For those interested in Nova Scotia's history and heritage, check out these brand new publications, both published in September. The Griffin is the quarterly publication of Heritage Trust Nova Scotia, an organization devoted to preserving this province's built heritage. It is frequently in the news. This issue features a range of interesting essays, including summaries of talks from its fall and winter public lecture series last year. Download it here. Also just published is the 2014 edition of the Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society. I think this is an important but often overlooked history journal. I have published there in the past. This issue is strong, with fascinating articles such as Katie Cottreau-Robins, "The Loyalist Plantation: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Informing Early African-Nova Scotian Settlement." Dr. Cottreau-Robins is the Curator of Archaeology with the Nova Scotia Museum.
In late August I came across two blogs about the Royal Navy in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. HMS Acasta and British Tars, 1740-1790 came together to present Press Gang Week, with several posts about impressment each day. As someone who studies press gangs, I found this really interesting. You should check out these colourful websites, which can also be found on Facebook (that's where I found them) and Twitter. They used my research for an entry on Press Gangs in Nova Scotia.
As my belated contribution to "Press Gang Week," here are two documents from Quebec City in the early nineteenth century. To learn more about press gangs in Canada, see my article "Northern Exposure" in the Canadian Historical Review.
Le Canadien Newspaper
Images: "The Press Gang" restaurant in downtown Halifax (note the sign); George Morland, "Jack in the Bilboes," late eighteenth century. Images taken from Wikipedia.
In what might become a regular feature of this blog, these are "Cool Pics" of country music legend Johnny Cash and Cuban president Fidel Castro in Newfoundland. The pics of Cash were taken on a moose hunting trip at Victoria Lake in Fall 1961, during which Cash was a full participant in the hunt. This was a short break from a busy concert tour. This was not Cash's first visit to the island. As part of the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s, he spent time at Fort Pepperrell in St. John's, including entertaining the troops.
During and after World War II, Gander Airport became known as the "Crossroads of the World," a convenient and busy refuelling station for flights between Europe, Canada and the United States. Castro likely passed through several times, particularly because U.S. airports were closed to him. These pics were snapped at different times. The first, from the 1960s, shows Castro browsing through the airport's duty free shop. The second, on Christmas Eve 1976, apparently shows Castro tobogganing for the first time with local residents and children. Having grown up in Gander, I heard this story many times. Unfortunately, Gander Airport was in the news recently because there are plans to tear down the terminal and replace it with a smaller and cheaper facility. With the development of major airports in Halifax and St. John's, and the capacity for longer air travel generally, these days Gander is no longer an important international airport. Concerns have been raised that the downsizing will include the destruction of the international lounge, which features iconic art work, furniture and culture straight out of Mad Men in the 1950s and 1960s. CBC ran a nice feature on this lounge, which has been identified as one of the most threatened heritage sites in Canada. Look at these great pics. Hopefully the lounge, or part of it, can be saved and made into a museum, perhaps in combination with the North Atlantic Aviation Museum.
Images: Taken from Facebook, Wikipedia and www.downhomelife.com.
The War of 1812 rages on in Nova Scotia, and will probably do so until the 200th anniversary of the Treaty of Ghent in December. A number of activities are planned. In August, the War of 1812 in Atlantic Canada conference was a success, while the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia's terrific exhibit on the War of 1812 finally wrapped up. This fall, both the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society have public lecture series on this Anglo-American conflict. In addition, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and the Museum of Natural History currently have special exhibits on the war.
Finally, this weekend the Old Burying Ground Foundation in Halifax is hosting a special commemorative event, Silent Heroes: An Act of Remembrance, to honour Major General Robert Ross, Sergeant Richard Smith and other War of 1812 heroes and veterans buried there. In 1813, the Old Burying Ground hosted the funeral of Captain James Lawrence of USS Chesapeake in one of the most elaborate and emotional wartime ceremonies in the city's history. Lawrence's body was later brought back to the United States. Two sailors from HMS Shannon, John Samwell and William Stevens, which helped defeat the Chesapeake in that famous frigate duel off Boston on 1 June 1813, also buried there too. For more information about this ceremony, click here and check out the poster below. If you have time, I encourage you to visit the Old Burying Ground and St. Paul's Anglican Church, two national historic sites nestled in the heart of downtown Halifax.
Update (15 September 2014): For more about the ceremony, check out this article in the Halifax Chronicle Herald over the weekend.
Technology has dramatically changed how we write and get our History. Blogs, websites, databases, e-books, image and document scanning, virtual exhibits and online journals are only some of the amazing resources at our disposal, particularly for studying and conducting primary and secondary research. This is true for professors, students and the general public alike. Despite some potential problems, I use these tools regularly, including Wikipedia and Google's search engines. Of course, the internet has also made it easier for people to share their professional profiles in unprecedented ways, through Facebook, LinkedIn, Academia.edu and other sites. I have made great use of these resources as well. To that end, last year I created this website and blog. My goal was modest: make my profile and activities, particularly my writing, accessible to anyone and everyone who might be interested. I blog about topics and upcoming events in Atlantic Canada Studies, and I share my academic publications through online links and PDFs. It is all about maximizing public access. Social media is a big part of this. I even surprised myself by embracing Twitter to spread the word about my blog posts as well as a conference I helped organize.
Although blogging and web maintenance can take a lot of time (especially with a baby at home), I feel that this website has been successful in connecting with people and sharing my work. I look forward to continuing this well into the future. I don't know who you are, but many thanks to the people who visit this site. I have been pleasantly surprised. In the first calendar year, it had over 50,000 visits, often getting 200 a day. Great stuff!
As part of The War of 1812 in Atlantic Canada conference in Halifax this week, sponsored by the Gorsebrook Research Institute at Saint Mary's University and the Nova Scotia Museum, there are three free public lectures and historical tours scheduled. On Saturday night at 7:00, in the Scotiabank Theatre at Saint Mary's, come and enjoy Professor Phillip Buckner discuss the politics and cultural memory of the War of 1812 in Canada. His talk is entitled "Refighting the War of 1812: Canadian Historical Memory and the Politics of Commemoration." A long-time editor of Acadiensis, and Professor Emeritus in History at the University of New Brunswick, Buckner is an Honorary Professorial Fellow with the Institute of the Americas at University College London, part of the larger University of London, England. This should be an informative and entertaining discussion of the federal government and its uses of History.
Please note that this is a free public lecture. You do not have to attend or register for the War of 1812 conference to take in this event. Everyone is welcome!
Feel free to contact me for further information.
Images: Monument of Sir Isaac Brock and the Battle of Queenston Heights, 1812.
For those interested in the War of 1812, it is not too late to register for next week’s exciting conference at Saint Mary’s University on “The War of 1812 in Atlantic Canada.” See the details here. In addition to the conference, the public is welcome to attend three keynote lectures (with historical tours) at three different venues in Halifax. Check out the details below. You do not have to register for the conference to attend these free lectures.
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Thursday, August 21
7:00-8:00: Guided Tour of The War of 1812-14: Then and After exhibit by curator Dianne O’Neill.
8:00-9:00: Public Lecture by Andrew Lambert, Laughton Professor of Naval History, King’s College London: “Shattering the American Delusion: Broke, Shannon, and the Taking of the Chesapeake.”
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Friday, August 22
7:00-8:00: Guided Tour of Prize & Prejudice: Nova Scotia’s War of 1812 exhibit by guest curator Martin Hubley, and of the Canadian War Museum’s “1812: One War, Four Perspectives” exhibit by curator Peter MacLeod.
8:00-9:00: Public Lecture by Peter MacLeod, Curator of Pre-Confederation History at the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa: “The War of 1812 at the Canadian War Museum.”
Saint Mary’s University (Scotiabank Auditorium), Saturday, August 23
7:00-8:00: Public Lecture by Phillip Buckner, University of London: “Refighting the War of 1812: Canadian Historical Memory and the Politics of Commemoration.”
In the world of historical commemorations, the War of 1812 will soon give way to the First World War, but it has not relinquished its surprising time in the limelight just yet. Yesterday I watched the CBC Doc Zone documentary The War of 1812: Been There, Won That. This is an informative if mocking take on this Anglo-American conflict, including interviews with leading historians such as Alan Taylor. I encourage you to watch it. For more context on television, you should also check out the PBS film The War of 1812, which originally aired in 2011. Like the Canadian broadcast, this one has terrific narrating and a long line of historical experts. As for Great Britain, the other protagonist, the BBC did not produce a documentary and, in the words of naval historian Andrew Lambert, the War of 1812 was always a sideshow to Britain's generation-long struggle for national survival and global supremacy against Napoleonic France.
For those in the Atlantic region, check out this exciting conference on the War of 1812 at Saint Mary's University in Halifax next month.
Image: The original White House in Washington D.C., showing the ruins after British forces burned it in August 1814. Watercolour by George Munger. Wikipedia.
For those interested in Canadian history, The Canadian Encyclopedia is probably an important and well-used resource. It certainly is for me. Back in the 1980s I remember our family receiving the original blue, three-volume set as a gift. It has gone through several editions since then, and today it is a free website (it is no longer printed). I continue to use and benefit from TCE. Generally speaking, I make great use of reference works in both my scholarly research and teaching university courses, and TCE is one of the three references that I consult the most: the others are the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, which, like TCE, started out as a printed collection but has since become an excellent web resource; and Gerald Hallowell ed., The Oxford Companion to Canadian History (Oxford University Press, 2004).
For these reasons, it was a pleasure recently to publish my first article (with Tabitha Marshall) in TCE on explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie. I hope it is the first of many.
For other reference works, check out the Links page on this website.
Update (23 July 2014): My second article, a biography of tragic Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin. The search for his ships continues to this day.
Images: Thomas Lawrence, "Sir Alexander Mackenzie" (c. 1800), Wikipedia, original painting at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa; Portrait of Sir John Franklin, CBC's Searching for Franklin website; John Wilson Carmichael, "Erebus and Terror in New Zealand, August 1841," showing Franklin's two naval vessels together on an earlier voyage of exploration to the Antarctic in 1841-43, Wikipedia.
In the latest issue of Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, hot off the press, all three of its feature articles focus on the twentieth century, mostly on the post-Second World War period, including two about Memorial University of Newfoundland: Stephen Harold Riggins, “Memorial University’s First Sociologist: The Dilemmas of a Bureaucratic Intellectual,” whose name was Donald Willmott; and Jeff Webb, “The Rise and Fall of Memorial University’s Extension Service, 1959-1991.” The other article, by John Phyne, discusses poverty, slum housing, commercialization and urban renewal in the “old city centre” or downtown region of St. John’s (where he grew up) from 1942 to 1987. I have stated before that Newfoundland and Labrador Studies is a valuable if somewhat under-utilized journal. In addition to these essays, and several book reviews, Pam Perkins has an interesting introductory essay on and excerpts from the diary of Governor Sir Thomas Cochrane in the 1820s. As she notes, Cochrane’s diary has been neglected by historians and researchers, despite the fact that he “oversaw a significant period of transformation in Newfoundland social and political life” between 1825 and 1832. Happy reading!