Unwritten Histories

The Unwritten Rules of History

Author: Andrea Eidinger (page 2 of 22)

Guest Post: Checking Cows to Find the Crow: How Oral History Influenced my PhD Research

An image of Crow's Nest Pass, during the spring or summer. There are rocky outcroppings in the foreground, a green valley in the middle, and the Rocky Mountains in the distance, with some cloud cover.

By dave_7 from Lethbridge, Canada (Crowsnest Pass) CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Note from Andrea: Today we have a very special guest post from Laura Larsen on the adventure that is oral history! As a fellow oral historian, this is right up my alley. Enjoy!


Laura Larsen

Laura Larsen is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at the University of Saskatchewan. Her dissertation explores rail rationalization and agricultural policy under the Pierre Trudeau government. It focuses on the tensions between government, farmers, grain companies, and railways created by attempts to modernize the grain handling and transportation system as well as the substantial changes to the underlying structure of prairie agriculture caused by these changes.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that oral history changed my life. If I had not conducted oral histories I probably would be doing a different dissertation project than I am.

On paper, doing oral history sounds relatively straight forward. Do some background research. Come up with a list of questions. Find a person. Ask them your questions. However, in reality, oral history is a messy and complicated process that, while at times extraordinarily difficult, is immensely rewarding on both a professional and personal level. In this blog post, I’m going to talk about my personal experiences doing oral history, how the interviews I conducted for my master’s thesis shaped my doctoral dissertation, and, hopefully, convince you to integrate some into your future research.


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CFP: Beyond the Lecture: Innovations in Teaching Canadian History

Hey folks! Super excited to be co-editing a new series on best practices in teaching Canadian History with Krista McCracken. Check out the CFP at the link below!


Call For Submissions – Beyond the Lecture: Innovations in Teaching Canadian History

Canadian History Roundup – Week of January 14, 2018

Nepachee, an Inuit woman is stretching a seal skin on a frame. She is sitting outside on or near a beach with cut timber in the background. She is wearing a white woolen coat and a yellow kerchief.

“Nepachee stretching a seal skin on a frame.” C. 1961. Cape Dorset, N.W.T. [Cape Dorset (Kingnait), Nunavut]. Rosemary Gilliat. Library and Archives Canada, e010799803. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The latest in blog posts, news, and podcasts from the world of Canadian history.


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Paleography à la Française

excerpt of seventeenth century trial of Anne Lamarque, June 1682. Taken by author at the archives of BANQ Vieux-Montréal

Signatures from the first deposition in the Anne Lamarque case. Fonds Judiciaire BANQ Vieux-Montréal, June 1682. Photo taken by author.

Note From Andrea: Today we have another special post by Stephanie Pettigrew! Enjoy!

When I first started doing my research, the biggest problem I encountered was simply deciphering my texts. As many of you already know, I work on documents from sixteenth and seventeenth New France. In North America, there are far more resources available specifically for English etymology and paleography, the study of historic handwriting and handwritten texts. Christopher Moore contends in a recent blog post that paleography is dying a slow and painful death, and I don’t completely disagree with him; the growing dependence on crowd-sourcing transcription projects is a huge concern. But even when sources are transcribed for you, as a historian you are still expected to consult the original source. Several universities offer undergraduate courses in medieval English and middle English. One school that I attended even had a course on reading medieval Scottish handwriting (complete with its own textbook!). Leah Grandy also has already done some fantastic blog posts introducing the issue of paleography, which I highly recommend (“What Does That Say?!”: Getting Started with Paleography is particularly helpful!) While all of these are valuable resources, they aren’t really helpful when it comes to dealing with my documents. So in today’s blog post, I’m going to talk about some of the main challenges of working with early modern French written texts and provide you with some tips and tricks that will hopefully make this work a little bit easier!


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Canadian History Roundup – Weeks of December 17th, 24th, 31st, 2017 and January 7, 2018

Image is of a maple leaf on which a scene of two individuals tobogganing has been superimposed

J.T. Henderson, “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year: Tobogganing.” 1884. Toronto Lithographing Company. Library and Archives Canada, Arch. Ref. No. R11648, album 9, item 34 ; Copyright: Expired.

The latest in blog posts, news, and podcasts from the world of Canadian history.

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Memories and History: The 1998 Ice Storm

Branches under a thick layer of ice, with a blue tint.

There’s no power, there’s no food,

There’s no nothing, we’re all screwed.

While I was compiling the roundup a few weeks ago, I came across a reference to the 20th anniversary of the 1998 Ice Storm. My first thought was that it couldn’t possibly have been twenty years, since it didn’t feel like it was so long ago. I have to admit, I’ve been rather bemused by the media coverage of the 20th anniversary of the 1998 Ice Storm. Most of the stories that I’ve read are of the “feel good variety,” like this one, where “Quebecers recall funny and heartwarming moments.” Or this interview with Jean Chrétien, who, when asked whether people would be so resilient in the face of another ice storm, replied, “I guess so. I hope so. I think so. We’re still Canadian, you know.” Meanwhile, this piece even has a nifty infographic of the Ice Storm, including the percentage of maple syrup taps that were under more than 40mm of ice (20%, in case you were wondering). Aside from a few photographic essays and a couple of more somber pieces, the overall emphasis has been on the indomitable spirit of those affected. And this is not at all what I remember. Memories, however, are funny things. So in today’s blog post, we’re going to take a look at the 1998 Ice Storm, the relationship between personal and collective memories, and how we use the past to make sense of our lives.

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2017: A Year of Canadian History in Review

Against a blurry background at dusk, two hands hold lit sparklers.

Welcome to our second annual Unwritten Histories year-end review and the last post of 2017! As  I did last year, I have divided this look back into two parts. The first is a month-by-month recap of some of the most important events in Canadian history over the past year. Obviously I haven’t included everything here. I’ve tried to pick the most significant events and those that were relevant to individuals all over the country. And of course, there are a few more whimsical additions.  In the second part of this blog post, Stephanie and I list some of our favourite reads from the past year.

A quick note: several of the events below refer to archives posted on Storify. The company recently announced that it would be closing as of May 2018. In January, I will begin the process of converting these archives to HTML format, which will preserve them on this blog. So there is nothing to worry about!

Without any further ado, enjoy!


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Canadian History Roundup – Week of December 10, 2017

This image features four little girls walking through a winter forest landscape. There are some bare trees and some pine trees with snow on them. Going from left to right, the first little girl has a white coat, a red hat, and red boots. She is carrying a book and a toy horse on a stick. The second little girl is wearing a being coast over a red dress that peeks out from the bottom. She is wearing brown boots, and a black hat with red ribbons. She is carrying a baby doll. The other two girls are slightly ahead of them. The third girl is wearing a red coat with white trim, a patterned grey dress peeking out from underneath. She has white boots, and a black cap with white trim. She and the final girl are carrying holiday greenery. The final girl is wearing a beige coat with red boots, and a red hat. In the foreground, there are also four birds.

“A merry Christmas to you.” Ephemera. 1912. New York: Gold Media Art. Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Literature. Toronto Public Library. Public Domain.

The latest in blog posts, news, and podcasts from the world of Canadian history.

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Best New Articles from October/November 2017

This image is of a woman sitting in bed. She is wearing a cozy grey sweater and socks, and she is holding a cup of coffee or tea with milk. In her hands is an old book with text and illustrations in black and white. The photograph was taken from above, showing the woman from the chest down.

Because, let’s face it – who has time to catch up on all the journal articles published in Canadian history?


Welcome back to the Best New Articles series, where each month, I post a list of my favourite new articles! Don’t forget to also check out my favourites from previous months, which you can access by clicking here.


This month I read articles from:


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Canadian History Roundup – Week of December 3, 2017

This Christmas card is an illustration of a pink cabin in the woods. In the background there are green pine trees, and in the foreground there are birch trees. The ground is covered with snow, and there is some blue sky at the top. The cabin is viewed from the side, with a porch on the left., the main house with three windows, and either an addition or the back part of the house on the right. The sentiment says: "Christmas Greetings"

Christmas Card. c.1923-1928. This card is part of the Canadian Artists Series by Rous & Mann Ltd. Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1991-12-38 Gift of Joan and W. Ross Murray, Whitby, Ontario. Copyright: Expired.

The latest in blog posts, news, and podcasts from the world of Canadian history.


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