Unwritten Histories

The Unwritten Rules of History

Category: So You Want to be a Sessional (page 1 of 2)

History Slam Podcast

Check out an interview that I did with Sean Graham for the History Slam Podcast! Find out about all my secrets, including what my voice really sounds like!

History Slam Episode 102: Andrea Eidinger of Unwritten Histories

Reflections on a Summer Course

Screenshot of my syllabus

Summer: time for sunny days, blue skies, lazy days at the beach….

LOL Yeah right….

Let’s face it: no one likes teaching or taking summer courses. Not only does the weather make you want to spend all of your time outside, but the sheer pace of summer courses is just exhausting. With that in mind, and considering that I just finished teaching one, I thought that I would use this blog post as an opportunity to reflect back on my experiences and talk about what worked and what didn’t, in the hopes that we might all learn a thing or two.


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Interview: Creating a Collaborative Syllabus with Mary-Ellen Kelm

Screenshot of article on Kelm.


Some of you may remember that  back in April, SFU published a feature with Mary-Ellen Kelm, interviewing her about her recent experience co-creating her syllabus with her students. My interest was immediately piqued, since you know how much I love learning about new pedagogical techniques and methods for facilitating student engagement with history. While the article provided a little bit of information about how this worked, I was dying to learn more. Thankfully, Mary-Ellen Kelm was extremely gracious, and agreed to be interviewed about her process! So I am super excited to be able to bring you this interview today, especially since we’re in the middle of prime syllabus-writing season (I’m crying with you)! Enjoy!


CHA Reads - Mary-Ellen Kelm

Mary-Ellen Kelm is a professor of history at Simon Fraser University specializing in settler colonial and medical histories of North America. Her first book, Colonizing Bodies: Aboriginal Health and Healing in British Columbia 1900-1950 (UBC Press, 1998) won the Sir John A. Macdonald Prize and the Clio award for British Columbia both awarded by the Canadian Historical Association. In 2007 she received the second place award in the BC Historical Federation’s annual history writing competition for editing The Letters of Margaret Butcher: Missionary-Imperialism on the North Pacific Coast (University of Calgary Press, 2007), which tell the story of the Elizabeth Long Memorial Home, an Indian Residential School in Kitamaat, BC, from the perspective of an English teacher and nurse at the school. Her history, A Wilder West: Rodeo in Western Canada (UBC Press, 2011) is an illustrated examination of rodeo’s small-town roots, and a look at how the sport brought people together across racial and gender divides. She is currently examining the ideas and methods medical researchers brought to the study of Indigenous health in North America from 1910-1990. She is co-editor of the Canadian Historical Review.


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Guest Post: Digitizing Legislative Documents and the BNA Legislative Database

This week’s special guest post comes to us from a familiar face: Stephanie Pettigrew, whom you may remember from this year’s CHA Reads! I’m very excited to share this guest post from her, which is based on her work on the upcoming British North America Legislative Database. This database, which is hosted by the University of New Brunswick under the direction of Elizabeth Mancke, collects together all legislation passed by the Pre-Confederation colonies of eastern British North America, including Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, PEI, New Brunswick, Upper Canada, Lower Canada, the United Canadas, and Newfoundland. The database is still under construction, but once it is complete, it will be an invaluable resource to historians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as anyone who teaching Pre-Confederation Canadian history. It seeks to, among other things, remedy some of the searching problems found in other databases, like Early Canadiana Online (ECO). So without any further ado, enjoy!

Stephanie Pettigrew

Stephanie Pettigrew is a PhD candidate at the University of New Brunswick studying the history of witchcraft in New France. She is also the project coordinator for the British North America Legislative Database (bnald.lib.unb.ca), which seeks to digitize all the pre-confederation legislative acts from the provincial legislative assembly.


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Digital Pedagogy: A History of the Yukon in 100 Objects

A History of the Yukon in 100 Objects

Several weeks ago, a new blog started showing up in my social media feeds, A History of the Yukon in 100 Objects. Just FYI, titles like that are catnip for me! After some investigating, I discovered that this project was created by Amanda Graham — a faculty member at Yukon College — for the students enrolled in her course entitled “Northern Studies 200: Research in the North.” The project echoes the BBC and the British Museum’s “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” but reconfigured for a classroom setting. Graham was kind enough to agree to talk to me about this project so that I could in turn share it with you! I’ve talked previously about the importance of active learning in Canadian history, as well as the possibilities of digital history. However, such activities can often seem intimidating, so I hope that this blog post, the result of that conversation, will convince you that they are worthwhile additions to any classroom!

But first, allow me to introduce Amanda Graham!

A History of the Yukon in 100 ObjectsAmanda Graham, BA, Dipl. NOST MA

  • Coordinator/Instructor, University of the Arctic
  • School of Liberal Arts

Amanda Graham was the first graduate of the college’s Northern Studies program. She joined Yukon College in 1992 as managing editor of The Northern Review, taught northern studies, and served as Chair of Social Sciences and Humanities in the old Arts and Science Division for two terms (1994-1998). In 2004, Graham resigned to coordinate UArctic programs at Yukon College and to teach northern and circumpolar studies and, variously European and Canadian history. She piloted a successful service learning course that linked coursework and reflection to voluteer work with the Arctic Winter Games.


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A Guide to Online Resources for Teaching and Learning about Black History in Canada

Black History in Canada

Africville Church (est. 1849) – rebuilt as part of the Africville Apology. Photo  by Hantsheroes. Wikimedia Commons. CC By 3.0

I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to all of those who helped me assemble this guide, including, but not limited to, Georgia Sitara, Elizabeth Vibert, Sarah Van Vugt, Melissa N. Shaw, Catherine Ulmer, Merle Massie, Kesia Kvill, Nancy Janovicek, Kevin Brushett, James Opp, Joanna L. Pearce, Clare Dale, Tina Loo, Elliot Worsfold, Steve Marti, and the Nova Scotia Archives. We are fortunate to have such a wonderful online community of Canadian historians.


We’re back with another guide to online sources for teaching and learning Canadian history! This guide focuses specifically on Black History in Canada.* While I am obviously writing this blog post now since it is Black History Month, it’s important that we recognize that Black history in Canada is not a subject that should only be discussed once a year; instead, is an integral part of Canadian history as a whole. After all, Black history is Canadian history. My hope is that you will use this guide not only during February, but also to inform your teaching year round. Historians have a obligation to ensure that the history that we teach is truly representative of the experiences of all Canadians.

Before I begin, I would like to make two quick notes. The first is in regards to my selection process. As in my previous guide, I have stuck to sources that are produced by institutions, museums, archives, and historical societies. This is again to ensure that the sources presented are authentic and their provenance clear. In order to keep this guide to a manageable size, I have excluded websites that are narrative-based, meaning they focus on telling the history of Black Canadians rather than providing primary sources and/or learning tools. At the same time, I have tried to keep to mostly Canadian sources. But it is important to recognize that many Black Canadians can trace their origins back to Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. As a result, you will notice that I have included some transnational sources, particularly with respect to the subject of slavery.

Second, it is important that we take a moment to note the kinds of history that are represented here. History is always political, and certain aspects of history are often highlighted at the expense of others. That is why you will notice that many of the links below deal principally with two topics: the Underground Railroad and the Black Loyalists. The preponderance of these sources is directly related to the popularity of their subjects. Much of this is because Canada and Canadians like to think of themselves as a safe haven, especially when compared to the United States. While many African-Americans were able to escape slavery by fleeing to Canada, that didn’t mean that everything was sunshine and rainbows. The reality was far different. Slavery was an integral part of Canadian society, and while it was officially abolished in 1833, stipulations in the Act to Abolish Slavery were such that only a small percentage of slaves in Canada were actually able to secure their freedom. Furthermore, Black Canadians were, and continue to be, subject to racial discrimination, both personally and institutionally.

While it is important that we remember the Underground Railroad and the Black Loyalists, it is equally important that we remember all of the Black men and women who worked as porters or domestics, those who fought for the right to enlist in WW1, those who sought better job opportunities by migrating southward, the highly educated women who immigrated to Canada as part of the “domestic scheme,” and the growing community of Somali-Canadians. We must continue to reflect on our behaviour and fight against racism in its varied forms, and recognize and dismantle the ways in which Black Canadians continue to be marginalized in Canadian society. I hope that this blog post can be a small part of this work.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge that this guide would never have been possible without the tireless work of Afua Cooper, Natasha Henry, and Charmaine Nelson. Many of these collections and lesson plans were either created by or in collaboration with these three incredible women. I am merely standing on the shoulders of giants.

As was the case in my previous guide, each link will be listed by title, then institution. I have included a short description of each link, and which sections will be of particular interest or use to educators, particularly those at the university or college-level. This blog post is not intended to be comprehensive, but to instead offer the best resources available.

Since this blog post is a bit of a monster, you can simply click on each one of those headings below to navigate to a specific section of this page. Each section is organized roughly in chronological order, with ones that cover multiple time periods at the bottom. To return to the top of the page, click on the link that says “Back to the Top,” located at the bottom of each section. Here’s how the blog post is arranged:

*I use the term Black Canadians here rather than African-Canadian or African-American in recognition of the diverse nature of the Black community in Canada today. My terminology is inspired by Melissa Shaw’s detailed discussion of the subject in the first footnote to her article, 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 49 no. 199 (November 2016): 542-580.


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The Historical is Personal: Learning and Teaching Traumatic Histories

Psst… Check out my latest post over on Active History! Here’s a sneak peak:


Learning and teaching history is hard work. The physical, mental, and emotional toll can be high, for both educators and learners. This is especially the case when it comes to traumatic histories. For educators, it is difficult to balance the desire to make an emotional impact on your students without inflicting (further) trauma. For learners, it is difficult to balance curiosity with respect. We are often implored to “never forget,” but we seldom take a moment to talk about what and how we are supposed to remember.

 All of us come to the field of history from different backgrounds, and the ways in which we interact with history as educators and learners are shaped by these early experiences. But, with certain exceptions, it remains rare for anyone to talk about this, especially when it comes to teaching. So in this blog post, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about my personal experiences learning and teaching about traumatic histories and specifically how my experiences as a Jewish-Canadian woman who was taught about the Holocaust as a child shaped my approach to teaching first-year university students about residential schools.

To read the rest of this post, go here.

A Guide to Online Resources for Teaching and Learning about WW1 in Canada

A war effort poster: “Salvage! Every Little Helps” / Sia R. Chilvers. Library and Archives Canada, e010696424; Acc. No. 1983-28-190 / CC by 2.0

A war effort poster: “Salvage! Every Little Helps” / Sia R. Chilvers. Library and Archives Canada, e010696424; Acc. No. 1983-28-190 / CC by 2.0

(Newly updated as of February 27, 2017!)

I’m actually rather surprised to find that no one’s really done this before. This collection started out as a Word document that I used for creating classroom activities for my survey classes. The one-page document has now grown to seventeen pages. Before anyone yells at me for leaving things out, I do want to warn you that this is not a comprehensive list.  I have tried to limit this list to resources that are available from verified sources, archives, museums, universities, and historical societies. There are a ton of personal websites by genealogists and military history enthusiasts that are great, but because I can’t verify their sources personally and because this list is aimed mostly at educators, I chose to leave them out.

Each link will be listed by title, then institution. I have included a short description of each link, and which sections will be of particular interest or use to educators.

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A Guide to Online Resources for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

Guide to Online Teaching and Learning

One of academia’s dirty little secrets is that few professors any receive any kind of educational training. The assumption is that since most professors have PhDs, and are experts in their topics, they are fully equipped to teach this information to others. I’m not entirely sure how this is supposed to work. This harkens back to older models of education where students went to university to hear scholars spout their wisdom. But as countless studies and articles have shown, “telling isn’t teaching.”

If you’re lucky, and you have extra time on your hands (HA!) you might want to take a workshop or a class taught by your institution’s learning and teaching centre. Most universities have them these days, and they provide services to professors (and sometimes to students) who wish to improve upon their teaching. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for everyone because: workshops are often only offered at certain times of the year; you might not be able to find one that suits your needs; when you’re teaching four courses a semester while trying to finish your doctorate, your “free time” consists of sleep; you simply don’t have the time. Some of us also want to have much more comprehensive training than a workshop can offer, but don’t have the time or the resources to do a certificate in education.

Thankfully, there are options available for such individuals. While I did benefit from the learning and teaching centre at UVic, most of what I’ve learned since I’ve started teaching has come from research that I’ve conducted myself online. Since I’m doing a series of blog posts this month all about going back to school, I thought that it would be well worth the effort to put all of that research together into one convenient package. So in this blog post, I’m going to provide you with a guide to online pedagogical resources. This list is in no way comprehensive, since there are literally thousands of websites and blogs these days devoted to teaching and learning in higher education. Instead, these are some of the resources that I’ve come back to over and over again, and that I believe have helped me to become a better teacher.


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