Cod, Culture, and Loss: Thirty Years of the Cod Moratorium in Newfoundland

Cod fishing in Bay de Verde, Newfoundland during the recreational ground fishery in July 2021. Author’s photograph.

Shannon Conway

Newfoundland is known for cod. The fish is often one of the first things that come to mind when thinking of the island. For “Come from Aways”, a key part of becoming an “honorary Newfoundlander” (as part of a “Screech-In” ceremony) you must kiss a cod fish. I am from Newfoundland and when I think of home I think of cod – eating it, catching it, the history of it. Cod is predominant and iconic in Newfoundland culture and memory. Decades of overfishing decimated the historically plentiful ground fish population and it has yet to return to healthy levels, despite the moratorium on cod put in place by the federal government thirty years ago. Nevertheless, cod remains central to the history, culture, imagery, and even identity for Newfoundland and its peoples.

The cod fishery has a long history in Newfoundland, with the affluent cod stocks being the very reason the island was settled by Europeans in the 17th century.[i] Continue reading

History Slam 220: Canada’s Abortion History

      No Comments on History Slam 220: Canada’s Abortion History

By Sean Graham

Last Friday, the United States Supreme Court made its much anticipated decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization case. In the majority opinion, the court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which ruled that the privacy clause in the U.S. Constitution protected a woman’s right to an abortion. In the week since, there have been protests across the United States in response. In Canada, there has been similar protests and great concern not only for what this will mean for Americans, but also the future of abortion rights in Canada.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Robyn Schwarz to talk about the history of abortion in Canada. We discuss the legality of abortion in the late 19th century (6:06), how changes in medicine have influenced perceptions of abortion (20:10), and the history of family planning (27:10). We also chat about the lack of attention on this issue by historians (37:13) and the importance of putting abortion into its proper historical context.

For more information, you can visit Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights’ project The 1970 Abortion Caravan: Celebrating 50 Years and Shannon Stettner’s edited collection Without Apology: Writings on Abortion in Canada.

Continue reading

Ten Resources to Learn About Queer and Trans History in Canada

pride coloured lego figures and rainbow on a table

Photo by James A. Molnar on Unsplash

Krista McCracken

It’s nearing the end of Pride Month. As a non-binary, queer scholar who offers workshops on gender and queer identities, June is a busy month.  Throughout the month I’ve received a number of requests for reading recommendations about teaching about gender, history, and pride in Canada.  In light of those requests I’ve created a list of ten books, articles, and resources that contexualize and speak about the history of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community in Canada. 

This list is merely a starting point and is focused on queer and trans history in Canada. There are lots of resources I wanted to include but couldn’t because of length.  Likewise, there are many other sources where students and scholars can learn more generally about trans and queer identities. In all cases I would suggest that listening to the voices of queer and trans communities is a crucial part of learning about this history, community, and lived realities.  Continue reading

History Slam 219: Canadiana & Historical Storytelling on the Web

By Sean Graham

Back in the summer of 2017, a new web series was released on YouTube. Telling viewers that they were on the hunt for the “most incredible stories in Canadian history,” Canadiana was a new type of Youtube channel. A documentary-style series, Canadiana combines archival and secondary research with outstanding visual elements to provide audiences with wonderful storytelling. And while the first season was bootstrapped by its creators, through its success in finding a big audience they have been able to secure additional funding and partnerships to expand and improve what was already a quality show. This season, for instance, the series is partnering with Parks Canada to tell some little-known stories at various national parks and historic sites.

As I look forward to the premiere of Season 3, coming on Tuesday (June 28), its success is a reminder that there is an interest in history. Despite the regular claims of Canadian history being boring and the stark reality of declining enrolments in history departments across the country, when history is done well, people want to engage. Over the past five years, the word unprecedented has been used with alarming regularity in the press (seriously, Google ‘unprecedented’ and click news and you will inundated with stories), which is fair only if you ignore the precedents. The past isn’t always prologue and certainly the very idea of history is under attack in some places, but in this environment of uncertainty, there is an appetite to look to our past and it’s critical that quality historical content be there for people to consume.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Adam Bunch and Kyle Cucco of Canadiana. We talk about the delays to season 3 caused by Covid (3:27), how they pick topics for the show (12:07), and the benefits of filming on location (17:40). We also chat about their partnership with Parks Canada (24:09), the two-part season premiere on piracy in Canada (30:40), and the audience for Canadian history online (39:08).

Continue reading

History Slam 218: Local Culture, Tourism, & PEI’s Summer Trade

By Sean Graham

After two down years, tourism is rebounding as we head into the summer. From long lines at airports to rental car shortages to sold out hotels, there is a strong, pent up demand for travel. This is welcome news to communities where hospitality is the main economic driver as employees return to work and prepare to again welcome visitors.

One such location is Prince Edward Island, which welcomed 1.6 million tourists in 2019, contributing an estimated half billion dollars to the provincial economy. The two full years since have seen drastic decreases to those numbers, but there is some optimism that this summer will bring people back in big numbers, helping restore the Island’s tourist trade, which, from its humble beginnings in the 19th century, continually expanded through the 20th century to become a key driver of the Island’s economic and cultural life.

That transition is the subject of Alan MacEachern and Edward MacDonald’s new book The Summer Trade: A History of Tourism on Prince Edward Island. Ranging from the early days of the Island’s tourism trade through the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the book explores how PEI has attracted tourists and how the growing tourist trade has come to influence the local culture. With seaside resorts, Anne of Green Gables attractions, and even the draw of the Confederation Bridge, MacEachern and MacDonald explore the evolution of the complicated relationship between Islanders and their visitors. In addition to the book, if you’re in Charlottetown this summer, be sure to check out the accompanying exhibition going on at the Confederation Centre of the Arts until October 9.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Alan and Edward about the book. We discuss the start of the Island’s tourist trade and the impact of Confederation (6:00), how 20th century changes in transportation influenced tourism (16:00), and the symbolism of the Confederation Bridge (18:45). We also chat about the tension between tourism and local culture (25:15), the importance of Anne of Green Gables (32:50), and attracting return visitors along with the challenges of rebounding from the pandemic (39:20).

Continue reading

“To Remedy the Damage”: The Montpelier Foundation and American Public History

By Andrew Nurse

On May 16, a Montpelier Descendants Committee (MDC) press release announced that “The Montpelier Foundation’s board of directors voted to welcome eleven new members from a list […] advanced by the […] MDC.” The release described the decision as “momentous.”

This decision reversed a short-lived but important controversy in American public history.

The Montpelier Foundation (TMF) administers the estate of Founding-era slaveholding president James Madison.

In June 2021, TMF “promised structural parity” at the board level with the MDC in a move that drew widespread attention and support among American public historians. Earlier this year, TMF backed away from that commitment and fired long-standing and well-respected staff who were critical of its change of course. Both decisions drew condemnation because they suggested that TMF had little interest in meeting its promise and had lost interest in a different approach to the administration of public history.

What happened? Why? And what does it tell us about American public history?

TMF leases the Madison estate from the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP). As an historic site, Montpelier and TMF have been in the forefront of innovative developments in the organization of American public history. Continue reading

A Canadian Genocide? Historiographical Debate and the Teaching of History

      Comments Off on A Canadian Genocide? Historiographical Debate and the Teaching of History

Kamloops Residential School, c. 1930s. BC Archives, B-01592.

This post by Lisa Chilton was originally published on the Canadian Historical Association’s Teaching/Learning Blog.

Since 2003 I have taught at least one of the University of Prince Edward Island’s Canadian history survey courses every year. Pre- and Post-Confederation Canadian History are required courses for history majors at UPEI. They also tend to attract a large number of students looking for electives. Over the past two decades, this teaching has given me endless opportunities to challenge myself to make sense of the past in order to communicate that understanding in ways that will help to inform students’ own efforts to make meaning intelligently. In the brutally intolerant world of socio-political “camp” mentality that we currently inhabit, is there anything that we might teach our students that is more valuable than careful critical thinking?

In teaching these survey courses, I see historiographical debates as opportunities to demonstrate to students the complex nature of the past, as understood in the context of the present. Continue reading

Piece by Piece

      No Comments on Piece by Piece

Sam Huckerby

Piece by Piece uses images, maps, and public-friendly text to show that 19th century English clothing materials connected to everything from bird preservation movements to slavery. Born out of a desire to start filling in the gaps of how we talk about historical dress, Piece by Piece shows that clothes are more than just aesthetics: they have history that reflects society and worldviews. If we can practice being honest about how clothing was made in the past, we are better equipped to be honest about how clothing is made in the present. Built using Esri’s StoryMaps, readers can scroll through the entire project at their own pace or click on the different headings to explore materials in any order. Hover over map points for more information and interact with the image sliders found throughout the project. Click the circular icon in the corner of each photograph for a link to its source.


Sam Huckerby is a third-year student at the University of Saskatchewan pursuing a double honours degree in Studio Art and History. She is passionate about demonstrating how history can be used to engage the public in critical thinking, honesty, and problem-solving for today.

Expanding our Sources, Expanding our Stories: An Active History / Source Story Series

In collaboration with Histoire Source | Source Story, a video series for history educators, Active History is recruiting writers to write complementary posts on themes related to one of seven Histoire Source | Source Story conversational videos.

While the videos were designed for a K-12 teaching audience, they are rich in content for a broader audience. Thus, we envision these Active History posts as an academic complement to the conversations – What are more layered ways an undergraduate student, for example, may listen to, and beyond, these conversations?

Below is a list of the seven videos, along with proposed question prompts, which may highlight how a writer may want to approach complementing these topics. Note that the questions are illustrative, not definitive. Also note that the questions cover both the content of the videos along with the method(s) discussed in the video. We are open to either, or both, approaches. 

We are expecting blog posts to be 800-1,200 words and we will post them throughout the fall. We are asking for proposals by June 30 with a finished draft for submission no later than September 1. Writers will receive an honorarium of $150 upon publication.

For June 30, please submit a 200 word proposal that identifies the topic of your proposed post, which video the post will complement, and the driving question and themes that the post will centre on. Please also include your CV and a public history writing sample, if you have not written for Active History before. 

To learn more about Active History and/or Source Story click the aligned links. 

For questions and submissions for this series, please email Thomas Peace at

For more information about Source Story, please email Continue reading

History Slam 217: Storytellers, Colonialism, and Community in the Chilcotin Plateau

By Sean Graham

For every strong, thriving community, there are people actively keeping it alive at its centre. Whether that’s hosting events, checking in on others, or sharing the living memory of the place, these individuals build an environment where stories are shared and passed to the next generation. But when they’re gone, what happens to their stories? Who is there to take that central role in the community? Especially in some of Canada’s rural areas, where younger people are increasingly moving to urban centres, there is a threat to the longstanding regional cultures, stories, and histories that have tied communities together for generations.

In the Chilcotin Plateau, Sage Birchwater spent years gathering stories from those people who spent their lives building the community. With tales from their own lives as well as those that had been passed down through the generations, Birchwater preserved stories that were being lost to colonialization. And as modern technology changes how we communicate, in particular the ways people stay in touch, the opportunities to share stories have decreased – a problem further exacerbated by the pandemic.

The result of this work is Talking to the Story Keepers: Tales from the Chilcotin Plateau. In the book, Birchwater shares the stories from his decades living in the region and provides a spectacular window into the lives and cultures of its residents. The stories are wide ranging – from the trauma of residential schools on familial relationships to the seeming absurdity of a brass band playing in a church while it was being transported across a river – leaving the reader both moved and entertained. And while the book is a regional history, it speaks to issues of community building, identity, and colonialism that exist across the country.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Sage Birchwater about the book. We discuss his approach to the book and building trust with family members (6:01), the sense of community in Chilcotin (11:06), and how stories are lost to colonialization (13:29). We also chat about how stories disappear (17:31), moving a church across a river (27:26), and the national appeal of these stories (33:15).

Continue reading