three shelves of old books, tilted at a 45 degree angle to the left.

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:


Jordan Stanger-Ross, Nicholas Blomley, and The Landscapes of Injustice Research Collective, “’My land is worth a million dollars:’ How Japanese Canadians Contested Their Dispossession in the 1940s,” Law and History Review 35, no. 3 (August 2017): 711-751.

Author’s Twitter: @LandscapesInjus 


What it’s about: This article is a qualitative and quantitative analysis of 292 letters written by Japanese Canadians to the Canadian government (Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property) following the sale of their property between 1943 and 1947. The authors argue that the losses experienced by these individuals cannot be understood primarily in terms of monetary compensation, since this approach does not take into account the multiple, complex, and intangible meanings that individuals assign to property and possession. Further analysis of the letters suggests that Japanese Canadians protests regarding the sale of their property rested upon concerns of exchange value (receiving fair monetary value) and issues of consent (not giving permission for their property to be sold). This analysis reveals not only that the Japanese Canadian community forcefully protested the sale of their property, but the multiple levels of injustice that they have endured.

What I loved: Conflict of interest warning: Jordan was a member of my dissertation committee. As many of you are already aware, I am a big fan of the Landscapes of Injustice project. So it is probably no surprise that I would love this article. However, this article stands out for me for two reasons. First is the attribution/authorship question. This is the first time I’ve seen an article that actually credits the entire team behind the project. All projects are, in many respects, group efforts, from research assistants, to editors, readers, and partners, friends, and families. No academic is an island. Yet, with the exception of acknowledgements in books (and occasional articles), this labour is seldom acknowledged. So the fact that the entire team received an authorship credit here is, I think, a good sign for the future. Secondly, this paper is an elegant marriage of qualitative and quantitative analysis. I am extremely impressed, and slightly terrified, by the amount of work that was involved in the quantitative analysis of these letters. This is a novel and, I think, effective, method for studying the intangible. My only caveat would be that this type of “coding” is potentially problematic, in the sense that it can create and entrench artificial categories, but I think that this type of approach holds a great deal of potential.

Favourite quote: Toyo Takahashi, for example, wrote to the Custodian in April 1944 to argue that the forced sale of her home at 42 Gorge Road in Victoria, was “against your promises, and my wishes, further- more … utterly undeserved.” Working for more than a decade, she and her husband had painstakingly and lovingly cultivated a garden out- side their home that was the site of rare and exotic plants and the recip- ient of a horticultural award. In 1937, it had merited royal recognition: “We treasure the memory of seeing Her Majesty turn her head to see our garden,” she wrote. “This property is our home,” she summarized near the end of her letter, “the reward for long years of toil and anticipation, a source of recreation, a stake in the future of Victoria, and an insurance for our later welfare.”” p. 718

Suggested uses: Anyone who is interested in studying the intangible, particularly around the meanings ascribed to property. This will also be of interest to other historians who are using quantitative methods in their research. I don’t think, however, that this is a suitable article for an undergraduate course, simply because there is a great deal of theory regarding the meaning of property.


Ian Mosby and Tracey Galloway, “’The abiding condition was hunger:’ Assessing the Long-Term Biological and Health Effects of Malnutrituion and Hunger in Canada’s Residential Schools,” British Journal of Canadian Studies 30, no. 2 (2017): 147-162.

Author’s Twitter: @Ian_Mosby


What it’s about: In this article, Mosby and Galloway present evidence that strongly suggests the malnutrition that most students experienced in residential schools has had long-term implications for their health, as well as the health of their descendants. This is particularly the case with respect to chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and obesity. Although this subject has not yet been studied, Mosby and Galloway suggest that there is strong evidence that it should be, given the results of other studies looking at the individuals who suffered childhood malnutrition and/or famine during their youth.

What I loved: This is without a doubt a groundbreaking paper. In addition to its revelations about the inter-generational impact of childhood malnutrition on survivors of residential schools, this paper is notable for its approach. This is politically engaged academic research at its very best. In age where people continue to argue that history is irrelevant, this paper is superb evidence that this is a misguided belief. Further, this paper is an important example of relevant and impactful research that is so desperately needed. Finally, I just love that Mosby and Galloway worked together on this! There is much to be gained from collaboration between historians and scientists.

Favourite quote: “This was because, while spending a month in the Spy Hill Gaol in Calgary on a minor trespassing charge during his summer break in the early 1960s, Manuel was shocked to find that – while meat and vegetables were ‘almost unknown’ at the residential school – prisoners were being ‘served meat and potatoes, pork chops, broiled chicken, and sometimes even steak.’” p. 149-150.

Suggested uses: Um, everyone should read this paper. Especially scientists who think that history is just airy-fairy nonsense. Also, all the doctors.


Krista McCracken, “Archival Photographs in Perspective: Indian Residential School Images of Health,” British Journal of Canadian Studies 30, no. 2 (2017): 163-182.

Author’s Twitter: @kristamccracken


What it’s about: This article considers how archivists should be responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, particularly with respect to the subject of historical photographs. Drawing on images of sports, recreation, and health in residential schools from the Reverend Father William Maurice Fonds, McCracken explores how the meaning of photographs change when taking into account who is taking the image as well as the purpose of the image.

What I loved: Conflict of interest warning: as many of you know, Krista and I are friends and collaborators. To begin with, I am so impressed by the thought and care that McCracken puts into her work as an archivist with the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre archives, as it evidenced by this article. This article presents a model for how the archival community can collaborate with residential school survivors as well as Indigenous communities. Moreover, I think that historians would greatly benefit from McCracken’s discussion of reading photographs as historical records. Many historians still use photographs mostly for illustrative purposes, without really considering them as documents in and of themselves. As someone who spent her undergraduate degree working in a photolab, I know that images are never neutral.

Favourite quote: “Their uniforms exaggerate the players’ masculinity by making their bodies appear larger and more muscular, and thus healthier, than they actually were. Their sameness, in stance and clothing, creates a sense of standardisation. Thus the photograph, through its staged arrangement of male bodies, reinforced positive assumptions about assimilation, the normalcy of residential school activities, and student achievement.” p. 173

Suggested uses: Anyone who has used or is considering using photographs in their work should read this article.


Susie Fisher, (Trans)planting Manitoba’s West Reserve: Mennonites, Myth, and Narratives of Place,” Journal of Mennonite Studies 35 (2017): 127-148.

Link: Only available online through EBSCO.

What it’s about: This article centres around the practice whereby Mennonite immigrants brought seeds, stories about seeds, and practices involving seeds with them when the came to Canada. These seeds served as both metaphorical and material objects, creating physical and imagined connections between landscapes, places, and families, while also mediating unresolved questions of identity and belonging. Further, seeds, along with landscaping and gardening, also worked to conceal the role that Mennonites played in western colonization and their complicity in the settler-colonial project. Finally, Fisher argues that placing material objects and practices at the centre of historical analysis allows for a much more nuanced understanding of the lived realities of people in the past.

What I loved: First of all, this is a beautifully written, evocative article that was a genuine pleasure to read. Second, this is one of the few pieces of scholarship, along with another from this issue that I’ve listed below, that considers the complicity of immigrant groups in the colonization of Western Canada, and the extent to which this complicity was concealed and overlooked. I also think that it is extremely creative to use material objects to study colonial discourse, and I look forward to seeing more projects like this in the future!

Favourite quote: “in preparation for a visit with me, Mary Loewen in Silberfeld had arranged her most prized possessions on the dining room table: among them was a small box containing watermelon, cucumber, muskmelon, dill, and carrot seeds that belonged to her mother. The variety of watermelon, winter winter queen, is of special significance to Mary – she has fond memories of her mother growing the melons, their sweet taste, and their prominence in her childhood summer cui sine. Mary believes these seeds originated in Russia, and were carried over by her grandmother. Accordingly she takes special care to preserve them in her collection of keepsakes.” P. 142

Suggested uses: This article will be of interest to anyone who studies colonialism, immigration, ethnicity, ethno-religious groups, domesticity, and environmental history. Really, there is something here for everyone. I also think this will make a great addition to any undergraduate course, and am considering adding it to my syllabus the next time I teach post-confederation history. I can just imagine the fantastic discussions that could come out of reading this article.


Also Recommended:

This just keeps getting harder and harder! Seriously, the four “also recommended” could equally be included in the main section of the article, but I had to call it somewhere. Gaaaah. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you did, please consider sharing it on the social media platform of your choice! And don’t forget to check back on Sunday for a brand new Canadian History Roundup. See you then!

Liked this post? Please take a second to support Unwritten Histories on Patreon!