Best New Articles December 2016

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:

Here are my favourites:


Katherine M. J. McKenna, “My own character is thank God above suspicion”: Soldier’s Wives with The Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment and Social Values in Mid-Nineteenth-Century British North America,” Histoire Sociale/Social History 49, no. 100 (November 2016): 475-502.


What it’s about: This article focuses on married, widowed, and abandoned women within military regiments. A look at military documents reveals a rich source of information about the daily lives of these women, as well as the collision between working-class and middle-class gender norms. These documents are supplemented with archaeological finds from corresponding military barracks, which provide further details of just how central married women were to the military.

What I loved: Let’s see… an article about women? Check. An article about everyday life? Check. Obviously, this article is Andrea-bait, even though the geographic area is not Montreal. But aside from these considerations, this article stands out for two reasons: its use of archaeological findings in historical analysis, and its analysis of period illustrations. My original interest in history comes via the field of archaeology (long story), and I’ve long though that the two fields should interact on a much more frequent basis. Secondly, it is frustrating how often images are published in articles and books, but never referred to within the text. Not only are McKenna’s illustrations hilarious, but they are also used in a very insightful way.

Favourite quote: “Other than the women’s side of the latrine, the wash house was probably the only place on a military site that might have been incontestably female territory, as a detail from The Graphic illustration shows (Figure 1 Detail E.) A group of “old style” coarse, bare-armed and muscular women are shown initiating a new recruit, whom they have pinned to the door and are dousing with soapy water while the men watch with obvious glee from the doorway. It is evidence of a lively female camaraderie, but the artist clearly did not approve.” P. 487

Suggested uses: This would be a great article to use in a women’s history class or in a pre-Confederation course. I especially think it could be a great opportunity to have students see how a historian can analyze images, perhaps in connection with an active learning activity where they try it for themselves.


Melissa N. Shaw, “’Most Anxious to Serve their King and Country:’ Black Canadians’ Fight to Enlist in WW1 and Emerging Race Consciousness in Ontario, 1914-1919,” Histoire Sociale/Social History 49, no. 100 (November 2016): 543-580.


What it’s about: This is an article that operates at two different levels. First of all, it describes the failed effort of Black Canadians to enlist in WW1 during the voluntary recruitment phase of the war. However, once conscription began, Black Canadians soon found themselves with no choice but to enlist. Both led to the development of increased racial consciousness and social activism on the part of the Black Canadian community, who saw the hypocrisy and reasons behind it quite clearly. The second aspect of this article is a look at what Shaw calls “the organized racial project of white superiority in Canada” (p. 545) and its relationship to a Canadian national identity. This racial project was compounded by a reluctance on the part of most Canadians, both Black and Anglo-Canadian, to discuss anti-Black sentiments, since such behaviour did not fit with the historical narrative of Canada as the terminus of the Underground Railroad.

What I loved: I had a feeling that I was going to like this article when I saw that the very first footnote contains a fantastic description and explanation of Shaw’s terminology, specifically her use of the term “Black Canadians” as an umbrella term that captures the diverse nature of the Black community in Canada. But the more I read, the more I fell in love. Not only does Shaw look at racism in Canada at both state and social levels, but she shows just how central race was to the national project that was Canada/Canadian identity. Shaw also does a superb job of balancing this subject both from the top down and the bottom up, while placing Black Canadian agency at the heart of this paper. Finally, she tackles some of the common problems about discussions about race in Canada, both now and then.

Favourite quote: “Even though by the end of the war more than 600,000 of the combatants mobilized were Canadian, more than 60,000 had died, and nearly 170,000 were wounded, giving up their racial privilege was one sacrifice that most Anglo-Canadian men were not willing to make.” P. 549

Suggested uses: All the things. Ok, more seriously, this is a must-read for anyone working on or interested in the history of WW1. This article should also be a must-read for any course on the history of WW1, specifically if it is discussing Canada. I also think this would be a great article to use in survey classes on Canadian history. The article is both accessible and sophisticated, and I think that it would be a great option to help students think critically about how racial privilege works and how it can be reinforced even when its existence is denied. And don’t even get me started on how beautifully this article works with current discussions about race and identity in both Canada and the U.S.


Peter Gossage, “On Dads and Damages: Looking for the ‘Priceless Child’ and the ‘Manly Modern’ in Quebec’s Civil Courts, 1921-1960,” Histoire Sociale/Social History 49, no. 99 (November 2016): 603-623.

*When I downloaded this article, it was listed in volume  49, issue 100. But as of this blog post, the article is now listed in issue 99. Since I did review issue 99 and didn’t see this article, I’m not entirely sure what happened. However, the link below is correct.

Author’s Twitter: @petergossage


What it’s about: In this article, Peter Gossage takes two theoretical concepts about children and fatherhood from other historians, and applies them to civil court cases in Quebec involving the death or injury of a child or damage done to property or people by children. The two theories he applies are Viviana Zelizer’s idea of the “Priceless Child” (a 20th century shift from seeing children as having primarily economic value to emotional value), and Christopher Dummitt’s notion of the “Manly Modern” (that fathers need to teach their children disciplined and responsible behaviour as part of male gender norms). He finds that it is the second — Manly Modern — theory that is more useful for understanding fatherhood in Quebec in the mid 20th century.

What I loved: This article is a superb example of what more historians should be doing: testing theories developed in one situation by applying them to another. I’ve long believed that the practice of history and of science are very much complementary. In science, as many of you know, experimental results are verified through replication, as a way of assessing the soundness of their conclusions. While it’s not nearly as glamorous as doing your own research, I think that we need to spend more time doing this type of work in Canadian history.

Favourite quote: “We might now shift our focus to April 28, 1956, when young Leonard Pearce, no longer a minor at 22 years of age, was struck by a car and killed while walking along Metropolitan Boulevard in Pointe-Claire.25 […] The plaintiff in this case was the victim’s father, Harry Pearce, [who] sued the hit-and-run driver […] for the rather extraordinary amount of $29,392.41. [This amount included] the standard funeral and burial costs (totalling $555.80) but also the cost of cards, stamps, telegrams, transportation, a funeral dress for Mrs. Pearce, and a bronze plaque “élevé en pieux hommage à la mémoire du défunt.”27 Harry Pearce also sought special amounts for Leonard’s room-and-board […] and for the lawyers’ fees he had accumulated in the preparation of his suit for damages. Interestingly, Pearce and his lawyers made separate arguments as to compensation for himself and his wife. For himself, he claimed a total of $13,000, broken down as follows: $5,000 for “perte de soutien future”; $5,000 for “perte de réconfort, d’affection, de dévouement et d’assistance”; and $3,000 for “la douleur, la souffrance et l’inconvénient que la mort de son ls lui a occasionnés.”28 For his wife, Pearce claimed a further $15,000, including $10,000 for loss of future support, comfort, affection, devotion, and assistance, plus a full $5,000 for his wife’s pain, suffering, and inconvenience, the intensity of which (to judge from these amounts) was understood to be measurably greater than his own.” P. 609

Suggested uses: This article will be helpful to any serious scholar of masculinity and fatherhood, or of gender more generally, as well as courses on those subjects. However, I think it would be a great example to use in a historical methodology class. Not only does Gossage clearly outline his research methods here, but this is also a great example of how to combine qualitative and quantitative research successfully.


Peter Gossage, «Visages de paternité au Québec, 1900-1960,» Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française 70, no. 1-2 (été/automne 2016): 53-82.

Author’s Twitter: @petergossage


What it’s about: I’m sure that it is a coincidence that Peter Gossage has two articles out this month about fatherhood, and that both of them are great in very different ways. While in his Histoire Sociale article Gossage, applies two theorems with respect to masculinity to his research, in this case he advances his own conceptual framework, while drawing on the work of two other historians. In this article, Gossage looks at the concept of “faces of fatherhood” as discussed by John Demos and Robert Rutherdale. Gossage argues that this type of model, whereby distinct “faces” are identified, permits a more nuanced and refined analysis of masculinity that prior models (often tied to distinct periods) do not permit. He then demonstrates his new framework by applying it to his current research on fatherhood in Quebec, and identifies four distinct “faces,” which he calls ‘the spiritual father,’ ‘the disciplinarian father,’ ‘the farsighted father,’ and ‘the father as sportsman.’

What I loved: Forgive me if this sounds juvenile, but while I was reading this article, I kept coming back to the statue of Buddha that Angelina Jolie battled in the first Lara Croft movie. For those who haven’t seen the film, or don’t remember it, the statue is composed of one body and a head with four different faces. The faces themselves rotate as necessary, evoking the idea of one being, with multiple/infinite expressions. I think this really captures the type of framework that Gossage is proposing here. While I think I prefer the term “aspects” to “faces,” I think this framework is useful is that individuals are not reduced to single aspects of their identity. While I think that the framework needs to be fleshed out a bit more (How do the “faces” relate to one another? Does this apply just to fatherhood or other aspects of masculinity? etc…), it does raise some interesting questions.

Favourite quote: «Sans vouloir jeter le bébé avec l’eau du bain (pour se servir d’une métaphore parentale), nous sommes donc à la recherche d’une grille conceptuelle plus souple, permettant des analyses plus fines et diversifiées de la parentalité masculine durant le XXe siècle au Québec.»  p. 62 (“Without wanting to throw the baby out with the bath water (to use a parenting metaphor), we are searching for a conceptual framework that is flexible, allowing for more nuanced and complex analysis of parenting by men in Quebec during the 20th century.” p. 62)

Suggested uses: I think that this article will be of interest to any historian of gender, sexuality, family, and/or children. I think it would also work well in a graduate-level course on the history of any of those topics.


Jodi Beniuk, “All My Relations: Reclaiming the Stories of our Indigenous Grandmothers,” Atlantis 37, no. 2 (2) (2016): 161-172.


What it’s about: This powerful article is both a reflection and a statement by a Métis woman, about Métis women’s experiences in historical and contemporary contexts. Framed around a series of conversations that took place between Beniuk and her Métis grandmother (Grambear), Beniuk argues that Métis women must be central to the revitalization and resurgence of Métis national identity, and that Métis women must reclaim their Indigenous heritage in order to challenge and disrupt the colonial project. Drawing on two Indigenous feminist ideas (“theory in the flesh” and “felt theory”), Beniuk describes her own journey towards reclaiming her Métis identity through the creation of Grambear’s Storybook, a book that contains and embodies her grandmother’s teachings.

What I loved: While most of us are familiar with the saying that “the personal is historical,” I think that the opposite is also true: “the historical is personal.” For me, this article embodies the latter saying, showing how history isn’t something dead or forgotten, but alive and vibrant, and very much an active participant in the present. But more importantly, as Beniuk herself points her, the voices of Métis women remain marginalized, even in an era of resurgence in the Métis community. The fact that this article is about Métis women and is by a Métis woman is, by itself, significant. I hope that one day this will become so common as to be unremarkable, but unfortunately, that day is not today.

Favourite quote: “Theory in the flesh and felt theory, then, are Indigenous feminist approaches that seek to challenge the colonial dynamic in knowledge production. These two theories address how Indigenous women’s lived experiences have been discredited by academic institutions and offer anti-colonial ways for Indigenous women to theorize and account for their experiences. They allow us to begin to share our truths and find our way home.” P. 164

Suggested uses: I feel like a broken record in saying this, but I think this article would make a superb addition to any course on historical methodologies. This article takes traditional academic historical practices and turns them on their head, prioritizing Indigenous ways of knowing instead. This is especially the case with respect to the details regarding the construction of Grambear’s Storybook. It would also be a great opportunity to have students discuss the personal relationship that individuals have to their research, as well as the concepts of positionality, representation, Indigenization, and inclusion/exclusion in research. Of course, this article would make a great addition to any course on the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada as well as women’s history in Canada.


Also Recommended:


So those were my favourite articles in Canadian history that were published in the last month. Did you read any of these? What did you think? What were some of your favourites? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to check back on Sunday for a brand new Canadian history roundup. It’s only for one week this time, I promise. 🙂

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