Boarding the last charter flight to Canada. Roger St. Vincent, Seven Crested Cranes. The Uganda Collection. Archives & Special Collections, Carleton University.
By Jackie Mahoney
On August 4, 1972, the President of Uganda, General Idi Amin, announced that South Asians who were British citizens would be expelled from Uganda because, according to him, they were sabotaging the economy. This decree set into motion a mass exodus of the South Asian population of Uganda, who were given just ninety days to settle their affairs and start a new life in a foreign country. Over 7,000 South Asian Ugandans found themselves re-settling in Canada in the months following the expulsion announcement. For many, Canada would become their permanent home.
To share the lived experiences of these individuals, Carleton University Library, which located on the traditional lands of the Algonquin nation in Ottawa, Ontario, is developing the Uganda Collection, originally donated by the Canadian Immigration Historical Society in 2012. This archival collection consists of over 1000 newspaper clippings from the 1970s about the expulsion and reception, a personal memoir that documents the experiences of the Canadian Immigration team in Kampala in 1972, a logbook of arrivals to the Canadian Forces Military Base Longue Pointe, an interactive map of where Ugandan Asian refugees were resettled in Canada, and oral histories from Ugandan Asian refugees who share their lived experiences of the expulsion and their subsequent resettlement in Canada. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the expulsion this year, the library is hosting Beyond Resettlement: Exploring the History of the Ugandan Asian Community in Exile, a conference that will explore the historical context of the expulsion, Canada’s response and the reception of a large number of the refugees, the larger diaspora of Ugandan Asian refugees, and the lived experiences of the community in Canada and the diaspora over the past fifty years.
Convocation Hall, University of Toronto. Credit: Kara M, via Unsplash.
By Catherine Carstairs
The report of the CHA Task Force on the Future of the History PhD in Canada is now available (in English and in French). This is the fifth in a series of posts by Task Force members, offering their perspectives on selected themes from the report. Activehistory.ca encourages readers to join in the conversation, either in the comments or on social media, or by submitting a response piece to be considered for publication upon the series’ completion.
For the past year, I’ve been lucky to work with an amazing group of colleagues on the CHA Task Force on the Future of the History PhD, including Will Langford and Sam Hossack, whose posts in this series preceded mine. As Will and Sam have articulated, one of our key concerns was the lack of academic jobs and the paucity of funding, especially in the later stages of the degree program.
One of the issues that I helped to investigate was whether or not better supervisory practices could improve the student experience, speed the time to completion, ensure greater diversity among PhD students, and encourage groundbreaking scholarship. Supervisors cannot change the bleak academic job market for recent PhD graduates, and we have little direct control over the funding provided to PhD students. We can and should lobby for better funding and against the growing precarity of the academic workforce, but we can also work to ensure that our students complete in a reasonable period of time and are producing valuable scholarship that has meaning inside and outside of the academy. We can help our students articulate the skills that they have learned through the PhD, and we can make our departments more welcoming to people who have long been excluded from our profession.
By Sam Hossack
The report of the CHA Task Force on the Future of the History PhD in Canada is now available (in English and in French). This is the fourth in a series of posts by Task Force members, offering their perspectives on selected themes from the report. Activehistory.ca encourages readers to join in the conversation, either in the comments or on social media, or by submitting a response piece to be considered for publication upon the series’ completion.
During the data collection phase of the Task Force on the Future of the History PhD, we spoke with graduate students in History programs across the country, including formal meetings with the Graduate Students’ Committee of the CHA, informal one-on-one meetings, and anonymous surveys. Over the course of these discussions, a common sentiment emerged: a genuine passion for history.
Graduate students care passionately about historical knowledge and methods — a passion shared by their faculty colleagues. Students believe in the potential of history to contribute to our communities. Those who pursue the PhD do so because they want to continue working in the discipline and contribute to historical knowledge. Their passion persists, despite multidimensional uncertainty and a lack of structural supports within PhD programs that inhibit student pursuits. Graduate students explained that they often feel unable to concentrate on their research due to the many demands on their time, and that they frequently reach the limit of both their mental and physical capacities.
By Will Langford
The report of the CHA Task Force on the Future of the History PhD in Canada is now available (in English and in French). This is the third in a series of posts by Task Force members, offering their perspectives on selected themes from the report. Activehistory.ca encourages readers to join in the conversation, either in the comments or on social media, or by submitting a response piece to be considered for publication upon the series’ completion.
Many – if not almost all – fledging historians pursue a PhD degree with the intention of becoming a university professor. They do so well-aware of the word on the street: the academic job market offers few jobs for historians. The American Historical Association has substantiated the bleak common sense by reporting on academic hiring in the US and describing where historians actually work. I pursued similar research as a member of the CHA Task Force on the Future of the History PhD in Canada. In this blog post, I review what I learned about the employment situation by looking at the sought-after job category, the tenure-track assistant professor in History.
Search jobs, https://www.universityaffairs.ca/search-job/
87 tenure-track assistant professors began work in History departments (or equivalent departments) at Canadian universities in 2016-17 to 2021-22. Teaching-stream professors were not considered in the count. The Task Force report contains a table listing the number of hirings by university. Below, a companion table displays where new tenure-track assistant professors earned their PhD degrees.
By Will Langford
The report of the CHA Task Force on the Future of the History PhD in Canada is now available (in English and in French). This is the second in a series of posts by Task Force members, offering their perspectives on selected themes from the report. Activehistory.ca encourages readers to join in the conversation, either in the comments or on social media, or by submitting a response piece to be considered for publication upon the series’ completion.
How long does it take to complete a History PhD? As a member of the CHA Task Force on the Future of History PhD in Canada, I conducted research to find out. The work built on a data set of the 562 History dissertations completed in Canada between September 2016 and August 2022.
To measure “time to completion,” I made several choices. In my view, the work of a PhD is done when a defended dissertation is submitted to a university’s online thesis repository. I wasn’t interested in how long students went on to wait to graduate. Therefore, a completion date for each dissertation was determined based on the repository submission metadata.
Figuring out when each PhD graduate began their program was not as simple. I initially contacted some graduate chairs and assistants, but there were privacy concerns in some provinces about revealing information about PhD students. Seeking another avenue, I realized that many recent graduates self-reported their PhD program start dates, either on LinkedIn or through curriculum vitae posted to sites like academia.edu. It didn’t even matter if the cv was an internet artifact from a past academic life. As long as graduates somewhere identified when they began their PhD studies, I was laughing. With end dates and many start dates in hand, I determined 355 case-specific completion times. I rounded each completion time to the nearest month.
By Will Langford
The report of the CHA Task Force on the Future of the History PhD in Canada is now available (in English and in French). This is the first in a series of posts by Task Force members, offering their perspectives on selected themes from the report. Activehistory.ca encourages readers to join in the conversation, either in the comments or on social media, or by submitting a response piece to be considered for publication upon the series’ completion.
There are many facts and figures in the newly released report of the Canadian Historical Association’s Task Force on the Future of the History PhD in Canada. As a group, the authors – Catherine Carstairs, Sam Hossack, Tina Loo, Christine O’Bonsawin, Martin Paquet, John Walsh, and myself – approached our work as a research project. We were aided by research assistant Danielle Mahon. We conducted surveys, held consultations, hosted workshops, scoured PhD program requirements, studied collective agreements, tabulated tuition fees, reviewed faculty information, drew on government statistics, and more. We aimed to describe and analyze many issues related to History PhD programs.
One of my data sets focused on completed dissertations. While the Task Force acknowledged that some historians are trained in PhD programs beyond the discipline proper, there are 24 History PhD programs in Canada involving 26 History departments. Students graduating from each department must submit their dissertation to their university’s online thesis repositories. Consulting the repositories, I counted 562 History dissertations completed between September 2016 and August 2022.
History Dissertations in Canada by Academic Year
Photo of Southwest Bridge, Lot 16, after 1923 storm, from Annual Report of the Department of Public Works of the Province of PEI, 1924, overlain by still from video by @savage_sultin of unidentified bridge after 2022 storm.
Rarely have I wanted so much to be on Prince Edward Island; never have I been so glad not to be there. It’s been hard to watch from a distance the disaster of Hurricane Fiona as it has unrolled slowly, then suddenly, then slowly again. Meteorologists warned days in advance that at landfall it would likely have the lowest recorded barometric pressure in Canadian history. (It did.) News sites began posting the requisite photos of empty grocery store shelves. Folks hauled out their emergency vocabularies: “batten hatches,” “hunker down.” And then, beginning in the early morning of 24 September, word of the storm’s arrival came, in the form of photos and videos on social media. Dark downpours, flooded streets. By daylight, there were scenes of washed-out roads, the twisted wreckage of buildings, and so many, many, many downed trees. It would be another day before attention began to be paid to the lost dunes on the Island’s North Shore beaches; another day still before satellite imagery from the Canadian Space Agency exposed the scale of widespread coastal erosion. And for many people, the disaster is still far from over: their power is still out, the trees still dead, broken, and in the way, and the roofs, cottages, and barns still needing repair or replacement. In a week, Islanders went from stockpiling storm chips to throwing out freezer food.
Whether to better understand the present or to distract myself from it, at the height of Fiona I researched a hurricane from PEI’s past. Continue reading
Oral History Participant Stephanie Stirling recovers from her post-polio syndrome related foot surgery in 1956. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Stirling.
For the past 2 years, I have been living through a pandemic, while researching a historical epidemic. In mid-2020, I had just finished up my third year of undergraduate studies at Wilfrid Laurier University when Dr. Tarah Brookfield recruited me into an undergraduate research project. The idea was to interview the generation that experienced the last major outbreak of polio and compare their experiences to COVID, as they would belong to the highest at-risk population of both diseases. With that goal, myself and three classmates (Lillia Dockree, Delores Maas, and Steve Parr) collected oral histories from current or former residents of our community of Brantford, Ontario, and the surrounding Brant County. We then turned the research into a digital exhibit for the Wilfrid Laurier Archives. I now work as an RA to continue our research for an academic article.
Our work so far has resulted in a detailed local history of polio. Brantford, like most Canadian towns and surrounding rural communities, faced almost annual outbreaks of polio in late summer/early fall. It caused mild to severe illness, death, and disability, mainly in children or young adults. Beginning with the 1910 outbreak, local, provincial, national, and international cases of polio received considerable media coverage in the Brantford Expositor. After Salk’s 1955 vaccine, polio waned as a threat until a 1978 outbreak, caused by anti-vaccine sentiment and slipping uptake in vaccine boosters, caused panic when cases were discovered in nearby Oxford County. Our research focuses on the evolving public health policy, medical treatments, and vaccine rhetoric, as well as the personal experiences of those who lived through or contracted polio, particularly as children. Continue reading
Crown, Kurt Kaiser/Wikimedia Commons.
Early September saw the death of the European monarch who had reigned the longest over the territory some call Canada. The death was not unexpected. In some quarters, it might even have been welcomed. But it took some time for the news to reach Canada. The last ships had left months earlier on their Atlantic crossing. When they arrived in September and October 1715 with their missives from the court, issued in the name of Louis XIV, no one in Canada knew that the king had died. Continue reading
When I was a kid, my family would sometimes visit the model train exhibit at our local tourist office in North Bay, Ontario. When I stepped into the four train boxcars, welded together and crafted into four distinct rooms, it felt like shifting into a different world.
But this large layout spread over four boxcars made me feel omnipresent, like I was seeing into the vastness of the world. Each craggy rock. Each waterfall. Each small town. Brought to a scale that even a child feels like a giant. I marveled at what was in front of me. It was beautiful in the expanse it covered in something a little over 1000 ft².
I loved that something so small can give such power to the imagination, and inspire such wider curiosity. I wanted to build something like that, to have as my own in my home growing up. Continue reading