Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book notes: Warkentin on Radisson

If you were a member of the Champlain Society like you ought to be, yesterday you would have received a handsome red-bound copy of Volume 2 of Germaine Warkentin's edition of the collected works of Pierre-Esprit Radisson in your mailbox, as I did.

But did you have to be a member a couple of years ago to also have Volume 1? Actually, no. Join now and you can have both, it sez here.

History of being part of the crazy

Never anticipated this when I put up a website and started a blog about Canadian history:
Hi Mr. Moore, I hope that this e-mail finds you well. I am a producer for “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” at the Fox News Channel.  I am reaching out to you to see if you would be available tonight, in the 7p ET hour, to come on with our guest host, Kimberly Guilfoyle to discuss the shootings that occurred today. We can do the interview from anywhere in the world via satellite. If you could please let me know of interest and availability, I would appreciate it! Thank you! Sincerely,
xxxxxxx"On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren"
"No thanks."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Prize Watch: Toronto Book Award to Charlotte Gray

... for her pretty nifty The Massey Murder, about a young woman who whacked Bert Massey on his own doorstep in 1915 and got clean away with it.

It was co-published by the very serious Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, and the OS blog has all the deets.

History of mirror years

Take the year in which you were born. From that date, subtract your current age.  That's your mirror year.  Your birth was as close to that date as to today's date. It seems a bit obvious until you start doing the calculations.

Seeing how distant your mirror year is, you sense afresh how much history you have lived through. Your average baby-boomer (hello!) who probably thinks of the Second World War as history, was born as close to the 1880s as to today. But it can be pretty shocking for quite young people too.

At History Today, Chris Lowry works out some of the implications.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Canada150's Confederation mini-movies

Heritage Canada has nine new Canada150 ads up on YouTube and some at least in regular
rotation on your screens.  I dunno, I kinda liked this one.

But Andrew Coyne's quick review here:
Someone promptly responded that there is indeed a George Brown episode among 'em.  Right. But it's pretty dire.  "I was premier. Twice. [?] But I got tired of it, so I joined John A. Macdonald.  Then I died."

Update, October 24:  James Muir, from History and Law at the University of Alberta, writes:  "I agree, the Brown video is dour, but not much more than the others. They actually make for a decidedly uninteresting set of videos. A bunch of men standing on their own, not moving, lit from behind (usually)  and describing themselves as if they are ghosts reflecting on their lives and deaths

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

History of women and money

CBC News takes note of Merna Forster's campaign to get the Bank of Canada to acknowledge that there are some women from Canadian history worth featuring on the money. The petition is here

Update, October 24: 22 Minutes -- who are on fire lately --  nailed it too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

History of blogging

I thought this blog began around the beginning of November 2004.  Checking back, I see the first post was actually dated October 8, 2004.

Ten years

History of Anglicans: Ridley College at 125

At the private Catholic boys school where I did my high school years, the understanding was that there were Catholics and then there was a vast undifferentiated mass of non-Catholics all pretty much blurred together. It was something of a surprise to me some years later, to encounter an Anglican with a precisely reversed perspective: she saw the world as C of E and then everyone else. I’m not sure it had much to do with theology or faith in either case. For the Catholics it was a tribal loyalty; for my friend it was maybe more tinged with class consciousness.

Much later, the DCB asked me to write its Volume 15 entry on one Newman Hoyles. Hoyles was being included mostly for his legal career, which I knew something about. But I became intrigued to encounter through him another Christian subdivision I’d never really considered before: the low and the high Anglicans, and particularly the feud between them in Toronto and Ontario in the late 19th century.

As I now understand this (mostly from my immersion in Hoyles), low Anglicans were/are “protestant:” evangelical, anti-hierarchical, and aspiring to a direct, unmediated experience of faith, while the high Anglicans were/are “Anglo-Catholic:” respectful of hierarchy, convinced of the wisdom of authority and received tradition, and not entirely accepting that there had ever really been a “protestant” schism between Rome and Canterbury. (There is a good deal of scholarship, notably by Curtis Fahey and Alan Hayes, to put this corner of Canadian church history much better.)
Anyway, my man Newman W. Hoyles was not at all low society but he was very much low Anglican. Alongside his career in the law, he lent much time to helping build up low-Anglican institutions to parallel the high-Anglican ones Ontario had inherited from the Bishop Strachan/established church/clergy reserve times. By the end of Hoyles's career, the low Anglicans had Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto to match the high Anglican Trinity. They had the elite girls’ school Havergal as their alternative to Bishop Strachan School. They had the Evangelical Churchman to balance whatever the high Anglican paper was called.
And in 1889 they launched the private boys’ school Ridley College in St. Catharines to counter Upper Canada College in Toronto. Newman Hoyles, then 45 and established in both his legal career and his low-Anglican good works, was very much involved. The name alone suggests what the evangelical Anglicans thought of Anglo-Catholicism. None of that Cardinal Newman stuff for them: poor Nicholas Ridley was burned at the stake in England during the Catholic restoration under Queen Mary. My tribal-Catholic remnant found this all two-churches-in-one thoroughly implausible, but my more dominant historian side was kinda charmed.

Which is all to say that this year Ridley College school (not just boys any more) is observing its 125th birthday, and I was asked if I’d like to take note. Duly noted.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The beginning of the Canadian constituton

It's October 10, the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Quebec City constitutional conference of 1864.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Parliamentary conventions? Only if someone cares enough to enforce them

The Sir Robert Bond Papers -- you didn't know we have a Newfoundland and Labrador politics blog named for a pre-confederation premier? For shame! -- is furious that someone named Judy Manning, a largely unknown lawyer but life partner of a crony of the new premier, has been appointed attorney general of the province even though she is not a member of the Assembly and will not seek a by-election to become one.  She has, in effect, a political role much like that of a staffer in the premier's office -- that is, as long as the premier wants her to give her a role in politics.

Why, this breaches parliamentary convention! declares Sir Robert.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Are you reading correctly? UPDATED and UPDATED AGAIN

Historiann is down on American Civil War historian James McPherson for his answers (all white, all male, all old, all American....) to a series of questions posed to him about his historical reading by the New York Times.

Now if you ask a lifetime Civil War specialist, you are likely to get a lot of Civil War answers, and a lot of those are going to be American and male, and probably we all privilege our own field and age-cohort a bit, so I'd cut some slack.  But still, yeah...

She proposes to provide her own answers to the Times's questionnaire soon  and invites readers to do the same. Update: It's here now -- with, as she says, lots of linky goodness.

I think I'll take that up.  Five questions:

  • What history books are on your nightstand?
  • What's the last truly great history you read?
  • Who is the best historian writing today?
  • What is the best book in Canadian history?
  • What is your favourite biography of a Canadian?
I'm a bit stumped for answers to these myself, but you might be amused to contemplate them, and maybe even send in some answers.  (A sixth question concerns childhood reading habits, but I'm not sure I care.)

Meanwhile Kaitlin Wainwright at Active History ponders history in the comments sections:
 “a blog without comments is a soapbox, plain and simple.” 
My own version would be "a blog without links is a soapbox, plain and simple." Not that I'm so down on soapboxes, but links are the unique feature that give blogging some claim to the standing of a unique form.

Update, October 9 :  Historiann's own answers are now up here.  The Tattooed Professor's here. It's now a thing on Twitter too: #historiannchallenge.  Russ Chamberlayne and I take shots at the questions:

Update:  October 24:  James Muir of Edmonton has added his nominations, an impressive mix of classics and new finds:
What history books are on your nightstand?
 Chamberlayne: The Diary of Samuel Pepys (Latham and Matthews, edrs.)  now plowing through Vol. VIII, in which Pepys becomes even further convinced of  the disfunctionality of the royal government.
 Muir: David Wilson, Thomas D'Arcy McGee vol. 2, W.L. Morton, The Critical Years, 1857-1873, and Shannon Stunden Bower, Wet Prairie: People, Land, and Water in Agricultural Manitoba (UBC, 2012)
Moore:  Don't read history much at night.  Right now The Children Act and Gone Girl and a bunch of old New Yorkers 
What's the last truly great history you read?
 Chamberlayne:  The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Vol. VII
Muir: Marcus Rediker, The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom (Penguin, 2012) 
Moore:  Probably Postwar by Tony Judt, though his interview/book with Timothy Snyder, Thinking the Twentieth Century was an extraordinary work, too.
Who is the best historian writing today?
Moore and Chamberlayne passed but Muir stepped up.  Marcus Rediker, Carolyn Steedman, Natalie Zemon Davis, Allan Greer, Robin Blackburn.
What is the best book in Canadian history?
 Chamberlyne: Would have to be a professional or on a prize jury to answer these
Moore:  Concur.  Wait, I am a professional and have been a juror too.  It's still tough. But in the last few years reading some of the Cundill Prize winners has opened my eyes to some terrific histories on topics I'd never find by myself: MacCulloch, Christianity: The First 3000 Years and Platt, Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom. Canadian?  Still stuck, and won't mention myself, of course.
Muir:  This is tough. Top five, not in order, not necessarily current any longer, and more reflective of my thoughts today than historiographic importance:  Bettina Bradbury, Working Families, Allan Greer, The Patriots and the People, Royden Loewen, Diaspora in the Countryside, Ian McKay, Quest of the Folk, and Bruce Trigger, Natives and Newcomers.
 What is your favourite biography of a Canadian?
Chamberlayne:  I'm going to stretch the category to include memoir, and say it's a tie between Charles Ritchie's "Diplomatic Passport" and Dalton Camp's "Gentlemen, Players and Politicians."
Moore:  I'd take Siren Years over Diplomatic Passport among the Ritchies.  Among biographies, I'd probably go with the consensus:  David Wilson on D'Arcy McGee. Though Jean Barman's Sojourning Sisters has stayed with me a long time, which reminds me of Lauren Thatcher Ulrich's The Midwife's Tale (not a Canadian, but close to the border).
Muir: J.M.S. Careless, Brown of the Globe, Allan Greer, Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits, Rick Helmes-Hayes, Measuring the Mosaic: An Intellectual Biography of John Porter
 Muir's PS:  You didn't include, but from Historiann, "If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?" Douglas Hay, et al, Albion's Fatal Tree. What a strange exercise. Less fun when I finished than I thought it would be when I started.
Okay, we are a bit white male for Historiann, for sure, but you could do worse for a reading list.  Any more?

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Prize Watch: GGs in non-fiction

Shortlists for the Governor General's Literary Awards came out this morning, and immediately crashed the Canada Council' GG site. (Still slow -- lots of bells and whistles on it) But it's back, and the news got out anyway.

Non-fiction nominees (just four, which is good. Shortlists should be short.):
Michael Harris, The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection (HarperCollins Publishers)
Arno Kopecky, The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway  (Douglas & McIntyre)
Edmund Metatawabin with Alexandra Shimo, Up Ghost River: A Chief's Journey through the Turbulent Waters of Native History (Knopf Canada)
Maria Mutch, Know the Night: A Memoir of Survival in the Small Hours (Knopf Canada) 
Not just that I haven't read these; I don't think I'd heard of any. But an interesting list, on the literary side of non-fiction, maybe? Apparently there is no overlap between the Giller list and the GG list in fiction; similarly none between this list and the Hilary Weston nonfiction list recently announced which is maybe a little more politics/journalism.

But a dearth of historians (narrowly defined, anyway) on both.

A sixties moment, no tie-dye

Trudeau cabinet members about to be sworn in, June 1968
Okay, Donald S. Macdonald has a memoir coming out soon: Thumper, about his years in politics and public life. You can read an excerpt from iPolitics here.  But mostly I just want a chance to reproduce the classic piece of 'sixties style in this photo.  iPolitics, my source for it, must feel the same; they have used it to accompany the Macdonald memoir even though Macdonald is not in the picture. Photographer: Doug Ball of Canadian Press, source of many classic images of the time.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Prize watch: Cundill prize nominees 2014

The Cundill Prize in History, at $75,000 said to be the richest prize for historical writing and issued annually "to an individual who has published a book determined to have had a profound literary, social and academic impact in the area of history," has announced its 2014 preliminary list.

           Gary Bass – The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide (Knopf)  
        David Brion Davis – The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation (Knopf)
           Andrew O’Shaughnessy – The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire (Yale University Press)
  Richard Overy – The Bombing War: Europe 1939-45 (Allen Lane)
  David Van Reybrouck – Congo: The Epic History of a People (Fourth Estate)
  Geoffrey Wawro – A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire (Basic Books)

Once more, a mix of scholarly and trade imprints, authors, and audiences, it seems, with the jury composition (one two historical scholars, one a previous winner, among five jurors) maybe suggesting a little more tilt to the trade side than in the Cundill's early years. The jury 2 for 5 women; the nominees 0 for 6. Still, there are a lot of impressive historical works on the market these days.

This preliminary list will be reduced to 3 finalists, with a winner on November 20.  The prize is administered by McGill University and the announcement will be in Toronto this year.

Book Notes: King, Churchill, de Gaulle.

Went recently to the launch of my friend Ray Argyle's new book The Paris Game (from Dundurn Press). I had thought it covered some detail of  France in the Second World War. In fact it's an ambitious survey of Charles De Gaulle's campaign to save something of France from the wreckage of 1940 and even more, to reposition France among the major Allied powers during the rest of the war and afterwards.

English-language works on this subject often joke about "the cross of Lorraine" that Churchill and Roosevelt had to bear because of de Gaulle, but Argyle, a francophile Torontonian, is mostly sympathetic in his treatment of de Gaulle, and makes particular note of Roosevelt's antipathy to de Gaulle. Among many Canadian connections, he notes the moment in 1940 when de Gaulle concluded that defeat was total and resolved to retire to private life in Canada.

Then the other night my local historical society hosted Terry Reardon speaking of his new book, Winston Churchill and Mackenzie King: So Similar, So Different, also from Dundurn. I'd have said much more different than similar (!), but this too is an ambitious study. Churchill worship is endemic, King worship not so much, but Reardon is interesting on both men, who turn out to have been precisely the same age. They first met in Toronto soon after the Boer War when young celebrity Churchill was promoting a book. King, then a rising civil servant, arrived at Churchill's hotel at 11 am, found Churchill deep into the champagne, and disapproved. He came to admire eventually, but it was not the easiest of relationships, and Reardon raises many points about Churchill's imperialism and King's resistance to it.

Reardon is a retired banker and pillar of the Churchill Society of Toronto.  Argyle is a retired PR executive. Historical talent is where you find it.