Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Upcoming book from Dean Bavington

Dean Bavington is an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in Environmental History at Nipissing University. I expect his first book, from University of British Columbia Press in May, to have a big impact on resource debates.

Here's the publisher's blurb:

Managed Annihilation: An Unnatural History of the Newfoundland Cod Collapse
Dean L.Y. Bavington

The Newfoundland and Labrador cod fishery was once the most successful commercial ground fishery in the world. When it collapsed in 1992, fishermen, scholars, and scientists pointed to failures in management such as uncontrolled harvesting as likely culprits. Managed Annihilation makes the case that the idea of natural resource management itself was the problem. The collapse occurred when the fisheries were state managed and still, nearly two decades later, there is no recovery in sight. Although the collapse raised doubts among policy-makers about their ability to understand, predict, and control nature, their ultimate goal of control through management has not wavered – it has simply been transferred from wild fish to fishermen and farmed cod.

Unlike other efforts to make sense of the tragedy of the commons of the northern cod fishery and its halting recovery, Bavington calls into question the very premise of management and managerial ecology and offers a critical explanation that seeks to uncover alternatives obscured by this dominant way of relating to nature.
– Bonnie McCay, Department of Human Ecology, Rutgers University

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Proud of our Masters students in History

In common and especially journalistic speech, an awful lot of things are called "historic," and so I am reluctant to use that description just because this is a "first" for Nipissing University and the Department of History. But this is important to university, department, and me. School year 2008-9 was the first year for our Masters of Arts program in history, and we pulled in a really capable and energetic bunch of students. Now they are finishing up their Major Research Papers (like a thesis but somewhat less formal) and starting next week they will be defending their work before a panel of senior academics. I am sure that they are all nerves at this point, but I am equally sure that they will do very well.

If you are close to NU and are interested in our program, feel free to come see them defend. This might be the best way to judge it: "By their fruits you shall know them."

Schedule

Monday August 17th 2009
9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Room F303
Yvonne Hunter
MRP Title: Cold Columns: Anne O’Hare McCormick and the Origins of the Cold War in the New York Times (1920-1954)

Tuesday August 18th 2009
1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Room F303
Jennifer Evans
MRP Title: “She Never Did Cook the Canadian Way”: Immigrant Women’s Changing Relationship with Food and Cooking in Postwar North Bay, Ontario

Wednesday August 19th 2009
1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Room F214
Jessica Parks
MRP Title: France’s Fourth Republic and the Definitive Decisions of 1954

Monday August 24th 2009
9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Room F214
Kristen Rossetti
MRP Title: Poetry as Historical Evidence: The Medium, the Message and the Methodology

Wednesday August 26th 2009
9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Room F214
Dave Bernardi
MRP Title: Deciphering Orwell: How to Use Fiction as Historical Evidence

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

A note of welcome for those attending tomorrow's New Student Orientation

A number of future History students will be attending the New Student Orientation at Nipissing University tomorrow. If you are one of them let me say that this year I am on sabbatical leave, writing a book, and so you will not see me around the campus before September of 2010. On the off chance that you have stumbled across this blog, I thought I should say hello.

The blog shows what I like about being a historian and what I like about Nipissing University. I was trained in the history of the Early Middle Ages and Late Ancient times, but since coming to NU I have taught a little of everything. This is not so uncommon at smaller and medium-sized universities, but I love it. Most of what I teach and research is "early," meaning before railroads, but I have taught world history and modern Islamic history, too. When I look at the news or new scholarly work, there's usually some kind of connection between it and something I have taught or will teach in the future. I try to bring these connections between the present and past, between countries far away and Canada, into the classroom, and for about four years I've been doing the same with this blog. If you are coming to Nipissing University, here is some of what you might expect from me in the future. If you are just a chance reader, you are welcome, too.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

The Masculine Self in Late Medieval England, by Derek G. Neal

Derek Neal is a colleague at Nipissing University, and this is his first book. I think it will be a hit, because he takes on a set of current scholarly issues and manages to discuss the theoretical perspectives and source material with great clarity. The cover illustration makes me laugh, because Derek specifically says early in the book that he is interested in non-elite Englishmen and that there will be little or no "swordplay" in it; I am unaware that he mentions armor or helmets anywhere in the text, though shoes do show up briefly.

If you are tempted to think that gender is just another trendy scholarly fad you can safely ignore, I challenge you to read this book and then say it didn't enrich your view of later medieval England, or didn't impress you with the possibilities of this kind of analysis.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

The Nuremberg SS-Einsatzgruppen Trial, 1945-1958: Atrocity, Law, and History, by Hilary Earl

I was at the university today and ran into my colleague Hillary Earl, who was glowing over the fact that she was holding copies of her new book. And well might she glow, it looks like a beaut.

This is not the only book to come out of our department recently; I hope to report on Derek Neal's book on masculinity in late medieval England in the near future, as I am reading it now. Also, Françoise Noël is in the last stages of indexing her most recent book. She has so many that I can't remember if this is her fourth or fifth monograph.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Sabbatical leave 2009-10

As of July 1, I will be on a year's research leave, writing a book called Men at Arms and maybe learning elementary Arabic. For much of that year I will not be in the North Bay area.

However, as far as electronic contact goes I will be at the same e-mail addresses and blog spots as ever. Drop me a line if you need or just want to contact me.

I'm glad to have a break from teaching but I will miss having students to talk to. I am counting on current student readers to recommend this blog to newer students (if you ever talk to those yound squirts) to keep the NU/teaching aspect of the blog alive over this break. And don't forget to drop the occasional comment yourself!

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Another excellent seminar

Unlike this phone picture of him, Richard Wenghofer's presentation in the history seminar series was not at all fuzzy: it was an excellent conclusion to an excellent year's worth of papers.

"The Racialization of Civic Identity in Classical Athens" argued that we can trace the invention of the notion of racial distinctiveness and a feeling of racial superiority, even to other Greeks, among the Athenians as they democratized their polity over the course of a century or so. In the old days when noble families have a lot of clout, and intermarried freely with nobles in other cities, it was commonly accepted that Athenians were descended from a variety of Greek and non-Greek peoples. When the poorer citizens gained legal and political rights, they sought to restrict citizenship to those of purely Athenian descent, and eventually succeeded in doing so. This restrictive definition of citizenship, argued Richard, affected Athenian views of their origins. It came to be accepted Athenians were autochthonous, sprung from the Attic earth. Not only were Athenians distinct from their neighbors, but they were superior as well, and superior in a racial sense because their superiority was inherited from their ancestors. So we have a record of known political choices and definitions adopted for practical reasons leading to an ideological view of all past history, one that is not particularly attractive. Athenians came to regard themselves as the only true Greeks who had taught their neighbors what Greek traits they possessed, and whom they deserved to rule.

After that, go back to Pericles' funeral oration and see if it doesn't seem a lot less attractive! And as I said here after I read Thucydides the last time, that was the only part of the whole book that made the Greeks seem admirable!

I can't wait to see the article version of Richard's argument.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Richard Wenghofer speaks: Racialization of Civic Identity in Classical Athens -- Wed. March 25, 10:30 AM, F307

From James Murton:

The final History Department Seminar Series of this year will feature Richard Wenghofer of the Classics program, speaking on "The Racialization of Civic Identity in Classical Athens."

Richard's paper will argue, contrary to received wisdom, that racism did exist in ancient Athens, and it emerged in lockstep with, and as an indirect consequence of, the evolution of democratic political structures and their concomitant social and political ideologies.

Wednesday, March 25, 10:30 am, F307

Refreshments will be served.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

HIST 3805 (Islamic Civilization) students



For my amusement and theirs, and so you can visualize an NU classroom.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Earl and Neal in dialogue -- "Cruelty in History: A Conversation" -- an appreciation

I always enjoy the seminars from the history seminar series here at Nipissing University, and today's was no exception. The subject was well-chosen, and the discussants did it justice. They actually were talking to each other, but without excluding the audience, which was numerous. Indeed, the audience was pulled right in and proved to have plenty to say. I include a couple of pictures.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Reminder: Earl and Neal talk about cruelty in history, Friday, March 13, 2:30 pm, Room A224

How pertinent is "cruelty" as a term of historical analysis? Is the historian who refers to a given custom, episode or individual "cruel" making a useful judgment, or one that obscures historical knowledge? In dwelling on "cruelty" in history do we sometimes run the risk of buying into the investments of particular audiences or interests? And how do we teach about cruelty in history without becoming sensationalistic or exploitative?

Derek Neal and Hilary Earl will explore these questions in a conversation that investigates cruelty (as defined both by historical actors and by present-day historians) in a range of historical settings from premodern times to the present, with particular focus on Dr. Earl's research into twentieth-century war and genocide.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Nipissing University’s Second Annual Undergraduate Research Conference -- March 27th & 28th

Thursday, February 26, 2009

E-books: in general and specifically at Nipissing University

Earlier this month, Charlotte Innerd gave a presentation on the state of e-book publishing as it applies to availability of material at Nipissing University. Despite my constant use of the Internet for scholarly and personal purposes, I didn't know at least half of this stuff. She has posted a voice/slide presentation and I highly recommend that you take a look. It is less than 10 minutes long.

Thanks, Charlotte!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jennifer Farooq speaks tomorrow

Friday, February 06, 2009

Craig Cooper speaks; Friday, Feb. 13, 2:30 pm

Monday, February 02, 2009

Reminder: Robin Gendron speaks on Inco and Indonesia on Wed., Feb. 4

Here's the info on this upcoming History Department seminar:

Update: Jessica Parkes, a student in our MA program, should have been listed as co-presenter.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reminder: Todd Webb speaks tomorrow at 2:30

The History Department Seminar Series returns with our soon-to-be annual visit from our friends down Hwy 17 at Laurentian U. Todd Webb, Department of History, will present a talk titled “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition: Methodism, Anti-Catholicism and Empire in Lower and Upper Canada."

Todd's talk will focus on a little discussed aspect of Canadian religious history: the role of anti-Catholicism in the process of cultural formation among the Methodists of colonial Canada. It will do so by examining the Methodist role in three episodes: the rebellions of 1837-38 in Lower and Upper Canada, the formation of a transatlantic anti-Catholic consensus during the 1840s and 1850s, and the Prince of Wales’s tour of British North America in 1860.

Friday, Jan 23, 2:30 pm, Rm A224.

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Department of History Keynote Speakers, 2009: Elizabeth and Thomas Cohen

Every year the Department of History invites exciting scholars to visit and address the university. This year (specifically Friday January 30) Elizabeth and Thomas Cohen of York University will speak on Renaissance Italy -- details below. Please come!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Todd Webb of Laurentian University speaks at Nipissing

From Dr. James Murton:
The History Department Seminar Series returns with our soon-to-be annual visit from our friends down Hwy 17 at Laurentian U. Todd Webb, Department of History, will present a talk titled “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition: Methodism, Anti-Catholicism and Empire in Lower and Upper Canada."

Todd's talk will focus on a little discussed aspect of Canadian religious history: the role of anti-Catholicism in the process of cultural formation among the Methodists of colonial Canada. It will do so by examining the Methodist role in three episodes: the rebellions of 1837-38 in Lower and Upper Canada, the formation of a transatlantic anti-Catholic consensus during the 1840s and 1850s, and the Prince of Wales’s tour of British North America in 1860.

Friday, Jan 23, 2:30 pm, Rm A224.

Refreshments will be served.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NU ski trails open


Toivo Koivukoski announces:

The campus ski trails are now in proper shape and ready for skiing. There are approximately 5km of groomed trails, accessible from Athletics, P8, Governors House, and the Pond. The trails are alternately groomed for skate and classic; classic tracks will be set on weekends and when it is cold (like now!), and skate set for weekdays otherwise.

Please kindly refrain from walking or snowshoeing on the groomed trails- there is lots of snow out there to share.

Skis are available for free loan from the Education Center gym.

Many thanks to the NECO Community Futures Development Corporation, the Vice-President Finance and Administration, Andrew Rees, Dave Rees, all those who came out for trail work, and the North Bay Nordic Ski Club for their generous support for this project.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

James Murton speaks this Friday, 2:30 pm

Special topics course in the new South Africa

The transition of South Africa from apartheid to democracy was one of the most amazing events of the late 20th century. Next term NU students will have the opportunity to study what is happening in South Africa now. The listed prerequisite is being waived.

From the prof.:

GEND 3057, Special Topics in Human Rights and Social Justice is being offered on Mondays from 12:30 to 3:30 next term.

The course topic is Apartheid and the "New" South Africa.

South Africa's transition to democracy after nearly fifty years of racial segregation is heralded as one of the great triumphs of freedom over brutality in the twentieth century. Not only was civil war avoided but reconciliation, as embodied in the personal stances of President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, became the mantra of the "rainbow nation." Today, fourteen years into democracy, pressing concerns such as crime, poverty, and HIV/AIDS have eclipsed the euphoria of political freedom. In 1994 the ANC government promised "a better future for all." But how much has changed in the 'new' South Africa?

In this survey course we first examine the structure and nature of apartheid and the dynamics of South Africa's negotiated transition to democracy. How did race, class, ethnicity, gender and other social cleavages interact in the struggle for and against apartheid? In the second half of the course, we examine how these social cleavages or groupings interact today both as the "legacy" of apartheid and in the face of new challenges wrought under conditions of globalisation.

Dr. Rosemary Nagy
Gender Equality & Social Justice Program

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Gordon Morrell speaks, November 19th, 12:30, A222G

I teach at this time, but no one else should miss it.

You are invited to attend the

Nipissing University Research Lunch

Food For Thought

This Wednesday, November 19th

Time: 12:30 – 1:30pm

Room: A222G

(same room as last year)


Speaker: Gordon Morrell History

Before the Gods Failed: Traitors,

True Believers and British

counter-espionage in the 1930s

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Derek Neal Speaks: The Damage Done:


From Dr. James Murton:

The next talk in the History Department Seminar Series features our own gender and medieval historian Derek Neal, speaking on "Sex and the Damage Done: A Rare Prosecution for Sodomy in Late Medieval England."

Next Friday, Oct 24, 3:00 pm, Rm A224 (note the later than normal time to accommodate the Arts & Science Council Meeting).

Refreshments will be served.

Hope to see you there!


Image: The White Hart Inn in Blythburgh, Suffolk, was built in the 13th century as an ecclesiastical court venue, where such cases would have been tried.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

The world turned inside out

I have enjoyed myself at Nipissing University from the start, which was 19 years ago, but today pretty much took the cake. My history colleague James Murton took his environmental history class on an expedition on the Mattawa River, and allowed some other university people, including me, to tag along.

The excuse for this expedition was to illustrate in a visceral way a classic theme in Canadian history, the connection between what we think of as wilderness and primeval activity in that wilderness, meaning the fur trade and the voyageur routes, and the whole world economy of the time. Every Canadian with the slightest interest in the history of his or her country has been exposed to this material in one way or another, but I will tell you it meant a great deal more to everyone who took part in today's canoe trip on the Mattawa.

Part of me says that every single course at Nipissing University that can justify a canoe trip as illustrating part of its subject matter should do so, and we could spend the entire month of September on the river. This is probably too extreme an idea, but how could it hurt? I certainly felt today that Jamie Murton had made the most of our location.

I live out in the country, and driving out to the river, and stopping at a couple of other sites (the La Vase portage and the local museum with a modern reproduction of the Montréal canoe), I found myself rather surprisingly feeling the world turning inside out. When you are living a life that involves driving between a modern home and a modern small city (with inadequate shopping but still) with a modern and quite new University, driving on modern roads and parking in modern parking lots, it is easy to get the feeling that all those trees and rocks and lakes are just in the way. If you don't like our area that feeling must be much stronger, but even I who do like it often regard the natural landscape as a barrier or empty space arranged in an inconvenient way. But even before we got to the museum or the canoes, knowing the area we were going to, I began to feel that the essential element of my world was not the road I was on, but the river I was about to tackle. I saw the landscape with whole new eyes and it was a thrill.

It reminded me of a previous time I was on the Mattawa, a summer day when I stood at the portage at Talon Dam, watching muscular young people wrestling with canoes as they carried them over a very difficult, rocky path. I realized that every summer's day since the Stone Age, this scene had been duplicated at this portage site. The wooded areas on either side of the river were of no particular interest, but this natural corridor was close to eternal. The same could be said of much of Canada. Vast areas are empty of people almost all the time, but there are corridors that are always in use. North Bay and indeed my village are on such a corridor, (North Bay on more than one), simply because if you want to get through there's not much in the way of alternatives. There are just too many rocks and trees and lakes.

Image:
From Flickr, some other people on Lake Talon in 2007. It was a lot grayer and colder today, but who cares.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Greg Stott speaks at NU -- Wed. October 8, 10:30 AM

From Dr. James Murton:

I'm please to announce the return of the History Department Seminar Series for 2008-09.

Our first speaker is Dr. Greg Stott of the History Department, who will be speaking on "The Travails of a Poet: Robert McBride’s Exposé of Corruption and Conspiracy in Lambton County, Canada West, 1854-1858."

Greg's paper focuses on a conservative poet's expose of the political and judicial corruption that, he felt, had formed a grand conspiracy to undermine him – and by inference – other hardworking British subjects in colonial Ontario.

Wednesday, Oct 8, 10:30 am, in Rm A224

Refreshments will be served. See you there!

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Monday, September 29, 2008

The federal election -- Dr. Gendron speaks at Nipissing University

From Dr. Robin Gendron, Department of History, NU:

As you may have heard, I have been asked by the History Club to speak and take questions about the current federal election/past elections in Canada. I'll be doing so Wednesday at 11:30 in room A224 (I think that's correct). The History Club is generously providing lunch for this event as well.

If any of your students might have an interest in attending, please let them know of this talk.


Although the prolonged dramatic agony of the US election tends to overshadow our short, economical process, this election has a lot of potential to change Canada one way or another. Don't miss your chance to get some important background material before you cast your vote.

And from me, thanks, Robin, for doing this.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

The Role and Mission of the Canadian Navy in the 21st Century

From Dr. Robert Gendron of the History Department:

On Tuesday, September 16th, Nipissing University will host a talk by Commander Stuart Moors on "The Role and Mission of the Canadian Navy in the 21st Century." Commander Moors will talk about the Canadian Navy and things like Arctic sovereignty, coastal defence, disaster relief, and anti-terrorism. This should be a very enlightening discussion of the substance and purpose of an aspect of Canadian defence policies and I hope that everyone will join us for it. I would particularly ask faculty members to announce the talk to their classes.

The talk takes place on Sept. 16th starting at 7 pm in A137. It is free and open to everyone from the campus community and the broader community as well. Many thanks to Dr. Peter Ricketts, the VP Academic and Research, and Dr. Craig Cooper, the Dean of Arts and Science, for sponsoring this talk.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

The state of Canada

In the summer of 2006, when Lebanon was being bombed by Israel, those who could get out, did. Among them were a large number of Canadian citizens of Lebanese background. I sat beside some on the plane across the Atlantic -- as I was returning from Latvia at the time. This experience increased my anger with the Prime Minister's lack of concern about this illegal and inhumane bombing campaign and its effect on people he is responsible for and to.

Imagine my astonishment, then, when I was exposed on my return to loud complaints about these refugees when some of them -- I heard -- complained about the lack of response of their government to their urgent plight. It was strongly implied by some people that these were not real Canadians just holders of "passports of convenience." Others expressed the sentiment of "what do you expect, going to live in such a dangerous place?"

As an immigrant myself married to another immigrant, my perspective is quite a bit different, as you can imagine. That incident opens a whole raft load of issues; but at the moment I'd like to raise just one. What kind of country, I ask, is it that does not have a significant number of its citizens living and working elsewhere?

I don't really have to answer that question, because Canada is not an isolated country of that sort. Today, in the lead up to Canada Day on the first, the Globe and Mail is running a series of articles on the state of Canada and its place in the world. It is quite an amazing article and I recommend that you read it all. I will be back Monday for more. Today's installment, by Michael Valpy, has a lot to say about this issue of what makes a real Canadian. Not everyone will agree with this perspective, but it corresponds to many aspects of my own experience.

Here's what caught my eye in the article, with particular passages of importance bolded:
... Canada ... has arrived at multiculturalism Mark II and a generation of new adults who have moved decisively beyond nationalism to embrace a kind of transcendent planetary supranationalism. We are becoming the land of global citizens, by all accounts galloping out ahead of other advanced democracies.

It appears to be occurring within a broad consensus.

University of Montreal political philosopher Daniel Marc Weinstock, who studies globalizing cultures, says there is little evidence to suggest it is causing Canada problems. A recent Environics poll found nearly 70 per cent of respondents thought it was a positive thing for Canada's image that three million Canadians live outside the country.

Canadians comprise 10 per cent of the population of Hong Kong. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, more live as immigrant transnationals: maintaining a cultural and even physical presence in both Canada and the countries that they, or their families, may have left years earlier.

A huge majority of young Canadians - as well as a majority of all adult-age cohorts - say they want to live, study or work abroad, according to the same Environics poll done earlier this year.

Forty per cent of Canadians say they donate money to international charities. Twenty per cent say they send remittances to overseas relatives. An increasing portion of Canada's international trade comprises Canadian Diaspora entrepreneurs doing commerce with their original homelands.

I know that some Canadians, including friends of mine, will be ticked off by the notion of 10% of Hong Kong being "Canadian." "Passports of convenience" indeed! But the story is more complicated than one might imagine:

Queen's University geographer Audrey Kobayashi has studied what are now in some cases three generations of families who have moved back and forth between Hong Kong and Canada, for education, for business, for periods of residence.

They speak with Canadian accents - Prof. Kobayashi talks of being in Hong Kong business offices and hearing nothing but Canadian accents. They have deep emotional feelings for the land, a pride in Canada's public institutions, an engagement in Canadian affairs. Rooted in Canada, but from time to time living elsewhere.

I won't excerpt any more, but I will refer you to two other stories concerning former Chilean refugee Luz Bascunan and second-generation Indo-Canadian Radha Rajagopalan. Ms. Bascunan's story really speaks to me. I didn't come to Canada as a refugee, but I did come for a very specific purpose, to attend the best graduate program in medieval history in North America, and I thought I'd be leaving when that purpose was accomplished. When I was done, however, I found that I'd acquired a family, a family, I'll point out, which was divided between Canada and Latvia. I was living this version of the Canadian dream -- or at least the Canadian reality. (I think Canada's better at realities than dreams.)

I will end this piece by saying something about my own experience Nipissing University. The consensus of world outreach referred to in the article is evident here. The vast majority of our students come from Ontario, many of them from small places in the country or the suburbs. When they come to Nipissing University, the place seems quite diverse to them. I lived in Toronto for 13 years, and I have different standards of what counts as diverse, but I'm happy for these students, especially since they are happy about the diversity! And a great many of them want more: they are taking the opportunity to travel to other countries for study and then making a great success of it. University is supposed to be a gateway to the greater world and I'm glad we are fulfilling our function.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Murton a prizewinner!

I have mentioned James Murton's book, Creating a Modern Countryside, here before (see label below). It's an account of an episode in the environmental history of the British Columbia. It was published recently by the University of British Columbia Press. Now we hear that it has won the K.D. Srivastava Prize given by the University for making "a very significant contribution to environmental history, BC history, and intellectual history."

James Murton is just one of the smart, productive scholars we have here at Nipissing University. Congratulations!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Job satisfaction

I am now in the home stretch of my grading of winter term final examinations. This is the part of academic life teaching professors hate the most, and it is grueling. It is very difficult to be consistent and fair when you're reading similar material time and again, and there is no mistake so gruesome or flabbergasting that somebody will not eventually make it on the paper you are grading.

But this year, grading exams that are made up of short or long essay questions, I am feeling a good deal of job satisfaction. Grading these essays has assured me that the courses I presented succeeded in inspiring some insight and even passion in some of my students. It's hard to say how much they got from me, or how much is original in their thinking, but actually I don't care what the balance is. Students who never had much reason to think about medieval English or ancient history, I guess, have presented me with evidence that they found things in the course material that they actually cared about.

I've done my job.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

History Club Pub, Thursday April 3, 9 p.m.

It's at the Bull and Quench pub, upstairs.

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Heroes of medieval historical research

Perhaps because I am teaching communism at the same time as the history of medieval England, I am minded to award to my students in HIST 3425 the heretofore unheard of award, "Heroes of Medieval Historical Research, Undergraduate Class," for unprecedented efforts in tackling the Parliamentary Rolls of Medieval England.

PROME is a wonderful resource, a CD/online searchable edition of all the medieval records of parliament from the beginning until they stopped using rolls and started using codices. By then you are well into Tudor times. Nipissing University allowed me to acquire a site license to PROME and so I was able to assign my Medieval England students an essay based on these valuable primary resources. They just finished that assignment.

They are not heroes because they did well on the assignment (how well they did is not your business) but because their diligence in research showed up on the site statistics of the online version of PROME. The publishers (see link above) noticed and wrote to their contact at the NU Library and said, who's making such substantial use of our material? (They were very pleased.) My students had beat the entire scholarly world for the month of March!

Congratulations, heroes!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Two conferences at Nipissing University, March 28, 29

Dr. Katrina Srigley announces the Third Annual Community History Conference:


The History Department and The Institute for Community Studies and Oral History are pleased to announce the Third Annual Community History Conference - Histories of the Near North: Remembering Our Community. (View program)

Students, faculty, and local historians will be presenting their research on the history of North Bay.

When: 8:30-4:30, Friday March 28, 2008

Where: M106, Monastery Hall

Refreshments and lunch will be served.

We hope to see you there!

And that same evening, in the same place, Nipissing University's first Undergraduate Research Conference will begin (6:30 Registration, 7:00 wine and cheese welcome); it continues on Saturday, 8:30 am to 3 pm. More details and a full program available online.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Today! James Murton speaks today on BC Environmental History, 6 pm, Weaver Auditorium

Dr. James Murton speaks a 6 pm today in the Weaver Auditorium as part of the NipissingYou speaker series. He describes the subject briefly:

The talk considers the draining of Sumas Lake, BC in the 1920s by the
BC government, with the agreement of local landowners. James Scott
argues that when state-directed projects lead to social and
environmental problems it is because the state understands the
environment (and society) in an overly simplified way. I argue that
the landowners’ support of the project, despite its cost and their
meager gains, suggests that the problems of the project lay less in
the limitations of the state than in a widely held cultural discourse
of a progressive countryside and an orderly nature.

The talk is derived from material that has just been published in the
journal Environmental History.

See also: http://www.nipissingyou.ca/speaker-series

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Hilary Earl speaks on the Nuremburg process, March 26, 3:30 pm, A 148

From Dr. James Murton:

The History Department Seminar Series finishes its season with our own Dr. Hilary Earl, speaking on “Crime and Punishment: The Nuremberg SS-Einsatzgruppen Trial in Historical Perspective.” She will speak on Wed. March 26, 3:30 pm in room A148.

Hilary's presentation is based on her forthcoming book, which examines the trial of twenty-four SS- Einsatzgruppen leaders (the Nazi killing units deployed in the occupied Soviet Union in the summer of 1941) by the United States government after World War II. Ultimately, the book is an examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the Nuremberg legal system to contend with the crime of genocide in the aftermath of the war.


Refreshments will be served.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Stage Beauty (2004)

I never heard of this movie until Dr. Cameron McFarlane of Nipissing's Department of English Studies offered a paper on it in the History Department's seminar seried. I couldn't make the seminar, but his abstract was enough for me to hunt down a copy, which I have just watched. Am I ever glad I did. This is a topnotch historical movie with a serious theme but lots of fun, too.

The protagonist is a star actor in the time of Charles II who has spent his whole career portraying women, a specialized but essential skill since women are forbidden to appear on the stage. He has a young, good-looking female dresser who wants to act. In a comedy of errors, he loses his career and identity when women are allowed to act and men are forbidden to take crossdressing roles. And she, who does not have his training or talent, becomes a star instead.

That, and much, much more. Highly recommended. Thanks, Cameron!

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Nathan Kozuskanich writes on the history of the right to bear arms

My colleague Nathan Kozuskanich has worked extensively on the right to bear arms enshrined in the US Bill of Rights, and what that originally meant in the 1790s. Just today he's got a piece up on that very subject at the History News Network website. Go have a look.

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Leah Bradshaw speaks at Nipissing University, March 20, 2007, 7pm

An announcement from our Department of Political Science:

Nipissing University is pleased to welcome Dr. Leah Bradshaw to campus for a free public lecture on Thursday, March 20 at 7 p.m. in the Weaver Auditorium (room B200).

Titled, From Stranger to Citizen, Bradshaw’s lecture will address some of the issues of integration and assimilation of newcomers into Canada. Her talk will focus on the tension between multicultural accommodation and civic identity.

Bradshaw is an associate professor of Political Science at Brock University. Her works of political theory have been widely published and span the topics of political narrative and literature, technology and education, tyranny and the womanish spirit, and the role of emotions in judgment.

The lecture is hosted by Nipissing’s Political Science Department and the Faculty of Arts and Science.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

A Master of Arts program in History...


... will be available at Nipissing University starting this September. It was announced in the University Senate meeting that the Ontario Council for Graduate Studies has approved our application, and as you can imagine we are very pleased here.

This is NU's first graduate program in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

Our four fields of concentration are Canadian History, European History, International History and Gender History.

If you think you might be interested, contact the History Department for more details.

Image: A medieval magister.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Todd Stubbs speaks in the History Department Seminar Series, May 12

From Dr. James Murton:

A reminder that the History Department Seminar Series goes tomorrow (or, likely by the time you read this, today), Wednesday, Mar 12, 3:00 pm in H111.

We welcome historian Todd Stubbs from Nipissing's Muskoka Campus, who will be giving a talk titled “Care and Culture, Time and Opportunity': Wage-Earning Men and the Income Franchise Debate in Toronto, 1866-1874,"


Refreshments will be served.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Genie for "That Beautiful Somewhere"?

The Genies are the Canadian film awards. The film That Beautiful Somewhere, which I discussed in a few posts last year, is perhaps the most noteworthy cultural production associated with Nipissing University, being like the novel Loon from which it is derived the brainchild of Professor William Plumstead.

Further good news: TBS has been nominated for a Genie -- specifically for the Original Score by Steve London (site includes music clips). He and the rest of us will find out if he wins on March 3.


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Monday, February 18, 2008

Fishing and history


Phil Paine thinks that people who fish have had a key role in the development of humanity. His argument is here.

I'm happy to say that Nipissing University will have a historian interested in fishing next year.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Upcoming Conferences: March 28-9, 2008


At the end of March, there will be two consecutive academic conferences at Nipissing, both held at the former Precious Blood Monastery across College Drive from the main complex. (Yes, distant reader, NU has its own monastery! Picture above (taken and copyright by F. Noel!))

The first of these is the Third Annual Community History Conference, sponsored by the History Department. It takes place on Friday, March 28, tentatively beginning at 8:30 in the morning and finishing at 5 pm. In the past this has included a lot of participation by community members and Nipissing History students, and has been a great success. Contact Dr. Katrina Srigley at NU for more details; further announcements will be posted here, too.

Beginning at 5:30 that same evening, in the same venue, will be NU's first Undergraduate Research Conference. It will continue on Saturday. I think the name speaks for itself. Again, more detail as it becomes available.

If you are a NU student in fourth year with a project you think has possibilities, please consider submitting a proposal!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Students! Nominate a deserving prof!

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Full-Time Teaching and the Nipissing University Award for Part-Time Teaching were established to recognize and honour faculty who display teaching excellence in the classroom.

Students are encouraged to nominate those profs whom they consider worthy.


For information on the application process and nomination forms for each award, please visit the website of the Vice-President, Academic and Research at http://www.nipissingu.ca/academic/, “Teaching Awards”.

Since recipients are entitled to receive these teaching awards only once every five years, please check the list of previous recipients on the website. Hard copies can also be obtained from the Office of the Vice-President, Academic and Research (F309).

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Sarah Winters speaks at NU, Wednesday, January 16th

Nipissing University Research Lunch

Wednesday, January 16
12:30 – 1:30pm
Room: A222

Speaker: Sarah Winters, English Studies

From the White Witch to the Dark Mark:
Evil in Children's Fantasy Since WWII

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

That Beautiful Somewhere on Canadian TV

From NU's Big Name Novelist/Film Producer, Bill Plumstead:

The Canadian Television debut of That Beautiful Somewhere starring Roy Dupuis ("The Rocket," "Shake Hands with the Devil"), Jane McGregor and Gordon Tootoosis,will be broadcast this Friday night, November 23, at 9:00 pm on the Movie Network's two channels: MFest and HD. It was filmed in Temagami and North Bay.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Dean Oliver speaks at NU on Thursday, November 22

From Dr. Robin Gendron:

Next Thursday, November 22nd, Dean Oliver will be at Nipissing to give the History Department's annual Keynote Address. The title of the talk is "Bloodless Wars? Military History in Museums." It takes place at 6:30 pm in H106.

Dean Oliver is the chief historian at the Canadian War Museum and he will be speaking about the challenges involved in presenting history and historical research at public institutions, a particularly germane topic given the controversy at the museum this past summer about its portrayal of the strategic bombing campaign against Germany during the Second World War.

The event is free and open to the entire university community and the public. We hope to see you there.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Susan Thomson speaks on post-genocide justice in Rwanda

I would love to hear this talk, which is on Thursday, November 8, 4:30 to 6:00 pm,
in Room F213; but I am teaching myself.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Upcoming events: History Club pub and Kozuskanich seminar on on constitutional research in the digital age

On Thursday evening the History Club is presenting another pub. Here's what they say:

The second History Pub is this Thursday, November 1 at the Bull and Quench (upstairs) starting at 9 pm. Come dressed up as someone from a historical era and you could win one of our two prizes. There will also be a trivia challenge! So come out and join us for a night of drinks and fun.

On Friday afternoon Dr. Nathan Kozuskanich will be giving an interesting seminar presentation on new frontiers in research on the origins of the American Constitution. Details here.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

NU History seminar: Kozuskanich speaks on Constitutional research in the digital age


Our American history expert, Nathan Kozuskanich, is the first speaker in this year's History Department seminar series. He will be talking about digital archives and search engines and how they allow investigation in unprecedented depth into the meaning that the Constitution had in the era it was written. In particular, this kind of research has reshaped the debate on the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms). The seminar takes place Friday, Nov. 2, 2:30 pm in Room A224. All welcome, especially students interested in political science, American history, and modern methods of research.

Here's an abstract:

Originalism in a Digital Age: An Inquiry into the Right to Bear Arms

As lawyers and legal scholars have struggled to recover the often elusive original meaning of the U.S. Constitution, they have consistently relied on a narrow set of sources. But now, the digital age has made a wealth of historical and legal sources widely available. These comprehensive digital archives are now making it possible to recover the meanings of key constitutional phrases and ideas, like the incredibly contentious right to bear arms. Keyword searching makes it possible to effectively penetrate these voluminous archives and apply their contents to perplexing historical and legal problems. The ability to chart the use of certain words and phrases over time harnesses the power of computers in a way still largely unrealized in the humanities. While computer models and data analysis have transformed the natural and social sciences, lawyers and historians alike have yet to realize the full potential of computer research. This seminar presentation, in addition to its refutation of the Standard Model’s misconception of the right to bear arms as an individual right, seeks to offer a new methodology for those seeking to uncover and contextualize original intent.


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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Emergency telephones at NU

The Vice-President Financial of Nipissing University, Vicky Payne-Mantha, has asked all faculty to express the institution's dismay at the recent vandalism of emergency telephones at the campus.

Please do your best to detect and discourage such behavior.

If you need any special motivation, the university is offering a reward for information leading to the identification and prosecution of such vandals.

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History Club at NU


An announcement from Jessica Parks and Kyra Knapp:

Our first History Pub is this Thursday upstairs at the Bull and Quench starting at 9pm, so we hope to see you there.

Also our first meeting was a success, thank you to those who were able to join us. We have decided to change the meeting time to 3:30 - 4:30 so more people can make it. Our next meeting is October 15.

Contact address: nipuhistoryclub @ hotmail.com

Image: a historical pub in Llannefydd, Wales.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Notice for students -- peer tutors needed

Student Affairs is looking for peer tutors:

Students who want tutors to help them are starting to pour into Student Affairs; unfortunately, for some reason, we are experiencing only a trickle of tutors applying as compared to the previous years' flood of applicants... We are asking you to please announce to your classes that this program exists and that students who did well in courses last year can receive payment (as well as good experience!) for tutoring other students. ... Please direct any interested students to Emily in Student Affairs.


This is a good way to get teaching experience before you apply to a Faculty of Education, here or anywhere else.


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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

That Beautiful Somewhere on DVD

About the time I came to Nipissing University, about 15 years ago, another prof here, Bill Plumstead, wrote a novel set in Northern Ontario, Loon. Somehow I put off reading it for about a decade, but when I finally got around to it, I loved the book. When I went to congratulate Bill on his accomplishment, I found him sitting in his office contemplating a movie version.

Well, the movie version, That Beautiful Somewhere, has been made and despite the fact that it is in some ways quite different than Loon, I liked the movie a great deal. It had me on the edge of my seat by the end.

Only a few of my readers got any chance at all to see it in the theater. But in this modern age, small but good movies have another way of worming their way into your hearts. Bill tells me that the DVD version will be released in Canada and the US as of September 25th. He goes on to say: For myself, I add: maybe you'd like the book, too, if you can find it..

Orders can be placed through Amazon.ca in Canada (saving a few bucks) and Amazon.com in the USA. The Canadian version includes an interview with Roy Dupuis where he talks about his interests in films and his environmental work with the Rivers Foundation (saving Quebec Rivers from corporate harnessing and exploitation), which he is virtually the biggest financial contributor of. It's a wonderful interview.

I add: maybe you'd like the book, too, if you can find it.


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Friday, June 08, 2007

Nipissing University Convocation, June 8, 2007

Today's afternoon convocation at NU included most of our history graduates. Of course it was hot and humid in the hall, even though snow had fallen and briefly stuck on the ground two days earlier. Nevertheless, there were some really nice moments, on top of the general joy surrounding graduation.

The speakers -- the honorary doctor and the valedictorian -- were exceptional. The Hon. Jean Jacques Blais, a former MP for this riding who has spent his last decade or so in practical democracy promotion, made an eloquent case for good governance making all the difference between one country and the next -- say, Russia and Canada, two places with sparse populations owning huge areas filled with natural resources. And then he went on to insist that honest devotion to the public good is the core of good governance. His speech made me very happy -- at a time when much of the world is being torn to shreds by the greedy, the selfish, and the bloodthirsty, that there is a place where people who believe in such sane values not only exist, but have influence. And I live there! It means a great deal to me that Dr. Blais, a product of the Nipissing District, said what he said; it almost means more that the NU community chose to award him a D.Litt. honoris causa for manifesting those values.

Tomorrow, the same honorary degrees will be awarded to Maher Arar and his spouse Dr. Monia Mazigh at another convocation. 'Nuff said.

The valedictorian for the convocation today was Jennifer Evans, who gave a convincing performance of the student who went to university -- a small and rather obscure one -- and found exactly what she wanted and needed, not only the opportunity to learn, but the opportunity to make the most valuable kind of human connections. My colleagues who have had her in their courses aver that she is exactly the way she appeared today. It's nice to know that your university can sometimes do exactly what it aspires to do.

On a more personal note, I was touched by how many students asked about my health -- it's a great deal improved, thanks -- and I left the university feeling even better than I did when I came.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

NU Historians graduate, June 8, 2007

Nipissing University historians will be granted their BAs on Friday afternoon. I'm planning on being there. Come by and say hello.

The forecast is for normal temps -- low 20s Celsius.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

To my students, 2006-7

My work is done. Grades are submitted, and the research papers for the chivalry seminar can be recovered at my office. If you want to speak to me personally, I will be back in North Bay in about 2 weeks; or there is e-mail.

When I was ill this winter, the exercise of teaching was one thing that kept me going. As I started to get better, I began to realize what a privilege it is to teach undergraduates really interesting material. The fact that many of you responded did not hurt.

I should be at Convocation to see some of you graduate. If you're coming back next year and aren't in one of my classes, say hello anyway.

The image comes from our Chinese language site, which I didn't know we had.

PS: Like last year, I intend to post over the summer.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

James Murton's new book

James Murton, NU's environmental historian, has a book coming out soon from University of British Columbia Press on the interaction between government settlement ideology and the ecological facts on the ground.

Production has progressed to the point that there is now a cover!

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