking for this prized toy. And in the 90 years since, each year has had its ‘hot’ toy that has been marketed as ‘must have’ by both the manufacturer and the media.

In this episode of the History Slam, I am joined by Aaron Boyes and Megan Reilly-Boyes to talk about some of the biggest Christmas toy fads of the 20th century. We talk about some from our respective childhoods as well as some from the early part of the century as we break down what makes certain toys qualify as a ‘toy of the year,’ before we are joined by a special guest.

Be sure to check on December 21 as Aaron and I will be back with our Sixth (Annual?) Year in Review (100 Years Later) Bracket. In the interim you can check out our entries from past years. (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)

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Connecting Through Cake: The Story of My Fall Fair Mocha Cake

Kesia Kvill

An earlier version of this post appeared on Potatoes, Rhubarb, and Ox.

This summer I came across the information booklet for the Fergus Fall Fair. After flipping through it I decided that I would like to enter some items into the handicraft and culinary arts categories. I figured it would give me a good reason to finish some planned sewing projects and to showcase some recently finished ones. I also decided I would like to test the definition of lemon bars by submitting my mom’s recipe for graham lemon squares. However, I spent the bulk of my pre-fair prep-time practicing cakes for the “Robin Hood Flour Special Category: Family Favourites: Cake.”

Cake category description

I love cake, so this seemed like an ideal category for me. It was easy to decide that I would make my grandma Myrtle’s chocolate cake for the base of this cake,as its not only a family favourite, but I was able to find it in her old recipe box! In her box it was titled “Rose’s Chocolate Cake.”

The original recipe for my grandma Myrtle’s cake and my recipe from my mom.

The original recipe for the author’s grandma Myrtle’s cake and the author’s recipe from her mom.

Recipe boxes, unlike published cookbooks, are curated selections of recipes collected over a lifetime from magazines, cookbooks, friends and family. Recipe boxes more accurately reflect the personal tastes of a home cook and their family and, as Diane Tye explores in her book Baking as Biography,recipes “represent a site where women are able to tell some of their life stories in their own words.”[1]

My grandma Myrtle’s box and cooking style is filled with items particular to a wife in post-war Calgary who was involved in community organizations and the lives of her children. The box also reflects different periods of my grandmother’s life and the evolution of popular culinary influences and the changes in her family life. The presence of“Rose’s Chocolate Cake” in my grandmother’s recipe box reflects the intersection of women’s friendships with their everyday kitchen labour. By attributing the origin of the recipe to Rose we know its provenance and also receive a personal endorsement for the quality of the recipe.[2]  

The different names attributed to recipes in the box demonstrate that my grandmother’s cooking evolved with the time (though I know her techniques and practices remained firmly grounded in the period in which she learned to cook based on antidotal evidence from my mother). For example, the presence of my uncle’s wife’s lasagna recipe and my own mother’s cheesecake recipe in Myrtle’s box shows that her adult children became important culinary influences in her life.

Cookbooks and recipe boxes passed from generation to generation are what Tye calls “a tangible connection to a female past.”[3] Exploring my grandmother’s recipe box and finding the origin of my family’s favourite chocolate cake connects me not only to my long-passed grandma, but also to a larger network of women and their shared skills and experiences.

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The Dark Side of Disarmament: Ocean Pollution, Peace, and the World Wars

Alex Souchen

On 11 November 2018 the world paused for a moment of silence to commemorate the end of the First World War. The solemn occasion offered people around the world an opportunity to honour the dead and pay homage to peace, freedom, and reconciliation. The theme of peace will likely continue as a prominent feature at future Remembrance Day ceremonies, as 2019 will mark the Paris Peace Conference’s centenary and 2020 will be the 75th anniversary of the Second World War’s conclusion. With that in mind, it is important to deconstruct the concept of peace and explore the often overlooked “dark side” of disarmament.

Scholars have long recognized that peace is more than just the absence of war. Rather, peace is a process that means many things to different people and societies. Peace does not simply come into existence when wars end, nor is it some default condition or preprogrammed setting innate to all humanity. Instead, peace is a set of choices, actions, and strategies taken over time which are shaped by prevailing political, economic, and social factors.[1] As a result, peace always comes at a cost, though usually its price is measured by the intensity of combat or by the number of casualties sacrificed in achieving it. However, the costs of peace can also manifest in other ways and carry disastrous ramifications for the environment.

A loaded Landing Craft Tank (LCT) on its way to the ammunition dumping ground (Beaufort’s Dyke) off Cairnryan, near Stranraer, Wigtonshire, Scotland. Source: Imperial War Museum (IWM), H 42204

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Calling for Exemplary Active History Projects

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Over the past year and a half, has been soliciting donations to support our work. As part of our donations policy, we want to ensure that any surplus in our accounts is repurposed to support active history projects. As such, we are pleased to announce this morning two programs to promote the work of active historians. The first are small grants to support emerging active history projects; the second is an awards program to recognize exemplary practices of active history.


The purpose of the small grants program is to provide up to $250 to support the development or promotion of a new active history project. These projects can be part of a plan to launch something entirely new or to support a new direction within an existing project.

Applications should include:

  • 250-word description of the project relating it to our mandate
  • 100-word biography of the applicant(s) justifying their role in the project
  • budgetary statement outlining how our funds relate to other funding for the project

Successful projects will be asked to keep the Active History community up-to-date about their work through our blog as well as filing a short final report outlining how the money was used.


The purpose of the awards program is to highlight and recognize exemplary practices in active history. We will be accepting nominations for awards (which include a small cash prize) in any one of the following three categories:

  • Active history in the press: Journalism as active history
  • Notable contributions to
  • Putting active history into practice (model active historians or active history projects)

To nominate an individual or project for an award, submit a letter of nomination clearly outlining the award category, a justification for why the nominee should receive the award, and how the committee can contact the nominee. Except for category #2, nominees need not be associated with

The deadline for submissions for both funding programs is 31 December 2018. Queries and submissions can be sent to Thomas Peace at

These support programs are made possible through generous donations from our community. is entirely run and managed on a volunteer basis with support from Huron University College and the University of Saskatchewan. Donations to our project support the ongoing digital maintenance costs for the project, off-set incidental costs related to the project, and support for our small projects and awards program. Please consider donating to our project.