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:
- Canadian Historical Review 97, no. 3 (Fall 2016)
- Historical Studies in Education 28, no. 2 (Fall 2016)
- Topia no. 36 (2016)
- Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 9, no. 3 (Fall 2016)
* Once again, I have tried to read the latest issue from the Canadian Bulletin on Medical History, and haven’t been able to access any articles. The same is true for the latest issue of American Indian Culture and Research Journal, which contains two articles that deal with Canadian history. Fingers crossed I can access them next month. If you have access to either of these issues, and can lend me a copy, that would be much appreciated!
Here are my favourites:
Julia Roberts, “John Galt and the Subaltern’s Wife: Writing the History of the War of 1812,” Canadian Historical Review 97, no. 3 (Fall 2016): 315-345.
What it’s about: Some of my favourite articles deal as much with the craft of the historian as they do about history itself, and that’s exactly what’s going on here in Roberts’ latest article. Roberts talks about her study of a document, “A Lady’s Campaigns in Canada: Extracts from the Journal of a Subaltern’s Wife, Written in Canada in 1812, 1813, and 1814,” which she originally found and fell in love with online. In this article, she takes us through her analysis of the document and how she determined whether or not it was a reliable source. I won’t spoil the surprise, but the reveal of the true author of the text is a delight. Along the way, she talks about different approaches to history, our current approach versus an older one based on verisimilitude. Finally, she looks at the creation of the history of the War of 1812 itself, and how it was actually much more complicated that certain campaigns would have us believe…
What I loved: My favourite aspect of the article was the attention that Roberts’ paid to the craft of history. I love reading about the personal journeys of historians, how they think about history, and how they can change their interpretations of historical documents. I also really loved how Roberts’ discussed the issue of provenance and reliability, and how she went about verifying the authenticity of her document. She even did handwriting analysis! I also really loved how she talked about the overlapping of domestic and military spaces.
Favourite quote: “There has always been fiction in the archives – the trick is to know when you are faced with it.” P. 325
Suggested uses: This would be an absolutely splendid article to use in a survey course on pre-Confederation history to teach critical thinking. There is just so much here that students can learn about how history can be used for political purposes. It would also be a great source to use in a historiography class or an upper-level Canadian history course to talk to students about the issue of the reliability of sources and authors, and how historians study documents. Finally, this would be a great text to use in a military history course or a women’s history course to talk about the shared gendered spaces of war.
Dale M. McCartney, “Inventing International Students: Exploring Discourses in International Study Policy Talk, 1945-75,” Historical Studies in Education 28, no. 2 (Fall 2016): 1-27.
What it’s about: This article looks at changing attitudes towards international students as expressed in the House of Commons. Based largely on the discourse analysis of public debates from the house, McCartney argues that from the end of WW2 until 1969, international students were welcomed as part of neo-colonial paternalism, in the sense that international students were worthy aid recipients who would witness Canadian superiority and spread the word once they returned home. However, after 1969, attitudes shifted and international students were increasingly seen as dangerous because they were undesirable immigrants.
What I loved: First of all, in the interest of full disclosure, I was drawn to this article because of its discussion of international students. Living and working in the Greater Vancouver area has meant that I am regularly exposed to important discussions about international students. Not only does our education system in BC rely heavily on the tuition paid by international students, there is the additional complication that while international students are sought for their money, they are not given sufficient resources in order to succeed in our education system. My husband works in this area, and I’ve seen the kinds of impossible odds that international students face today. At the same time, I really appreciated this article’s discussion of the changing idea of what it meant to be “Canadian,” especially at a time when Canada was transitioning from a British identity to a “multicultural” one, whatever that means. And, as McCartney notes, any discussions of definitions of “Canadians” must consider who is and who is not excluded from this identity. I really think we need to see more scholarship on this topic, especially as more and more research on the postwar period is emerging.
Favourite quote: “The emergence at the end of the decade of what would be called multiculturalism and its efforts to organize the state apparatus occasioned resistance in the form of growing concern about who or what ideas were being recognized as “Canadian”; some of that resistance focused on a category that was, by definition, not Canadian: international students.78 Similarly, convincing everyday people to be ideologically invested in this new element of the national project required clear de- lineation of who would be excluded — any national identity has to be constituted not only by those it includes but also by whom it excludes. “ p. 12
Suggested uses: Perhaps it’s a bit obvious, but I think that this article would be a good one to use in a history of education course. It would also be a good one for a course on postwar Canada, especially with references to definitions of Canadianness. However, I think the value of this article lies mainly in its potential impact on policy makers, especially since it seems as if, in BC at least, our reliance on international students to pay for our education system is only going to grow.
“Feature Section: Reflections on the Daniels Decision,”Topia no. 36 (2016): 7-57.
- Jennifer Adese,” A Tale of Two Constitutions: Métis Nationhood and Section 35(2)’s Impact on Interpretations of Daniels,”
- Adam Gaudry and Chris Anderson,” Daniels v. Canada: Racialized Legacies, Settler Self-Indigenization and the Denial of Indigenous Peoplehood,”
- Chelsea Vowel and Darryl Leroux, “White Settler Antipathy and the Daniels Decision,” and
- Zoe Todd, “From a Fishy Place: Examining Canadian State Law Applied in the Daniels Decision from the Perspective of Métis Legal Orders”
What it’s about: Can I just say that having to pick a favourite here is an impossible task? GAAAH. As many of you are aware, a couple of months ago, the Supreme Court of Canada made a ruling in the Daniels case, determining that Métis and non-status Indians were included in the definition of “Indian” in the Canadian constitution. And as I’m sure many of you are also aware, this decision has been widely misunderstood. The Topia discussion is intended to make sense of the Daniels decision and to talk about the implications, both intentional and not, that this decision has had. Each author considers the decision from a particular perspective: Adese focuses on the relationship between Métis identity and Nationhood; Gaudry and Anderson discuss the unintended consequences of the decision; Vowel and Leroux look at the decision from a legal perspective; and Todd considers the incompatibility of the Canadian legal system and Métis legal orders. If I had to pick only one to recommend, it would be Todd’s article, simply because it stands out foremost in my mind.
What I loved: I really loved all of these articles for their thoughtful discussion. But, again, Todd’s article stands out for me because of her discussion of watersheds and boundaries. It raises a question in my mind that I think lies at the heart of the Daniels decision, and many of the larger discussions between Indigenous peoples and the federal and provincial governments: how can a Canadian legal system, which relies upon rigid definitions, cultivate/negotiate a relationship/dialogue with a group of people whose identity is not subject to concrete literal and metaphorical borders?
Favourite quote(s): “The story of the sturgeon moving freely along the river from Edmonton all the way to Saskatchewan brings a smile to my face. This wily fish implodes our understandings of political boundaries. How many counties did that fish swim through? How many bridges did it swim beneath? How many stories does it carry with it on its journey? “ p. 44-45 and “Andersen, here, centres a logic of territoriality in understanding who the Métis are. The land and territory the Métis moved and move through on the plains is integral to understanding who they are. Taking Andersen’s metaphor as a starting point, we can employ it to understand the role that the rivers, lakes, streams and creeks and other water bodies play within the movement and stories of Métis people on the plains. If Winnipeg and Fort Edmonton have heartbeats, then the entire Lake Winnipeg watershed is pulsing with arteries and veins that assist this movement of people, ideas, laws, stories and meanings. “ p.52
Suggested uses: Personally, I think all Canadian historians should read this discussion in its entirety, no matter what field they research. I also think that this discussion would be a good one to talk about in a course on the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada as well as the history of legal systems.
Tarah Brookfield, “Representing and Recovering Girls’ Pasts: The Inmates of Orphan’s Home Album,” Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 9, no. 3 (Fall 2016): 369-381.
Author’s Twitter: @TarahBrookfield
What it’s about: This article focuses on a small album or scrapbook discovered by the author, titled “Inmates Orphan’s Home.” This scrapbook was created by the Orphan’s Home for Girls, an orphanage in Brantford, Ontario which operated from 1869 to 1905. Inside the album, a total of twenty-six girls are featured. Nearly every entry includes a photograph taken for the occasion, and a short description of why each girl came to the orphanage. Eleven of the girls were British Home Children, while the remaining fifteen were Canadians. Of those fifteen, six of the girls are identified as “Indian.” Brookfield treats the scrapbook as much as a material object as a text. The scrapbook provides a rare opportunity to glimpse how and why certain children entered into orphanages and, to a certain extent, what happened to them after they left.
What I loved: I was fortunate enough to see Brookfield present this paper last year at the History of Childhood and Youth conference in Vancouver, so I was especially pleased to see it appear in this issue of the journal. As with the Roberts’ article, this article is very much about the craft of the historian with a focus on documents. I really loved Brookfield’s analysis of the photographs, and I am in awe of the work involved in tracking down what happened to some of these girls after they left the orphanage. But I think my favourite part relates to the quote below, which is even more poignant with the accompanying image.
Favourite quote: “A striking feature of the album is the Shenstons’ desire to photograph Ellen and Elizabeth Thomas (image 5). These indigenous sisters hailed from Munceytown, on the Munsee-Delaware Nation’s reserve near St. Thomas, about 175 kilometers from Brantford. The Thomas sisters arrived together a few months after the home opened and are described in their entries as having a dead mother and a poor, sick father. A blank space remains above each of their entries because neither girl “could be induced to sit for her photograph.” No details are provided as to how the girls might have been “induced.” Was it a simple refusal? Were bribes or gentle coaxing attempted? Or was corporal punishment involved? Their entries also mention that the girls attempted to run away “time and again” and would make no attempt to speak English. Ultimately the girls went back to Munceytown about a month after they arrived. According to the album’s notations, both sisters wept when they said good-bye.” P. 377
Suggested uses: This would be another great article to use as part of a historiography class, to show students what we can learn from looking at even a single document. It would also be a great opportunity to show how historians can read between the lines to find the voices of those who have been silenced. This would also be a make article in any history of children or childhood course.
So those are my favourites from this month! Have you read any of these issues or articles? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to check back on Sunday for another roundup!