Friday, May 22, 2015

Getting your work noticed by influential people

What's on your nighttable?

Barry Cooper, the political scientist at the University of Calgary, just learned that his book  New Political Religions or an Analysis of Modern Terrorism, was on the bookshelf of Osama bin Laden. At least that the U.S. government says it was.

Some histories of note reported to be on the shelf: Paul Kennedy's Rise and Fall of Great Powers and Christianity and Islam in Spain 756-1031 A.D. by C. R. Haines.

From his reaction to the news, one has the impression Professor Cooper would rather have been a navy Seal.
“If I had a chance to kill him,” the Canadian political scientist says, “I would’ve.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

History of Bob Dylan

Never took much interest in David Letterman, frankly, and pretty much never watch music videos. But lately I always have some time for Bob Dylan. Even when he is terrible, he is searching for something, and his whole career seems like the history of 20th century American popular music.  This piece about Dylan's first Late Show appearance in 1984 (he was on again yesterday, apparently) has a pretty good explanation of all that.  And the music does kick ass.

Great Canadian mysteries: Franklin

Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History launches "The Franklin Mystery: Life and Death in the Arctic"  in Ottawa June 4, 10 to noon, at Library and Archives Canada.With historians Louis Kamookak and Lyle Dick and the Ottawa Inuit Children's Centre.  Reception to follow.

RSVP (today please) to forsterm[at]

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Last chance to dine on Three Weeks in Quebec City

The wine is coming up from the cellar. The menu is set. Our host Patrice Dutil and I are planning a bunfight over who the real makers of confederation were.

And I'm told there are still some seats available.  Last chance.....

Against muzzling research

Public-sector unions have organized rallies in a number of locations across the Ottawa area on Tuesday to protest the alleged muzzling of public scientists.
Have not heard to what extent the historians of Parks Canada and the museums or the archivists at the LAC are engaged in this.  It's hard science researchers who seem to get what coverage there is --mostly at the CBC, where journalists may be particularly sensitive to this kind of issue. But here's a shout out to all my friends in those historical sectors of the public service harrassed and muzzled by political staffers.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The nail bar issue; Ask a labour historian

Erik Loomis responds to the flurry of news stories about the exploitation of south Asian immigrant women in North America's nail bars by observing this is not a crisis to be solved by social media.

The social media solution would be to start a Twitter hashtag and urge women everywhere to boycott nail bars, because because mass media/individual action/ it's really your fault. He points out sensibly that the better, indeed only, solution .... is government action through labour regulation.

LGM ... often a terrific blog, and enough history among all the other stuff.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

CBC Filming CanHist

One hears the CBC is planning a new television history of Canada, broadcast target 2017. Canadianists, you may be getting calls.

Word is it may be a Canadian franchise of an international product. An American series called "America the story of us" aired a few years ago. It was all filmed in South Africa (!) but it did good business for the American network History.  More recently the BBC presented "Andrew Marr's History of the World," also filmed in South Africa (!) with a British political journalist hosting.  

Image:  Youtube, from Canada: A People's History (2000-1)

GoT = WoR? Visualizing History

Why do film makers keep making historical docudramas when animation does it so much better? This short essay on the inspiration that Game of Thrones takes from the historical War of the Roses isn't particularly new in itself.  But I'm loving the graphic treatment.

H/t: 3Quarks and io9

'Nother one bites the dust

Tenured Radical, one of my go-to histblogs, is packing it in
the success of the blog has taken me places, places that I need to go without this particular blog if I am to prosper: a terrific job, new publishing opportunities, and projects in the digital humanities, to name a few.
The success of this blog, I have to say, has taken me pretty much noplace. (Only in America, I guess). But since I never expect it would, I suppose I can carry on.

Meanwhile see some new links on the blog list at right.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Come, friends of piracy

Someone's promoting a free (but you need tickets) public event in Toronto soon to explain to authors how they can prosper in the new digital age.  Oddly, the event is hosted by Michael Geist, the University of Toronto, and the University of Toronto libraries, all proponents of the theory that universities have the right to appropriate authors' works -- particularly their digital works -- without payment or permission.

(When students appropriate intellectual property without permission, universities call it plagiarism and expel them. When universities appropriate intellectual property without permission, they call it "fair dealing" and build it into their budgets.)

The Toronto event is run by a branch plant of the American "Authors Alliance" a well-funded (they're hiring) group that seems entirely made up of university administrators, academic librarians, and free-copy scholars, people who have always been committed to undermining writers' ability to prosper in the new digital age.  It's troubling, though, that among those listed as attending is the historian Natalie Zemon Davis, a longtime proponent of speaking truth to power, rather than the other way round.

This month at Canada's History

... they've put my story on Magna Carta and its 800th anniversary tour of Canada up at the website.
The protection of Magna Carta can be invoked in protest wherever justice is subverted, government becomes tyrannical, and liberties are trampled. “It became a pillar of Anglo-Saxon racism in the nineteenth century, yet it was also cited by national liberation movements — by Nelson Mandela at his trial,” said [British historian Peter] Linebaugh.
In his book The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All, Linebaugh aligns the Forest Charter with a deeper radicalism: that of indigenous peoples all over the world, striving to protect their livelihoods and their lifeways when the very lands on which they depend become state property and then private property from which they are fenced off. Magna Carta has indeed become iconic around the world — surprisingly often in ways that can still make crowned heads uneasy. For, as Linebaugh notes, the barons wrote a right of resistance into Magna Carta.
The trick with Magna Carta, it seemed to me, was to write about its pretty interesting evolution without slipping into sanctimonious platitudes about the sacred tradition of Anglo-Saxon liberties blah blah blah. Peter Linebaugh certainly helps with that.

The exhibition opens at the Canadian Museum of History in June, and tours to Winnipeg, Toronto, and Edmonton.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Electoral history: One thing about the British election

... is how Canadian it seemed.  Not just in the large array of parties complicating the choices, and of a regional independence party scooping up seats in the national legislature.  But also in the apparently successful delegitimization of parliamentary authority.

Remember Stephen Harper's repeated claims that only the largest party was entitled to form a government, and that any combination of other parties to oust his minority would be illegitimate, contrary to the popular will, a coup d'etat?  Particularly so when the opposition forces included an independentist party.

Many worthy Canadian commentators (me too, quite likely) denounced this as a false characterization of a parliamentary democracy, where what matters is not which party has the most seats, but what government can secure the support of a majority of members of Parliament. But it seemed to resonate in the Canadian electorate, for whom party leaders are everything and members of parliament mostly cattle.

Anticipating minority status before the results came in, the British Conservatives had been hitting the same themes hard.
Voices on the right are starting to say that Labour can’t form a legitimate government unless they are the largest party ...most voters don’t know it’s constitutionally kosher for the party coming second to form the government
It's all academic now, but even in Britain now it seems to be a credible statement that an election is not for a parliament but simply chooses one party leader to be prime minister (and the others all have to resign immediately).

Thursday, May 07, 2015

What's impossible in Alberta now?

At his first cabinet meeting Premier Dave Barrett takes off his shoes, leaps onto the leather-inlaid cabinet table and skids the length of the room. “Are we here for a good time or a long time?” he roars. His answer: a good time, a time of change, action, doing what was needed and right, not what was easy and conventional.
I think I'm going to read The Art of the Impossible: Dave Barrett and the NDP in Power 1972-75 . The argument of Geoff Meggs and Rod Mickleburgh a couple of years ago was that having turned out an old and decrepit right-wing dynasty in the B.C provincial election of 1972, Dave Barrett concluded that all the other parties in BC would rapidly coalesce under a single flag and put an end to the voting splits that had made possible the BC NDP's shocking majority.

Barrett's political prognostication was dead on. Liberals, Tories, Socreds united and defeated his government out in 1975, even though his popular vote actually went up. It's his strategy that is of interest now. He did not tack to the middle, did not seek compromise or try to win over "centrist" voters or the approval of BC's Very Serious People by adopting middle of the road policies.  He pushed through everything he wanted to do. And,though he went out of power in 1975:
"university or college student graduating today in BC may have been born years after Barrett’s defeat, but could attend a Barrett daycare, live on a farm in Barrett’s Agricultural Land Reserve, be rushed to hospital in a provincial ambulance created by Barrett’s government and attend college in a community institution founded by his government."
To say nothing of public auto insurance, welfare reform, parliamentary accountability, modernized fiscal systems, labour reforms, the Gulf Islands Trust, and (!) the end of corporal punishment in schools.  One new bill passed for every three days his government was in office, it says here. And much of it endures.

What's Rachel Notley saying to her first cabinet meeting:  Try to take charge of the centre and seek re-election by not offending anyone?  Or accept that, no matter what they do, they will be stomped upon by a big blue coalition in 2019, so they should just do what the province urgently needs in the meantime?

Course Barrett had the advantage that BC's finances were in relatively good shape in 1972, so it was possible to actually do things, whereas the Alberta PCs are leaving Notley a trainwreck.

Today Gary Mason says the election proves Alberta has changed, that there is a real progressive consensus behind the NDP victory -- meaning presumably that the NDP, with its 40% support, has the opportunity to become a new dynasty if it only plays its cards right.
The Alberta election crushed what remained of the myth that has persisted about this province: that it is an adamant and unapologetic right-wing outlier that only has eyes for conservative-minded politicians.
I suspect that in 2019 the adamant and unapologetic right wing of Alberta will show itself not to be extinct after all.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Going viral at Spadina House

Party at their house!

Spadina House is one of the City of Toronto's preserved heritage houses, on a property first occupied by the Baldwin family right on the edge of the Lake Iroquois escarpment overlooking the city. It is furnished to the 1920s period, the heyday of the family of financier James Austin, and in the last three years, they have held a "Gatsby garden party" on the lawns in June.

Okay, it's a nice bit of marketing capitalizing on the movie remake and on other '20s pop culture trends. But you know, it's a sleepy heritage home thing: how big's the audience for that, really?

Pretty substantial, it turns out. When Spadina House posted the event in March, they got 45,000 RSVPs.

Hottest party in town, Torontoist reports. Now they are selling tickets, attendance limited to 1600.

I know there is some concern among heritage professionals at many historic sites, who have to balance preservation and authenticity concerns against the need to goose the attendance, and find themselves urged to host rock concerts and biker rallies.

But this one sounds like a good time to me. And a good idea.

Image: Torontoist  

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

History of Serendipity (funny, I was just thinking of that)

Social scientists at Western University seek historians to participate in an online survey as part of "an investigation into the role of serendipity in the historical research process."

Their online survey document is here.
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