Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Book Launch for Eugene Forsey, Canada's Maverick Sage

I'm looking forward to the book launch for Helen Forsey's book about her father, Eugene Forsey, Canada's Maverick Sage. It is  next Tuesday 6 November 2012 at Trent University in Peterborough. You can get all of the details here.

But if you're too lazy for a single click (we all have those days) then it's at 5PM at the Lady Eaton College Senior Common Room. All are welcome.

Forsey was an incredibly fascinating man. I've blogged about him here, here,  here, and and and ... well you get the picture.

Be there!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Holy F#$! Library and Archives Canada!

In the vein of 'in order to serve you better, we are reducing our services', here's the announcement from Library and Archives Canada on the elimination of the program (the vital, important, dare I say 'Nation Building' program) to loan out LAC material across the country (thanks to Marcel Fortin and Ian Mosby on twitter for this):

End of ILL ServicesInterlibrary Loan (ILL) services at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) will end in December 2012. Users ofLAC's current services should note the following dates:
  • November 13, 2012:
  •  End of loan requests from international libraries.
  • November 16, 2012:
  •  End of renewals. All items loaned after this date will be non-renewable.
  • December 11, 2012:
  •  End of loan requests, location searches, and ILL-related photocopying services.
LAC's ILL listserv (CANRES-L) and Canadian Library Gateway also will be archived in December 2012.
LAC will continue to facilitate interlibrary loan activities among other institutions through the ILL form in AMICUS, and through ongoing administration of Canadian Library Symbols.
Through our modernized service channels, LAC will emphasize increased digital access to high-demand content. LAC is working with Canada's ILL user community in order to inform this approach to accessing the institution's unique holdings
You'd think that a party that has spent so much time complaining about the monopolization of cultural and other resources in Ottawa might have some sense at least of the irony of what they are doing.

Michael Ignatieff on Harper the potential fascist...

Does the title sound extreme? Perhaps, but read John Ibbitson's column on a recent Ignatieff speech here.

Michael, Michael, why were you not a better politician....?

Monday, 29 October 2012

Halloween as Drag Show

Check out this great little 1973 CBC show about drag queens at Toronto's Club Manatee in the early 1970s. The video is below and taken from the CBC digital archives here. I saw it referenced on the great Canadian Gay and Lesbian Archives site here.

Dates, dates, and more dates...

From speaking notes of Hon. James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, on announcing the new Museum of Canadian History.

'2012 has already been an eventful year for Canada. This year, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Coast Guard, the 40th anniversary of Paul Henderson’s goal in the ’72 Summit Series, the 100th Grey Cup, the 100th Calgary Stampede, and the Bicentennial of the War of 1812.
Next year, we will recognize the 100th anniversary of Canada’s first Arctic Expedition.
In 2014, we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Sir George √Čtienne Cartier’s birth, the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences, and the 100th anniversary of World War I.
In 2015, we will mark the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag and the 200th anniversary of Sir John A. Macdonald’s birth.
And, in 2016, the 175th anniversary of Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s birth, the 175th anniversary of the union of Upper and Lower Canada, and the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Canada. All leading, of course, to Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.'

Ow! My head hurts. But I can't help but notice that he forgot one - ie 1982 - our Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Globe Drive does history, sort of...

Here's a version of history from a little article/quiz in the Globe Drive section. Who says there's nothing to stereotypes?

The full article is here. But here's the section you might find funny:

7) In what decade did you first get your driver’s licence?
a) The 1930s. I drove down to the office and gave the guy a bottle of Canadian Club. Then he gave me my licence.
b) The 1950s. I went to office and swore not to be a communist or engage in creative thought. Then they gave me my licence.
c) The 1960s. I had it handed to me on a silver platter, like everything else.
d) The 1970s. You had to go to the office and say, “Disco sucks.”
e) The 1980s. I did a line of coke with guy at the Copa. Turned out he worked at the Ministry of Transport. It was excellent.
f) 1990s. I had to give blood and a urine sample. Then an MRI and a personality evaluation. Then I was on triple double secret probation for seven years.
g) 2000s. I currently have a Learners Level 3 Probationary Permit, which allows me to look at cars. I’m hoping to get my Learners Level 2 Probationary Permit next year, which will allow me to drive if I’m accompanied by three adults and an over-bearing step-parent. If all goes well I should get my full driver’s license by the time I’m 65.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Tina Loo on Unfinished History

Tina Loo has a thoughtful post over on Active History, thinking through some of the ways history teaching has changed over the last few decades. It is the death of Eric Hobsbawm that gets her thinking about how his once fresh and exciting ideas (as well as those of E P Thompson and Natalie Davis) have become a little bit 'humdrum'.

She's saying (but for different reasons) the same kind of thing that I wrote in an article called 'After Inclusiveness: The Future of Canadian History.' There I was reflecting on how the once radical calls for change in the profession had, in Canadian history, now become mainstream common sense.

Loo worries that the danger with 'this manifestation of boredom [with once exciting radical approaches/subjects] is that it threatens to foreclose the analysis of power that social historians started.'

I partly share her concern. But I'm not entirely in agreement with the prescription. It seems to me that part of the problem of the 'history from the bottom up' paradigm was that it was all about agency and power, struggle and resistance. In practice it was used by those who too readily assumed that there is/was a simple version of what good historical changes were, about what kinds of power ought to operate, etc. It assumes (though this is only a purposeful, useful generalization) that there is someone in the past with whom we should now identify.

Thinking through my own research from the past summer, I just can't agree. I spent a lot of time reading Conservatives from the late 1940s and 1950s lamenting the changing world in which they were living. To them, Canada was radically changing: we were losing the British tradition, popular forms of culture like the TV were taking people away from reading, the state was increasingly taking on more and more power and was being corrupted in the process. Now, personally, I don't identify with much of this. But I could understand that what their letters were telling me (though not really me, of course, they were writing to others!): for them, the world as they understood it was changing radically.

Arthur Meighen, still alive in the 1950s but how
much at home in this 'conservative' decade?
Yet if we look to the history from the bottom up historians version of the 1950s this is nowhere. We might get some of this from the British World historians - the switch away from Britishness in Canadian identity. But historians who write about this period talk of it as conservative and regressive. Others disagree and find some currents for change bubbling away under the surface (feminists, labour organizers, human rights advocates, etc). Yet none of this really relates to what many Conservative Canadians were thinking in the period. It's the interests of later historians reinterpreting the period for themselves.

In other words, if we are moving on from bottom up social history, and if some of this has lost its lustre, it is not only a question of something being lost. There is also the chance for gain as well, to see what this approach didn't get. And the concerns of Conservative Canadians in the early 1950s are never going to be the stuff of exciting bottom up history. But to think of them as 'the powerful' is equally untrue. Their world really was changing, under conditions not of their choosing. It's what Marx said (men making history but not under conditions of their own choosing) but not what his later historian friends care too much about.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Calling the technically inclined

Ok, so perhaps this isn't quite the typical use for the blog, but I'm wondering if anyone out there knows a technically inclined friend, who might be a programmer, who can help.

I'm switching databases that I use to store my research. I've been using Microsoft Access but this isn't available for my new Mac. I would like to test out Filemaker but need to get the material in Access over to Filemaker. It's not, for me, a straightforward process. And from what I've been reading, it might even involve writing a program to do it. Any ideas?

I know that Zotero is probably even better but I don't think it will take in my data from Access. Perhaps for the next book...

Friday, 19 October 2012

And you thought this was only about postmodernism....

It turns out that academics who do complex mathematics can be a lot like academics who do complex critical theory. At least, they can both fall for the same hoaxes. Paul Taylor over at the LRB blog writes of how the journal Advances in Pure Mathematics seems to have fallen for a hoax similar to the one that Alan Sokal played on the journal Social Text. That is, they took seriously an article that was nonsense - but nonsense that sounded familiar.

See it here.

Well, at least it couldn't happen in history. Could it? I do wish someone would try.

Did Roman Girls Giggle?

I love it when historians ask and, better yet, answer these kinds of questions.

The Cambridge ancient history and classics professor, and fun blogger, Mary Beard does just this over on her blog A Don's Life. See it here.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

New History and New Media

It used to be (before I started this blog) that I mostly felt inadequate because I couldn't keep up with all my journal subscriptions. I had long ago given up on reading all the books I wanted to read. But I still harboured this thought that I might get to browse all the journals I subscribe to and at least read the articles and book reviews that caught my eye. That dream has faded.

Now, I can also feel inadequate (and perhaps you can too) by looking at all the new work that is being done in the digital humanities. Just take a look at the incredible resources at the Roy Rosenzweig Centre for History and New Media.  

Or perhaps that would be too much. Don't read it all. Just look at one tiny amusing site they have called Sidelights.

It's a website with a few fascinating accounts of amusing episodes from the past. You can read about 'Who Invented Body Odour' or how the First World War changed the way we blow our noses. 

Now, that's my kind of history!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

What is History? Still

If you haven't yet read E H Carr's classic little book What is History? do so now. Go to amazon or abebooks or the nearest used bookstore (don't worry, they'll almost certainly have a copy) and buy it.

To start, you could read some interesting posts over at Richard Brown's Looking at History blog on exactly this top. He has two posts on Carr's book in his thread of posts on the subject of writing history. See all of that thread here.

But mostly just go out (right now - why not? what else are you doing?) and read the book.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Must-reads for Wannabe Mad Men

Just in case you've been feeling all retro watching Mad Men and are hankering after a bit of the early 60s swanky life, Jenny Diski over at the London Review of Books blog has something for you. Read it here.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Tommy Douglas/Jim Bronskill Update

An update on Canadian Press reporter Jim Bronskill's case to have Library and Archives Canada and CSIS release more information from the security file on former Saskatchewan Premier and NDP leader Tommy Douglas.

I confess that I'm having a heck of a time working out the ruling made Wednesday in this case. It appears that the judges technically ruled in favour of the government. But it also seems that the judges accepted some of the logic that would make LAC and CSIS release more information, particularly the idea that they must consider the historical value of material they are releasing.

See this story on the ruling at the Winnipeg Free Press