Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
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.
Friday, October 10, 2014
Thursday, October 09, 2014
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
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.
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?
“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:
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.
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
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?
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
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).Okay, we are a bit too white male for Historiann, for sure. Any more?
Tuesday, October 07, 2014
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.
|Trudeau cabinet members about to be sworn in, June 1968|
Monday, October 06, 2014
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 (
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.
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.
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.
Sunday, October 05, 2014
The Saturday Globe & Mail examined the sidelining of broadcaster Ron MacLean by the new regime at Hockey Night in Canada, linking it directly to MacLean's failure to tug forelock sufficiently in the presence of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman:
MacLean and Bettman usually butted heads over labour-management issues in the NHL. MacLean consistently took the players’ side during interviews because, he said, he firmly believed the league was better off with a strong NHL Players’ Association.The Globe goes on to show that the pressure to tout for the league came most directly, not from Bettman, but from the CBC
"That pressure was always there to acquiesce, to toe the company line and in some cases that might have been the league line,” MacLean said. “But I felt strongly about the importance of a healthy NHL Players’ Association. That was a difficult thing for both the CBC and the league to accept, always was. Nobody [at the CBC] was ever happy when I was treating a partner [with skepticism], a partner that thought they were more important than the NHLPA."It is a good thing that hockey is gone from the CBC, given the corruption of journalism it always encouraged there, though I don't really have much hope for a blossoming of integrity at the CBC. For previous comments on integrity and the CBC, put "gutted like a fish" in the search box at top left of this blog.
On the other hand, we can expect even less from the NHL's new "partner," Rogers Communications, which has a huge amount invested in hockey and seems set to trample on every bulwark of journalistic independence in the rush to generate hockey revenue. Content in all Rogers' scores of magazines, for instance, is about to become native advertising for the NHL. So, for instance, the Globe reports that every issue of Today's Parent magazine (owned by Rogers) will now have at least one hockey story, and you gotta guess it will not be about concussion dangers or violence in kids' leagues.
The company will be awash in hockey, with every corner of the business expected to leverage the rights somehow.Even Maclean's, ostensibly a newsmagazine, has been substantially repurposed to promote the NHL. As Paul Wells recently described in a tweet:
For a few weeks now, "hockey" has been general-purpose shorthand at Maclean's for "major project." As in, "Nan's back, but she's on hockey"
— Paul Wells (@InklessPW) October 2, 2014
Maybe the editor of Maclean's thinks covering something else might be a better use of the mag's resources this week? Tough, evidently... Gotta make back the boss's investment.
Friday, October 03, 2014
Okay there's no $60k attached to this one either - and I wasn't there to accept it -- but among the winners in the Manitoba Magazine Awards last night was "Christopher Moore" for best column.
Indeed, Canada's History won a slew of 'em
Thursday, October 02, 2014
Sometimes I think Canadian historians are bland and non-confrontational and reluctant to kill the sacred cows. Then there is Karen Dubinsky:
I recently re-encountered Gordon Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” and better appreciated what a testament it is to the progress narrative of settler colonialism. That “green dark forest” “too silent to be real” awaiting the improving gaze (and apparatus) of Europeans; it’s hard to imagine a more fitting soundtrack to Canadian imperial dreams. I always hated that song, now I better understand why.