Election Night with the CBC

CBC RadioIf you can pull yourself away from CNN or NPR on election night (November 6), I will be doing some commentary on the evangelical vote for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s radio coverage of the 2018 midterm elections.  More details to follow.  Stay tuned.

Christian Political Engagement in the Age of Trump

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University of Regina

As some of you know, I spent the last couple of days in Regina, Saskatchewan.  The Canadian Society of Church History (CSCH)  invited me to deliver the keynote address at its annual conference.  (Thanks for everything Stuart Barnard!).  The collegial historians associated with the CSCH made me feel very welcome and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know some of them on Wednesday night at dinner.  (Thanks again for the ride to the hotel Robyn Rogers Healey!) If you get chance to join this organization or attend its annual conference, I highly recommend that you do it!  Next year’s meeting is in Vancouver.

The lecture drew a good turnout of CSCH members and other scholars who were in town for the 2018 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences.  It was titled “Fear, Hope, and Nostalgia: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.”  I even got to  talk about Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump on CBC radio show in Saskatchewan!

Here is a small taste of my lecture:

In the late 1970s, after a period of relative quietism in the middle of the 20th century, conservative evangelicals composed a political playbook to win back the culture from the forces of secularization.  Most of the 81% of American evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 understand the relationship between their faith and their politics through this playbook.  The playbook, which was tweaked occasionally over the years to address whatever moral issues seemed most important at the time, never lost its focus on restoring, renewing, and reclaiming America for Christ through the pursuit of political power.  When executed properly, the playbook teaches evangelicals to elect the right President and members of Congress who will pass laws privileging evangelical Christian views of the world.  These elected officials will then appoint and confirm conservative Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, defend life in the womb, and uphold religious liberty for those who believe in traditional views of marriage. 

The power that this playbook holds among American evangelicals cannot be underestimated.  Frankly, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and the rest of the leaders of the Christian Right deserve a lot more credit than they currently receive in general treatments of modern American political history.  Falwell, for example, may be the most important figure in American politics in the post-World War II era.  His playbook has been so successful that most ordinary evangelicals cannot imagine an alternative way of thinking about Christian political witness, even when other evangelicals have proposed alternative options for engagement with public life.

For example, University of Virginia sociologist and cultural critic James Davison Hunter’s has suggested that rather than trying to “change the world” through power politics, Christians might consider thinking about their cultural witness through what he calls faithful presence.  Hunter writes

I would suggest that a theology of faithful presence first calls Christians to attend to the people and places that they experience directly. It is not that believers should be disconnected from, or avoid responsibility for, people and places across the globe. Far from it…. But with that said, the call of faithful presence gives priority to what is right in front of us—the community, the neighborhood, and the city, and the people in which these are constituted. For most, this will mean a preference for stability, locality, and particularity of place and its needs. It is here, through the joys, sufferings, hopes, disappointments, ­concerns, desires, and worries of the people with whom we are in long-term and close relation—family, neighbors, coworkers, and community—where we find our authenticity as a body and as believers. It is here where we learn forgiveness and humility, practice kindness, hospitality, and charity, grow in patience and wisdom, and become clothed in compassion, gentleness, and joy. This is the crucible within which Christian holiness is forged. This is the context within which shalom is enacted…. Faithful presence… would encourage ambition, but the instrumentalities of ambition are always subservient to the requirements of humility and charity.”

Or consider Duke University theologian Stanley Hauerwas and Baylor University’s Jonathan Tran on abortion:

When Christians think that the struggle against abortion can only be pursued through voting for candidates with certain judicial philosophies, then serving at domestic abuse shelters or teaching students at local high schools or sharing wealth with expectant but under-resourced families or speaking of God’s grace in terms of “adoption” or politically organizing for improved education or rezoning municipalities for childcare or creating “Parent’s Night Out” programs at local churches or mentoring young mothers or teaching youth about chastity and dating or mobilizing religious pressure on medical service providers or apprenticing men into fatherhood or thinking of singleness as a vocation or feasting on something called “communion” or rendering to God what is God’s or participating with the saints through Marian icons or baptizing new members or tithing money, will not count as political. How much money and time spent on electing the right candidates might have been used for this kind of political witness?”

Washington Post columnist and former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson has called for evangelicals to draw from Catholic social teaching as a means of thinking about how the Christian understanding of human dignity might influence public policy.  The National Association of Evangelicals’s recent statement on political engagement, titled  “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,” is deeply rooted in Catholic social teaching.

Evangelicals from the Dutch Reformed tradition, guided by the 19th-century Dutch politician Abraham Kuyper, have long advocated for a “principled or confessional pluralism” in which the various “spheres” of society—churches, families, schools, business, agencies of the arts and humanities—are free to exercise authority over their particular spheres.  As historian George Marsden writes, “The primary function of government is to promote justice and to act as a sort of referee, patrolling the boundaries among the spheres of society, protecting the sovereignty within each sphere, adjudicating conflicts, and assuring equal rights and equal protections so far as that is possible.” Marsden adds, “In this richly pluralistic view, society thrives when it promotes the health and integrity of what more recently have often been called ‘mediating institutions.’ Such institutions, likewise, should stay within their spheres of sovereignty.

John Inazu, an evangelical and Washington University-St. Louis law professor has suggested for something similar—he calls it “confident pluralism.”  Inazu writes: Confident Pluralism argues that we can and must live together peaceably in spite of deep and sometimes irresolvable differences over politics, religion, sexuality, and other important matters.  We can do so in two important ways—by insisting on constitutional commitments that honor and protect difference and by embodying tolerance, humility, and patience in our speech, our collective action (protests, strikes, and boycotts), and our relationship across difference.”  New York City megachurch pastor and evangelical author Timothy Keller has championed Inazu’s view.

It is not my intention here to advocate for any of these evangelical approaches to political engagement.  My purpose here today is to note that the Christian Right has rejected all of them, preferring instead to advance their moral, political, and cultural agenda by gaining control of the levers of power.   What is particular telling is that few of these cultural warriors seem to have thought very deeply about what they will do if they ever do gain power.  What happens when the dog catches the bus?  Will the Christian Right try to create a theocracy?  Will they imprison doctors who perform abortions?  Will they ban gay marriage?  Will they require every county seat to display a cross and a copy of the Ten Commandments?   What is their plan once America is restored, renewed, and reclaimed?

Saskatchewan Bound!

Regina

I have never been to Saskatchewan.  But if all goes as planned, I will be visiting Regina, Saskatchewan on Wednesday (May 30) to deliver the plenary address at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Church History.  The title of my talk is “Fear, Power, and Nostalgia: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.”

I hope to spend some time attending sessions and exploring Regina.  Is there anything I need to visit or see while I am there?

Canadian Evangelicals on Easter in an Age of Trump

Trump court evangelicals

Check out Douglas Todd‘s piece at the Vancouver SunHe asks leading Canadian evangelicals what they think about all the evangelicals in the United States who support Donald Trump.

Here is a taste:

Three Canadian evangelical theologians say the politics of most American Protestants, specifically evangelicals, varies dramatically from that of most Canadian Christians. The three offer ways it remains possible to find meaning and inspiration in Easter.

“Watching from Canada, it can be confusing to make sense of what’s going on in the U.S., for Christians and non-Christians alike,” said Rev. Ken Shigematsu, head pastor of a large evangelical congregation at Vancouver’s Tenth Church. “With the large number of evangelical Christians in America, many of them feel they can influence and even dominate the political process. Canadian Christians (in contrast) see themselves on the margins of society.”

Read the rest here.

Museums in an Age of Fake News

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Canadian Museum of History (Wikipedia Commons)

This piece in the Toronto Star recently caught my attention.  In an age of fake news, museums are stepping up to the plate to help “separate fact from fiction and spark critical thinking.”

Here is a taste of reporter Stephanie Levitz’s article “In an era of ‘fake news’ people are turning to museums for facts.”

The value of people having tactile experiences with objects from history or science can’t be overstated, Beckel said. Where else but in a museum can one get a sense of the size of the dinosaurs?

But the value of challenging people’s understanding of those objects is equally important, said Lisa Leblanc, director of creative development for Canadian history hall at the Museum of History.

The “cacophony of channels” has put more information at people’s fingertips than ever before, but also allows for them to only engage with information that reinforces their world view, she said.

For museums to keep the public’s trust and also do their job sparking critical thinking, bursting those bubbles is important, she said.

Read the entire piece here.

“An odd ‘freedom struggle’ that sends 60,000 people fleeing to Canada for their lives.”

VIolence

Yes, Canada has their own view of our American Revolution.  Tristin Hopper of the National Post has a few issues with it.

  1. The colonists were fighting “one of the world’s most democratic nations.” (“Democratic” is a bit strong here. How about “liberty-loving” instead?)
  2.  The war, however, did involve an “autocratic tyrant: Louis XVI, King of France.
  3.  American colonists sparked the French and Indian War and then refused to pay for it.
  4. Canada tried to recognize native American land and “respect” Catholics, but these efforts were deemed “intolerable.”
  5. The American revolutionaries had a “pretty serious terrorism problem.”
  6. America’s “struggle for liberty” resulted in between 60,000 and 80,000 refugees to Canada.

See how Hopper unpacks these points here.

 

Why Did Nova Scotia Stay Loyal?

Nova ScotiaAlexandra Montgomery, a Ph.D candidate at Penn and an award-winning historian, asks this question here.

A taste:

As an American born kid growing up in Halifax, the question of why that chunk of land stayed British while the rest of the colonies to the south declared independence was something of a puzzle. I became even more confused when I learned that most of the people who lived there at the outbreak of the Revolution were New Englanders, a group of people who my trips to Boston and Connecticut to visit family had convinced me had been waiting to rebel practically since the Mayflower made landfall. As I got older and started to study the history of North America more seriously, my understandings grew much more nuanced. But I discovered that many historians puzzled over the same problem I had. It turned out that there were many theories for Nova Scotia’s loyalty: a supposed culture of neutrality, a lack of connections to the rest of the continent, a heavy British military presence, and Anglo Nova Scotia’s markedly different relationship to the imperial center have all been cited as possible explanations. Yet, in my own work I’ve become more and more interested in a slightly different question. What kinds of alternate futures did people imagine for the region? What did people—British, French, and Indigenous—think and hope was possible?

Read more.

HT: Boston 1775

Was the American Revolution a Bad Idea?

RevolutionOver at The New Yorker, writer Adam Gopnik explores this idea through a discussion of several new books on the American Revolution.

Here is a taste of his article “We Could Have Been Canada“:

And what if it was a mistake from the start? The Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, the creation of the United States of America—what if all this was a terrible idea, and what if the injustices and madness of American life since then have occurred not in spite of the virtues of the Founding Fathers but because of them? The Revolution, this argument might run, was a needless and brutal bit of slaveholders’ panic mixed with Enlightenment argle-bargle, producing a country that was always marked for violence and disruption and demagogy. Look north to Canada, or south to Australia, and you will see different possibilities of peaceful evolution away from Britain, toward sane and whole, more equitable and less sanguinary countries. No revolution, and slavery might have ended, as it did elsewhere in the British Empire, more peacefully and sooner. No “peculiar institution,” no hideous Civil War and appalling aftermath. Instead, an orderly development of the interior—less violent, and less inclined to celebrate the desperado over the peaceful peasant. We could have ended with a social-democratic commonwealth that stretched from north to south, a near-continent-wide Canada.

The thought is taboo, the Revolution being still sacred in its self-directed propaganda. One can grasp the scale and strangeness of this sanctity only by leaving America for a country with a different attitude toward its past and its founding. As it happened, my own childhood was neatly divided between what I learned to call “the States” and Canada. In my Philadelphia grade school, we paraded with flags, singing “The Marines’ Hymn” and “Here Comes the Flag!” (“Fathers shall bless it / Children caress it / All shall maintain it / No one shall stain it.”) We were taught that the brave Americans hid behind trees to fight the redcoats—though why this made them brave was left unexplained. In Canada, ninth grade disclosed a history of uneasy compromise duality, and the constant search for temporary nonviolent solutions to intractable divides. The world wars, in which Canadians had played a large part, passed by mostly in solemn sadness. (That the Canadians had marched beyond their beach on D Day with aplomb while the Americans struggled on Omaha was never boasted about.) Patriotic pageantry arose only from actual accomplishments: when Team Canada won its eight-game series against the Russians, in 1972, the entire nation sang “O Canada”—but they sang it as a hockey anthem as much as a nationalist hymn.

Over the years, we have seen how hard it is to detach Americans from even the obviously fallacious parts of that elementary-school saga—the absurd rendering of Reconstruction, with its Northern carpetbaggers and local scalawags descending on a defenseless South, was still taught in the sixties. It was only in recent decades that schools cautiously began to relay the truth of the eighteen-seventies—of gradual and shameful Northern acquiescence in the terrorist imposition of apartheid on a post-slavery population.Scars

The Revolution remains the last bulwark of national myth. Academics write on the growth of the Founding Father biographical genre in our time; the rule for any new writer should be that if you want a Pulitzer and a best-seller you must find a Founding Father and fetishize him. While no longer reverential, these accounts are always heroic in the core sense of showing us men, and now, occasionally, women, who transcend their flaws with spirit (though these flaws may include little things like holding other human beings as property, dividing their families, and selling off their children). The phenomenon of “Hamilton,” the hip-hop musical that is, contrary to one’s expectations, wholly faithful to a heroic view of American independence, reinforces the sanctity of the American Revolution in American life.

Academic histories of the Revolution, though, have been peeping over the parapets, joining scholarly scruples to contemporary polemic. One new take insists that we misunderstand the Revolution if we make what was an intramural and fratricidal battle of ideas in the English-speaking Empire look like a modern colonial rebellion. Another insists that the Revolution was a piece of great-power politics, fought in unimaginably brutal terms, and no more connected to ideas or principles than any other piece of great-power politics: America was essentially a Third World country that became the battlefield for two First World powers. Stirred into the larger pot of recent revisionism, these arguments leave us with a big question: was it really worth it, and are we better off for its having happened? In plain American, is Donald Trump a bug or a feature of the American heritage?

Read the entire piece here.

Needless to say, The Weekly Standard is not happy about Gopnik’s piece.  They don’t seem to understand that it is a review essay.

The Author’s Corner with Lawrence Hatter

citizens-of-convenienceLawrence Hatter is Assistant Professor of History at Washington State University. This interview is based on his new book, Citizens of Convenience: The Imperial Origins of American Nationhood on the U.S.-Canadian Border (University of Virginia Press, 2017).

JF: What led you to write Citizens of Convenience?

LH: Citizens of Convenience, like most first books, is based on my doctoral dissertation. I first encountered the Canada merchants who are the main actors in my study while working as a graduate research assistant at the Papers of George Washington project at the University of Virginia. I discovered the edited volumes of a prominent Detroit merchant, John Askin. I wrote a seminar paper on Askin during my first year at UVa. and the project grew from there to embrace research in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Citizens of Convenience?

LH: The American people were not present at their birth; rather, the imperial projects of U.S. policymakers and their agents on the ground used the border to distinguish the American people as a distinct sovereign community during the early nineteenth century.

JF: Why do we need to read Citizens of Convenience?

LH: Because it will put my kids through college(?!).  More seriously, my book helps to reveal the ways in which American nationhood and empire were intertwined during the Founding. It is clear that the American Revolution was not an expression of national awakening; rather, my book shows how the United States realized nationhood by colonizing the West. Citizens of Convenience explains how U.S. imperialism worked at different scales, from the local to the international. This is why the Canada merchants at the heart of my study are so revealing: their transatlantic lobbying apparatus and transcontinental commercial networks influenced politics from high level diplomacy in the great European capitals to everyday interactions between traders and U.S. agents in places like Detroit and Saint Louis.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

LH: I abandoned plans to become a barrister when I was about 16 and decided that I wanted to be a lecturer. I read mostly 17th and 18th century British and American history as an undergraduate in the U.K., so it was an unthinking decision to become an Americanist (though, like many of my generation, I tend to look outward from the thirteen colonies, rather than inward).

JF: What is your next project?

LH: I am beginning work on a study of American overseas merchant communities during the Age of Revolution. Looking at how merchants managed to negotiate the dangers and opportunities of Independence in places like Algiers and Canton will hopefully offer new insight into how the United States managed to establish its credentials as a sovereign nation in the global community of nations.

JF: Thanks, Lawrence!

New Books in Early Canadian History

People and the BayI am a sucker for online roundups of new books. Over at Borealia blog, Keith Grant, the blog co-proprietor and a SSHRC Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholar, introduces us to some new books on early Canadian history.

Here is a taste:

Welcome to the first Borealia roundup of forthcoming books on early Canadian history. The list includes books scheduled for release in 2016, with information compiled from publishers’ catalogues and websites. I plan to post Part 2 later in the year to highlight Fall titles.

What kinds of books made it into this preview? Works of historical scholarship on any region of what eventually became Canada, to about 1870. I have included books that place “Canada” in transnational studies, and books whose chronological coverage extends beyond 1870, as long as there is substantial discussion of the early period. Naturally, this is all quite subjective, and my survey has likely overlooked a few titles. So please use the comments or the contact form below to suggest additional titles.

The books are listed by month of scheduled release. Descriptions have been supplied by the publishers, unless otherwise noted….

The People and the Bay: A Social and Environmental History of Hamilton Harbour, by Nancy B. Bouchier and Ken Cruikshank (UBC Press, January 2016).

“In 1865, John Smoke braved the ice on Burlington Bay to go spearfishing. Soon after, he was arrested by a fishery inspector and then convicted by a magistrate who chastised him for thinking that he was at liberty to do as he pleased “with Her Majesty’s property.” With this story, Nancy Bouchier and Ken Cruikshank launch their history of the relationship between the people of Hamilton, Ontario, and Hamilton Harbour (a.k.a. Burlington Bay). From the time of European settlement through to the city’s rise as an industrial power, townsfolk struggled with nature, and with one another, to champion their particular vision of “the bay” as a place to live, work, and play. As Smoke discovered, the outcomes of those struggles reflected the changing nature of power in an industrial city. From efforts to conserve the fishery in the 1860s to current attempts to revitalize a seriously polluted harbour, each generation has tried to create what it believed would be a livable and prosperous city.”

Fragile Settlements: Aboriginal Peoples, Law, and Resistance in South-West Australia and Prairie Canada, by Amanda Nettelbeck, Russell Smandych, Louis A. Knafla, Robert Foster (UBC Press, February 2016).

“Fragile Settlements compares the processes through which British colonial authority was asserted over Indigenous peoples in south-west Australia and prairie Canada from the 1830s to the early twentieth century. At the start of this period, as a humanitarian response to settlers’ increased demand for land, Britain’s Colonial Office moved to protect Indigenous peoples by making them subjects under British law. This book highlights the parallels and divergences between these connected British frontiers by examining how colonial actors and institutions interpreted and applied the principle of law in their interaction with Indigenous peoples “on the ground.””

Read the entire list here. And stay tuned to Borealia for Part 2.

Is Early American History Experiencing a “Canadian Turn?”

New FranceJeffers Lennox of Wesleyan University thinks so.

Here is a taste of his piece at Borealia:

The American Revolution wasn’t simply American. The Early National period was hardly national at all. From 1774 to at least 1815, regional linkages and continental strategies shaped the development of American states and British provinces as people, policies, and ideas traversed a porous and fluid border. Ironically, loyal British colonies were less foreign to Americans in the late eighteenth century than Canada is to Americans today. Colonial and early American newspapers carried news from Halifax and Montreal; Revolutionary politicians, military figures, and leading intellectuals paid close attention to developments in the northern colonies; and American geographies published in the 1790s had entries on (and maps of) most of the British colonies.

Historians, it seems, have gotten in the way. The emergence of national narratives on both sides of the border has bifurcated what was a shared history. Lately, however, American historians have begun looking north in ways that reflect the attitudes, curiosities, and ideas of their ancestors. Leading scholars at major American institutions have recently tackled the Acadians (expelled from their “American homeland”), loyalists and late loyalists, Joseph Brant and the Six Nations, and the War of 1812.[1] Borealia, its American sibling The Junto, and those who contribute to these important resources have made crystal clear that the new generation of American historians considers Canada a worthy subject of inquiry.

Read the entire piece here.

Historians of Canada Have Been Studying Loyalists for a Long Time

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Because history is often written by the winners, Whigs and patriots have long dominated the study of the American Revolution.  Loyalists–or those men and women who supported the Crown during the Revolution–have thus received sort shrift in the narratives that historians write about this era.

Are early American historians rediscovering the Loyalists?  Yes and no.  While many historians in the United States are trying to bring more complexity to the story of the American Revolution by bringing Loyalists into the mix, others–particularly scholars who focus on Canada and “North America” more broadly–have been studying Loyalists for a long time.

This is the argument of University of New Brunswick historian Bonnie Huskins in a recent piece at Borealia.

Here is a taste:

It has been gratifying to see the number of recent Borealia blog posts on the loyalists – Sources for Loyalist Studies, Loyalists in the Classroom: Students reflect on historical sources, The Future of Loyalist Studies, and Let’s Play Again: Recovering “The Losers” of the American Revolution (Part I). However, it is sometimes a tad frustrating to hear references to the loyalists as an ‘overlooked’ people. Perhaps this is the case in the context of American historiography, but I would like to interject with the reminder that scholars of British North America/Canada have been studying the loyalists for a long time. This is articulated in Jane Errington’s 2012 review essay “Loyalists and Loyalism in the American Revolution and Beyond” as well as Ruma Chopra’s “Enduring Patterns of Loyalist Study: Definitions and Contours.” I realize that many scholars of early America are more interested in examining the loyalists in situ. Indeed, one of the most interesting directions in loyalist studies is the analysis of loyalist reintegration into the United States being pursued by historians such as Rebecca Brannon. Nonetheless, I still hold that the literature written about loyalists and loyalism in a Canadian and Atlantic World setting are useful for American researchers. Perhaps this is a transitional moment, as Chris Minty suggests in The Future of Loyalist Studies. As scholars and public historians engage with the loyalists who returned to the United States, or never left, it is hoped that they will do so in the spirit of collaboration.

Read the rest here.

Interested in Early Canada?

cover-collage-jan-2016

Borealia, the website which has quickly become the go-to source for all things early Canada, gives us a glimpse of some forthcoming book on the subject.  Here is Keith Grant’s introduction to the booklist:

Welcome to the first Borealia roundup of forthcoming books on early Canadian history. The list includes books scheduled for release in 2016, with information compiled from publishers’ catalogues and websites. I plan to post Part 2 later in the year to highlight Fall titles.

What kinds of books made it into this preview? Works of historical scholarship on any region of what eventually became Canada, to about 1870. I have included books that place “Canada” in transnational studies, and books whose chronological coverage extends beyond 1870, as long as there is substantial discussion of the early period. Naturally, this is all quite subjective, and my survey has likely overlooked a few titles. So please use the comments or the contact form below to suggest additional titles.

Read the entire list here.

Newspapers and British Identity in 18th-Century Quebec City and Halifax

If you have not discovered Borealia, you should go check it out.  The editors of this blog are pushing us to expand our understanding of early America to include Canada. (Of course scholars have been doing this for a long time, but I appreciate the effort of the folks at Borealia to bring the conversation to a larger reading public).

I just finished reading Keith Grant’s excellent review of Michael Eamon’s Imprinting Britain: Newspapers, Sociability, and the Shaping of British North America. Eamon uses newspapers to show how the so-called “public sphere” found its way to the British cities of Quebec City and Halifax.  I have been fascinated with these kinds of studies since graduate school.  Discussions of print culture, sociability, and the Enlightenment in early America influenced my 2008 book The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America.

Here is a taste of Keith Grant‘s review:

Eamon’s cultural definition of Britishness also includes the moderate Enlightenment’s emphasis on “useful” and “improving” knowledge. He gives us enticing glimpses of Haligonians who participated, however modestly, in the transatlantic Republic of Letters, as well as the surprising liberality of Governor Frederick Haldimand’s Quebec Library. Newspapers, almanacs, and magazines disseminated Enlightenment science in abridged form to a broad reading public.
Colonial newspapers were closely allied with other kinds of face-to-face sociability. The pages of colonial newspapers aired debates about the propriety of Freemasonry, theatres, and coffeehouses, with printers often advocating for their usefulness. As the detailed appendices demonstrate, those papers prove to be one of the few windows into colonial associative life, and readers are indebted to Eamon for cataloguing mentions of societies, coffeehouses, and plays performed in Halifax and Quebec City. Northern winters were no obstacle to flourishing social scenes, as one Quebec City correspondent reported in December 1790: “Tho’ surrounded with Ice and Snow, we enjoy health & are at least as social as in any other quarter of the Globe” (116).
Eamon charts a shift in colonial associative life as the eighteenth century progressed, from sociability for the sheer pleasure of it toward an increasing concern for the public good. “Let the social virtues shine / Doing good is sure divine,” declared a Masonic song printed in a Nova Scotia newspaper (135). (The Illuminati conspiracy theorists among our readership will be interested—perhaps apprehensive—to know that every eighteenth century governor and lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia was a Freemason! [133])
Mention “print” and “sociability” in the same sentence, and cultural theorist Jürgen Habermas’ concept of the “bourgeois public sphere” is sure to come to mind.  However, though it was incubated in similar coffee houses and likewise deliberated through a burgeoning print culture, the public sphere of British North America, Eamon argues, was less egalitarian than its bourgeois European or republican American counterparts. The colonial print community created “hybrid spaces of sociability and social control” (11), and its discourse “favoured consensus and balance over discord and radical change” (189). Imprinting Britain will find a place on reading lists on British North American sociability and the public sphere, alongside works by Jeffrey McNairn, Darren Ferry, and David Sutherland.

Introducing Borealia: A Group Blog on Early Canadian History

I have been waiting for the arrival of Borealia, a new blog on early Canadian history edited by Keith Grant, a Ph.D candidate in history at New Brunswick University, and Denis McKim, a historian at Douglas College in British Columbia.

Here is a taste of the blog prospectus:


Borealia (bor-ee-al-ya) is a new academic group blog on early Canadian history, featuring writing by regular, occasional, and guest contributors. It can be found at http://earlycanadianhistory.ca.
We begin with the basic assumption that the field of early Canadian history is vibrant and varied. It may be a bit of a stretch to claim that, “We are all Canadianists now,” but with the Atlantic turn in historiography, it is no longer only Canadian-based scholars that integrate the northern half of the continent into their narratives. Early Canadian sessions, encouragingly, were a major presence at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture (Halifax, June 2014), and at the American Society for Environmental History (Washington, March 2015). The field is healthy and robust, and we have plenty to talk about.
The goal of Borealia is to provide an energetic, professional, and respectful space for conversation about research and teaching in early Canadian history. We believe that a dedicated forum for discussion, alongside broader historical associations and publications, will nurture informal networks of scholars and will demonstrate the vitality of the field among colleagues and the public.
Borealia (“northern”) is a title expansive enough to take in the breadth of our field. We are interested in all regions of what eventually became Canada, to about 1867, and connections to the wider world. We hope our contributors will reflect the diversity of our field, encompassing cultural, intellectual, political, religious, economic, and other perspectives, and will come from every stage of academic careers. We will strive to have content in both English and French.
We intend the tone of the blog to be positive, focused on content and ideas, respectful and civil in conversation, and professional. If the blog were a restaurant, it would be “casual fine dining.” We anticipate a modest but regular schedule of blog posts, which will include brief work-in-progress profiles, research notes, timely historical commentary, author interviews and book reviews, reflections on teaching and career development, digital and public history, and conference recaps.
The early American historians at the Junto have posted a short interview with Grant and McKim. Here is a taste: 

JUNTO: For those of us whose research interests straddle the present-day borders of the United States and Canada, this seems like a potentially wonderful resource. What about those early Americanists who don’t focus on the Canadian or Maritime colonies — why should they read Borealia? And more broadly, why should they pay attention to what was going on in Halifax, Kingston, and/or Québec? 
GRANT: I think I’d start by saying there is no early “American” or “Canadian” history (at least before 1776). Rather there are histories of Indigenous peoples, environments, Imperial powers, and cultures that aren’t easily contained by later national borders. And including Halifax or Québec (or, say, the West Indies) in narratives of Colonial or Revolutionary America show how contingent, rather than inevitable, the American story was. We could also add that there are so many “American” stories that begin or continue across the border; think of the Iroquois Confederacy, Loyalist refugees, or the Acadian diaspora, for just a few examples. Historiographically, this transnationalism goes the other way, too: histories of early Canada benefit from considering comparative, continental, or Atlantic approaches.

MCKIM: It’s been said that, “when America sneezes, Canada catches a cold.” Needless to say, due to the dramatic asymmetries that exist between the two countries in terms of size and clout, the reverse simply isn’t true. Still, paying attention to Canada can be beneficial, especially for historians of early America. For instance, picking up on Keith’s point about the usefulness of comparative scholarship, examining early Canada can shed light on the question of whether aspects of colonial America and the early republic were unique or, rather, symptomatic of broader phenomena evident elsewhere in North America.

JUNTO: Now, for those early Americanists convinced that they need to start paying attention to Canada, what advice do you have? What books, articles, archival repositories, conferences, and/or digital resources would you recommend as good starting points for early Americanists looking to become familiar with early Canadian history?

GRANT: Probably the best clearinghouse for primary sources and teaching links for Canadian history is hosted by The History Education Network. Be sure to check outElectronic New France, too. Early Canadian Online (a subscription service) and the onlineDictionary of Canadian Biography are also valuable. While not primarily focused on earlyCanada, readers should check out: NiCHE, a network of Canadian environmental historians; Active History, a site that specializes in historically-informed commentary on contemporary issues; and the blog for the journal of Atlantic Canada, Acadiensis.

Researchers interested in Canadian collections could start with Library and Archives Canada and the Archives Canada gateway.

There is not (yet) a conference dedicated to early Canadian history, though there would be sessions of interest at the annual Canadian Historical Association meetings, and at specialized events such as the upcoming Omohundro conference on Emerging Histories Of The Early Modern French Atlantic (we have plans to have a report from that one atBorealia!).

MCKIM: Keith’s compiled a thorough list of online resources, to which I have precious little to add! I might tack on a few lively blogs—specifically, Christopher Moore’sAndrew Smith’s, and Keith Mercer’s—that feature early Canadian content.

As for books and articles, illuminating works that situate early Canada in an expansive context that includes material familiar to early Americanists include: Elizabeth Mancke, “Another British America: A Canadian Model for the Early Modern British Empire,”Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History 25, no. 1 (January 1997): pp. 1-36; Allan Greer, “National, Transnational, and Hypernational Historiographies: New France Meets Early American History,” Canadian Historical Review 91, no. 4 (December 2010): pp. 695-724; and Stephen J. Hornsby and John G. Reid, eds., New England and the Maritime Provinces: Connections and Comparisons (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005).

Keith Grant Reports From the 2014 Omohundro Conference in Halifax

It is summer conference-going season and The Way of Improvement Leads Home is on the beat. A few days ago Liz Covart reported from the New York State History Conference in Poughkeepsie.  Today we hear from Keith S. Grant, a PhD candidate in history at the University of New Brunswick, Canada who studies evangelicalism and print culture in the Atlantic World.  Keith reflects on last week’s 20th annual conference of the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He can be reached at keith.grant[at]unb.ca.  –JF

Here is Keith’s report
Halifax, Nova Scotia, played host to the 20thAnnual OIEAHC conference, the theme of which was “the consequences of war.” The program was impressive, with a nice overlap of themes, allowing conversations to span sessions, and to spill into the hallways and onto Twitter (#OIANNUAL).
The keynote address by Jack Greene urged a reconsideration of the formative significance of peacetime for early America, and not only the convulsions of war. To make his case, he focused on the quarter century from the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) to the outbreak of the War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739), and examined the non-martial explanations provided by Adam Smith (1723-1790) and David Ramsay (1749-1815), among others, for the expansion of colonial society in that period. Through his exposition of these writers, Greene suggested that peacetime reveals what an emphasis on wars obscures: America was transformed, not so much by metropolitan authority or military conquest, but by the adaptive agency of the settlers themselves. Focusing on conflict tends to shift attention to the strength of empire, and away from the profound transformations wrought by settlers adapting European societies to new conditions. The continent, he argued, was not won on battlefields, but on the frontiers of settlement.
However, such a narrative can—and did—slide into a kind of “white legend”—a more benign, British, and Protestant alternative to the Spanish “black legend” of American colonization. Variations on the “white legend” can be found in Smith, Ramsay, their nineteenth century successors, and in some of what now passes as “heritage.” But, Greene argued, such a narrative did not take into account the overwhelming costs paid by enslaved Africans and dispossessed indigenous peoples (and Acadians and Jamaican Maroons).
I’m not sure if the lecture provoked the conversation Greene intended. Most of those who came to the microphone during Q & A were senior scholars who were themselves taught or mentored by Greene. They questioned whether peacetime can so neatly be distinguished from the wars that led to new treaty arrangements. They observed that “peace” did not extend to the interior of Africa. They asked about the agency and contributions of African and Native Americans. Most strongly, they insisted that in the period between wars there was no peace, but systemic violence perpetrated through enslavement and dispossession; Greene’s qualifications to that effect did not sufficiently alter the “white legend.” Although it may be that a war story obscures settler (rather than metropolitan) agency, a narrative of peace can paper over the violence on which those settler achievements was predicated.
Of course I can’t say something about every paper or session, so here are a few themes that continue to percolate as I reflect on #OIANNUAL 2014.
There were several very good papers on aspects of “loyalism,” which collectively helped to tease apart the polarity of patriot/loyalist. Christopher Minty argued that loyalism in New York was not born de novo in the heat of Revolution, but instead emerged from long-standing partisanship. With the help of social network analysis, Minty showed how DeLanceyite social mobilization (including a range of print strategies) and “everyday sociability” (i.e. racking up huge tavern tabs) brought together “would-be loyalists” in the years before the Revolution. Liam Riordan offered two surprising pairings, both of which stretch our definition of “loyalism”—a term big enough to include William Martin Johnson (a Georgia doctor and captain with the New York Volunteers) and Thomas Peters (a former North Carolina slave and sergeant in the Black Pioneers, later a leader in the Sierra Leone colony). Riordan also suggested that both loyalists also shared much in common with ordinary Revolutionary soldiers, like Joseph Plumb Martin; no matter who was victorious, all experienced the disruptions of war and the difficulties of resettling in its aftermath. Christopher Sparshott invited us to reconceptualize Revolutionary New York as a refugee camp, and “loyalists” as those who, like all displaced persons, adopted strategies of survival. By examining little-used “memorials” (claims for compensation), Sparshott demonstrated that many New Yorkers framed their loyalism in terms of practical suffering in wartime conditions.

Humanitarianism, it turns out, had a long career before Enlightenment reformers and Romantic idealists made it their own. Erica Charters traced the long development of European conventions for the humane treatment of POWs, including military, legal, nationalistic, and religious motivations. By the time of the American War of Independence, public opinion was the court that adjudicated what constituted humane treatment of POWs. Wendy Churchill argued that professional self-fashioning, as much as idealism, drove eighteenth-century military medical practitioners to adopt the rhetoric of “humanity.”
To mention just one paper from the excellent panel on religion and antislavery, Sarah Crabtree proposed a solution to the puzzle of Quaker reticence in the abolition movement. She suggested that antislavery reformers were connected through Quaker networksand influenced by Quaker ideology. While reformers continued to benefit from the infrastructure of Quaker financing and connections, Quaker trans-Atlantic cosmopolitanism did not sit easily with an increasingly nationalistic conception of antislavery. In perhaps the most quotable moment of the conference, Crabtree observed that Quakers were comfortable as subjects, but not as citizens.
The host province, Nova Scotia, was certainly not neglected in the program. Alexandra Montgomery described the enthusiastic (if not completely successful) promotion of Nova Scotia settlement schemes by Philadelphians, including Benjamin Franklin. Afua Cooper showed that the history of enslavement in Nova Scotia complicates the narrative of Nova Scotia as a refuge for freed blacks or runaway slaves. And Keith Mercer offered a brilliant cultural history of the commemoration of the Shannon’s defeat of the Chesapeake during the War of 1812.
Several papers probed the question of black and indigenous agency in the face of colonization. Maria Bollettino (in a rich plenary session on the consequences of war and the black Atlantic) explored the significance of black combatants in mid-C18 Caribbean conflicts. Although Britain armed blacks to protect slavery, rather than to abolish it, Bollettino suggests that their contributions seeded imaginations for how blacks could later play a range of imperial roles. Thomas Peace argued that colonial day schools in the eighteenth century north east (as opposed to later boarding or residential schools) were an important part of local indigenous communities. Even though the schools were part of a larger colonizing program, skills in literacy made it possible for indigenous communities to resist colonizing pressures, especially through petitions about land. Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, similarly, argued that Haudenosaunee women mitigated the effects of the early republic’s “civilization program” by appropriating those skills that were useful to them (e.g. spinning), while maintaining traditional ways.
Perhaps the best questionof the conference came from Lori Daggar, who wondered how themes related to indigenous peoples (and I think this applies to African Americans) can be more fully integrated into conference programs, so that these themes are not left to specialist panels. Returning to the first evening’s conversation, the question remains, how can the narratives of professional and popular history more seamlessly include black and indigenous agency, and account for both colonial achievement and violence?
Thanks to Justin Roberts (Dalhousie University), Elizabeth Mancke (University of New Brunswick), John Reid (Saint Mary’s University), and the OIEAHC team for great hospitality and for making a space for stimulating conversations.
Thanks, Keith!

Nicholas Kristof’s Canadian Dream

Writing in his The New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof argues that the “American dream has derailed” as a result of inequality.  In fact, the so-called “American Dream” is more likely to be found in Canada.  Canadians receive free health care, work less, live longer, have healthier children, have safer pregnancies, and are more technologically savvy.


Meanwhile:

• The top 1 percent in America now own assets worth more than those heldby the entire bottom 90 percent.

• The six Walmart heirs are worth as much as the bottom 41 percent of American households put together.

• The top six hedge fund managers and traders averaged more than $2 billion each in earnings last year, partly because of the egregious “carried interest” tax break. President Obama has been unable to get financing for universal prekindergarten; this year’s proposed federal budget for pre-K for all, so important to our nation’s future, would be a bit more than a single month’s earnings for those six tycoons.

Read his entire column here.  Or perhaps watch this: