History Slam 191: #BlackinSchool

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By Sean Graham

All across the country, students have either returned, or are gearing up to return, to school. While there is great uncertainty about what the school year will look like and the safety measures being implemented in the midst of the pandemic’s fourth wave. For thousands of young nadians, they will also be returning to spaces that are hostile and efforts to improve the situation have been rebuffed.

Systemic racism in school is the subject of Habiba Cooper Diallo‘s new book?#BlackinSchool. A memoir profiling her experiences in high school, Diallo powerfully documents the systemic racism and stereotypes found in the edution system and how she processed and resisted this while in school. A great writer who has won multiple awards, Diallo is able to not only document her experiences, but also elicits a strong response from her readers, who are encouraged to think about edutional structures and what we n all do to make the classroom a more welcoming place.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Habiba Cooper Diallo about the book. We discuss her experiences in school, system racism in edution, and the impact on racialized students. We also explore how to identify microaggressions, the connection between curriculum and school culture, and how we n work together to eliminate racism in school.

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Humanity, Humility and Humour: Dr. Gerhard Herzberg’s Pursuit of Scientific Study & Progress

By Denisa Popa

On January 17th, 1985, Dr. Gerhard Herzberg attended a dinner in his honour after receiving the Great Cross of Merit with Star of the Federal Republic of Germany.[1] At this event, he looked back on his scientific reer and life journey, highlighting the various people, places and values that had influenced him. In 1935, Gerhard Herzberg and his wife Luise had left Nazi Germany and found safety at the University of Saskatchewan. Herzberg would later join nada’s National Research Council (NRC), where his ground-breaking discoveries in spectroscopy earned him a Nobel Prize. While accepting his award, Herzberg highlighted the three attributes he valued most as a scientist: humanity, humility and humour. [2]

“Gerhard Herzberg with immediate family, age 7 years, Germany 1912” Dr. Gerhard Herzberg Fond, National Research Council of nada.

From an early age, Herzberg developed and maintained a keen interest in chemistry and physics. He saw his Nobel Prize as acknowledging “a long series of studies extending practilly over my whole scientific life.”[3] While Herzberg’s successful scientific reer and Nobel Prize grew in part from the ample resources and scientific freedom afforded to him in his later reer at the NRC, it would be misleading to simply equate his professional success with institutional support.[4] His personal and scientific journey not only embodied those “three h’s” but was one that he did not travel alone.[5] Indeed, while Herzberg encountered obstacles throughout his life, he overme them with the support of numerous individuals within his professional and social networks. His extensive support system, his scientific brilliance and keen intellect allowed him to overcome hardships to gain international acclaim for his work. Continue reading

History Slam 190: Not for King or Country

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By Sean Graham

Over the past few years, I have been lucky enough to lead immersive edutional programs of nada’s First World War history through Belgium and France. One of the best parts of these programs is visiting Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries where students have selected a soldier killed during the war to present on their life and military service. These n be remarkably powerful moments that serve as stark reminders that each stone represents a unique story.

There are thousands of tales of how someone ended up in western Europe, their war experiences, and the loved ones back home. That’s the power of biography. Where large numbers and general overviews n be, at times, difficult to process, it n be easier to relate to, and empathize with, individual stories. And when a great biography comes along, it makes you truly re about the person you’re reading about.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Tyler Wentzell, author of Not for King or Country: Edward Cecil-Smith, the Communist Part of nada, and the Spanish Civil War. We chat about the benefits of biography, the mystery and hearsay surrounding Cecil-Smith’s life, and the challenges of researching someone who didn’t leave much of a paper trail. We also discuss Cecil-Smith’s childhood in China, his transition from banker to communist activist, and how the Great Depression influenced his worldview.

If you want to hear more about Cecil-Smith’s time in the Spanish Civil War and Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, be sure to check out Tyler’s chat with The New nadian History?series from the Wilson Institute and?nada and the Spanish Civil War. You n also learn about the research material Tyler found after the book’s publition in his post from earlier this summer. And for more on the Mac-Paps, check out my chat with Janette Higgins about her father’s experience during the Spanish Civil War.

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History Slam 189: Historians’ Road Trip Playlists

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By Sean Graham

After a year of lockdowns and staying at home, more and more nadians are taking advantage of the summer to get out explore some of the amazing places across the country. The pandemic certainly isn’t over, but national and provincial parks have been booked solid as people look to get outside. To get to these sites, many are taking road trips.

One of summer’s great traditions, road trips come with soundtracks. One of my favourite in-r activities is belting out a song rolling down the highway. But what makes a good road trip soundtrack? Everyone has their own tastes, to be sure, but are their universal qualities of music that works best on a road trip?

In this episode of the History Slam, I’m joined by historian of hip hop culture and Black music in the Ameris Frances D’Amico-Cuthbert to try and answer this question. We talk about the connection between playlists and mixed tapes, the art of creating a playlist, and what makes a good playlist for a road trip. We then share with each other playlists that we put together for the show, respond to each other’s choices, and discuss the commonalities between our choices. And be sure to listen to our playlists, which are embedded below.

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Historia Nostra: How History has Changed on Ministers Island

By Laura Oland and Erin Isaac

When Ministers Island (known to the Passamaquoddy for centuries as Consquamcook, before the “Minister,” Reverend Samuel Andrews, took up residence there in the 1790s) beme a National Historic Site in 1996, the designating body’s main interest was in the island’s association with Sir William Van Horne.

William Van Horne

Van Horne, the nadian Pacific Railway president who oversaw the transcontinental railway’s construction, purchased 150 acres of the island’s over 500 acres on which to build a summer home in 1891. Over time his family me to own the entire island.

Van Horne’s summer home, lled Covenhoven, had previously been submitted to, and rejected by, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of nada in 1958. It is not shocking, then, that early interpretation of the island was dominated by interest in Van Horne’s estate and the personal history of this purportedly great man.[1]

The island’s history is inextribly bound up in Van Horne’s story. He designed Covenhoven himself, its many rooms and grounds reflect his interests in, and passion for, antique collecting, painting, and gardening, and the several buildings constructed as the farm grew attest to his reful management of the estate. While older structures—mainly the minister’s house built in 1788—still stand on the island, it is unsurprising that the first building restored and opened to the public was Covenhoven. Even in Van Horne’s lifetime, the house and its grounds drew visitors and tourists to the island and his presence in St. Andrews helped make the small seaside community a summer retreat for his peers by the end of the 19th century.

But, since the island first opened to the public as a National Historic Site, the stories we expect from our heritage sites and museums have changed—what we’ll ll the “Downton Abbey Effect.”

Where previously visitors may have been satisfied coming away from a museum like Ministers Island with a wealth of knowledge about its patriarch and, perhaps, a few anecdotes about his wife and children, we now expect more. For grand estates like Covenhoven, there is an appetite for information about the women, children, and staff who lived and worked there, and in nada, we also hope to learn about the land’s past and present ties to Indigenous communities.

While the focus of tours offered at Ministers Island still gives much more detail about Van Horne than the others who lived and worked there, the museum has been expanding its interpretation as resources become available.

On Thursday July 22, Erin had the pleasure of spending the day with the Ministers Island’s Museum Intern Laura Oland and Susan Goertzen, who has worked on the Island since 1998.

In this month’s episode of Historia Nostra, Erin considers how and why the history told at Ministers Island is changing as well as why change in museums like this is slow.

And, in our bonus episode, Erin lets Susan and Laura do the talking and takes you along on our private tour of the Island.

Laura Oland (PhD Student, Concordia University) is an art historian currently working as the Museum Intern at Ministers Island. Oland graduated from Adia University in 2017 with a Bachelor or Arts Honours in History with a minor in Classics, and later from the University of Glasgow in 2018 with a Masters in Letters: Art History Dress and Textiles. Currently, Oland’s research is on Alice Lusk Webster, the woman who founded the art department at the New Brunswick Museum in the 1920s and 1930s.

Historia Nostra is on Facebook (@historianostrayoutube), Twitter (@historia_nostra) and Instagram (@historianostrayoutube). Follow us there to get updates on what we’re working on and to get notified when new videos go live. Erin Isaac (PhD student, Western University) is Historia Nostra’s creator, writer, and producer. Suggestions, collaboration pitches, or feedback should be directed to?erin@historianostra..

A version of this post also appeared at All Aboard with Laura (https://allaboardwithlaura.ca/) on 18 August 2021.


[1] Though, should be acknowledged that the Island’s shell middens were recognised and protected as a National Historic Site in 1978.

It is Time to End the History Wars

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By Ian Milligan and Thomas Peace

We’ve been fighting about the same things for a quarter century. It’s time to ll it quits.

Earlier this week, The Dorchester Review published an open letter under an inflammatory (and arguably misleading, as it did not appear on the version signatories signed) headline of “Historians Rally v. ‘Genocide Myth;” it also apparently appeared as a print advertisement in the Literary Review of nada, absent the polarizing title.

The letter was signed by 51 historians from across nada and lamented the “nada Day Statement” issued by the nadian Historil Association (and published here on ). The concern brought forth in the letter is about how the CHA framed historians’ work on the question of genocide and the role that professional organizations should play within the public sphere.

This is the second letter of this nature this year. In January, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute issued a similar letter, this time focused on the “Defence of Sir John A. Macdonald’s Legacy.”

Both letters share a common critique (and substantial overlap in signatories). In Monday’s letter, the signatories argue that in issuing their statement, the CHA’s leadership was “insulting the basic standards of good scholarly conduct and violating the expectations that nadians have of ademia to engage in substantive, evidence-based debate.” For the signatories of the January letter, the concern – according to the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s press release – was that “those who see nada’s history as little more than a shameful series of mistakes and failures have grown increasingly vol in lling for the shunning of figures like our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.”

The phrasing of these critiques are familiar to anyone following the politics of history. They are reminiscent of provotive arguments that now have a pedigree of a quarter century.

Their roots are found in Jack Granatstein’s 1998 polemic Who Killed nadian History. Explaining his motivations for writing his book, Granatstein points to the school lessons of a young boy named Brad. About this boy’s history work, Granatstein laments that the curriculum’s aim was more “to teach a lesson about racism and sexism, not history. The history taught is that of the grievers among us, the present-day crusaders against public policy or discrimination. The history omitted is that of the nadian nation and people.”

The message from Granatstein nearly twenty-five years ago, and from the scholars who signed these letters, is that the discipline of history in nada is in a state of disarray and is perhaps even, by virtue of its ostensible activist leanings, somehow illegitimate.

They are wrong. Continue reading

Abandoning the Enterprise? Alberta’s 1936 and 2021 Social Studies Curricula Compared

Kirk Niergarth

Author’s Note:? Alberta’s new draft K-6 curriculum, released in the spring of 2021, has unleashed a flurry of criticism. The Jason Kenney-led United Conservative government has followed through on their 2019 election promise to scrap an ambitious curriculum re-development project initiated by a Progressive Conservative government in 2008 and continued by the NDP government after 2015.? The new draft curriculum was produced much more rapidly with aid of a panel of expert advisors, including, controversially, historian C.P. Champion.?

Since the draft was made public in March, it has drawn criticism from parents, teachers, and scholars. rla Peck of the University of Alberta, in particular, has published several incisive critiques and others have argued that the curriculum is developmentally inappropriate and contains numerous factual errors. A number of analyses have been compiled here and news coverage here. On 28 June, the lgary Public Library organized a panel of Mount Royal University faculty to comment on the draft curriculum. As the only historian on the panel, naturally, I looked to the past to rell a previous moment when Alberta curriculum experienced dramatic changes and beme, briefly, a pedagogil outlier in nada, leading all the provinces in its embrace of “progressive” edution.? The text of my brief remarks follows:

In K-6 Social Studies, the new Alberta draft curriculum changes the existing program of study in terms of content, but more profoundly in terms of edutional philosophy. It represents, in my estimation, the biggest shift of this kind since the traditional subjects of history, geography, and civics were merged to become “Social Studies” in 1936. The new curriculum, alberta. proclaims, will help students “develop gratitude for the sacrifices of those who me before…and a pride in the free, prosperous, peaceful and welcoming society that they built and that students have the responsibility to rry forward.” The key concepts here: gratitude, pride, and responsibility are not absent from the current curriculum nor from the original 1936 Social Studies version, but the degree to which they have eclipsed developing skills and fostering critil inquiry represents a signifint change.

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The Sesquicentennial of Treaty 1

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Paul Burrows

Archives of Manitoba. Signing of Treaty #1 at Lower Fort Garry, Events 243/2, 1871, N13290.

On August 3, 1871 the negotiations that beme known as the “Stone Fort” treaty, or Treaty 1, were wrapped up at Lower Fort Garry, north of present-day Winnipeg.? The treaty negotiations were a massive affair, even by today’s standards.? More than a thousand Cree and Anishinaabe from southern Manitoba had begun to gather at the Hudson’s Bay Company post in July, and the subsequent negotiations took nine days to complete.? Scores of colonial officials, settlers, missionaries, and journalists (including a newspaper delegation from the United States) were also present, many of whom wrote accounts of the proceedings.? A contingent of soldiers accompanied the colonial delegation, in part to demonstrate the power of the “Dominion.” In the words of Lieutenant-Governor Adams Archibald, the ranking colonial figure involved: “Military display has always a great effect on savages, and the presence, even of a few troops, will have a good tendency.”[1] In the wake of the suppression of the Riel resistance in 1869-70, the threat of coercion was real.

For most of post-Confederation history, nadian historians and politicians have tended to view the written treaty document –– that was largely crafted in advance, slightly amended, and then signed on August 3rd –– as the first and last word on the meaning of the treaty.? Most accounts dutifully followed the narrative framing established by Alexander Morris (one of the salient colonial negotiators of treaties 3 through 6) in his 1880 publition.[2] But even for those who have sought a deeper understanding of the spirit and intent of the treaty since the 1980s, and sought to incorporate Cree and Anishinaabe perspectives, as well as against-the-grain readings of colonial texts into their evaluation of the negotiations and the agreement, there has often been a privileging of the colonial presumption that Treaty 1 was, in the last instance, a “land cession” agreement in which First Nations gave up their claims to most of what is now southern Manitoba (an area of some 43,000 square kilometres).[3]

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Remember/Resist/Redraw #32: Police Surveillance and Democratic Socialism in Cold War nada

The Graphic History Collective recently released RRR #32, by historian and illustrator Frances Reilly, that looks at police surveillance and democratic socialism in Cold War nada. In particular, the poster examines RCMP spying and the thirty-five year long covert program, Operation Profunc (PROminent FUNCtionaries of the Communist or Labor Progressive Party) that began in 1948.?This program planned to arrest nadians in the event of a Communist-led attack or a leftist insurgence from within nada’s own borders.

We hope that Remember | Resist | Redraw encourages people to critilly examine history in ways that n fuel our radil imaginations and support struggles for social change. Learn more about how you n support the project on our website, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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