Tag Archives: History

UTP’s Physical Distancing Reading List

In these challenging times, it can often seem difficult to grasp the truth of what is going on around us. In an overwhelming flow of media and information, sometimes what’s missing is some context and perspective. As a university press, we are proud to publish the work of leading scholars who tackle important issues – like the ones we are facing today – with intelligence and expertise.

For those who are looking for a little context – or just something to focus your mind while you’re maintaining physical distance from others – we offer a few suggestions of books that we’ve published over the years that might provide exactly the perspective you need.

Be well, stay connected, and keep reading.

Books that will provide some historical perspective:

Epidemics and the Modern World

By Mitchell L. Hammond

Published in January 2020 (we never could have imagined how timely this publication would become), this new textbook uses “biographies” of epidemics such as plague, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS to explore the impact of disease on the development of modern societies from the fourteenth century to the present. We highly recommend Chapter 8 on the 1918 influenza pandemic for some necessary perspective – you can read the entire chapter for free here. You should also check out this Literary Review of Canada article which manages to artfully draw from Hammond’s textbook alongside works by Defoe and Camus.


Influenza 1918: Disease, Death, and Struggle in Winnipeg

By Esyllt W. Jones

The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed as many as fifty million people worldwide and affected the vast majority of Canadians. Yet the pandemic, which came and left in one season, has remained difficult to interpret. What did it mean to live through and beyond this brief, terrible episode, and what were its long-term effects? Influenza 1918 uses Winnipeg as a case study to show how disease articulated and helped to re-define boundaries of social difference. Jones concludes that social conflict is not an inevitable outcome of epidemics, but rather of inequality and public failure to fully engage all members of the community in the fight against disease. This is a valuable lesson for today.


Hunting the 1918 Flu

By Kirsty Duncan

To this day medical science has been at a loss to explain the origin of the Spanish flu. Responding to sustained interest in this medical mystery, Hunting the 1918 Flu presents a detailed account of Kirsty Duncan’s experiences as she organized an international, multi-discipline scientific expedition to exhume the bodies of a group of Norwegian miners buried in Svalbard – all victims of the flu virus. Duncan’s narrative reveals the turbulent politics of a group moving towards a goal where the egos were as strong as the stakes were high. The author, herself a medical geographer (and known to most Canadians as the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Member of Parliament), is very frank about her bruising emotional, financial, and professional experiences on the “dark side of science.”


The Last Plague: Spanish Influenza and the Politics of Public Health in Canada

By Mark Osborne Humphries

In The Last Plague, Mark Osborne Humphries examines how federal epidemic disease management strategies developed before the First World War, arguing that the deadliest epidemic in Canadian history ultimately challenged traditional ideas about disease and public health governance. Using federal, provincial, and municipal archival sources, newspapers, and newly discovered military records – as well as original epidemiological studies – Humphries situates the flu within a larger social, political, and military context. His provocative conclusion is that the 1918 flu crisis had important long-term consequences at the national level, ushering in the “modern” era of public health in Canada.


From Wall Street to Bay Street: The Origins and Evolution of American and Canadian Finance

By Christopher Kobrak and Joe Martin

The 2008 financial crisis rippled across the globe and triggered a worldwide recession. Unlike the American banking system which experienced massive losses, takeovers, and taxpayer funded bailouts, Canada’s banking system withstood the crisis relatively well and maintained its liquidity and profitability. The divergence in the two banking systems can be traced to their distinct institutional and political histories. From Wall Street to Bay Street tackles the similarities and differences between the financial systems of Canada and the United States – offering useful insight into our current financial predicament.


In addition, a couple of books that will provide some medical context include Treating Health Care: How the Canadian System Works and How It Could Work Better by Raisa B. Deber and Public Health in the Age of Anxiety: Religious and Cultural Roots of Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada, edited by Paul Bramadat, Maryse Guay, Julie A. Bettinger, and Réal Roy. As people start to think about food security in new ways, we recommend Growing a Sustainable City?: The Question of Urban Agriculture by Christina D. Rosan and Hamil Pearsall. For those who are thinking more about crisis communication, we suggest Duncan Koerber’s recent guide, Crisis Communication in Canada. And finally, for some political and economic context, consider Backrooms and Beyond: Partisan Advisers and the Politics of Policy Work in Canada by Jonathan Craft; Back from the Brink: Lessons from the Canadian Asset-Backed Commercial Paper Crisis by Paul Halpern, Caroline Cakebread, Christopher C. Nicholls, and Poonam Puri; and Bureaucratic Manoeuvres: The Contested Administration of the Unemployed by John Grundy.

What Stalin can teach us about raising refugee children

Stalin’s Ninos presents in fascinating detail how the Soviet Union raised and educated nearly 3,000 child refugees of the Spanish Civil War. In this post, author Karl D. Qualls discusses the research that went into the project, revealing the Soviet transformation of children into future builders of communism and highlighting the educational techniques shared with other modern states.


Calisthenics at One of the Spanish Children´s Homes in the USSR

By Karl D. Qualls

As I talk to friends and students about children put in cages in the United States and schools bombed in Syria, I remind them that even Stalin treated some (though not all) refugees with great humanity. I’m not trying to whitewash Stalin. I know very well the atrocities. However, research serendipity can lead to some remarkable revelations.

I came across the material for Stalin’s Niños in 1995 (!) when I was doing pre-dissertation work. I was confused as to why there would be boxes of materials in a Moscow archive about boarding schools for Spanish children. Each time I went back to Moscow over the next decade to finish my dissertation that became From Ruins to Reconstruction: Urban Identity in Soviet Sevastopol after World War II (Cornell, 2009) I checked to see if anyone had been working in the main fond in the State Archive of the Russian Federation. I didn’t know anything about the topic and thought I might be able to find a story to tell out of the 2,500 item groups. My two children were learning Spanish in school and refugees started becoming more frequent in the news after I began my research around 2010, so it seemed like something timely to do. I don’t like rehashing well-worn historical events – a legacy of my time studying with Richard Stites; I prefer new stories, and there was nothing in English on the topic and only a handful of oral histories in Spanish.

Spanish Pioneers with the Puño Salute at the Artek Pioneer Camp

With my curiosity piqued, I sought to understand why the USSR accepted nearly 3,000 refugee children from the Spanish Civil War. Refugees typically trek to contiguous countries hoping to soon return to their homeland. Refugees also are typically neglected by their “host” countries, as was the case in Britain and France for the niños. In the Soviet Union, however, the children arrived in sea-side resorts like Artek, were housed in deluxe hotels, and eventually studied in well-appointed boarding schools that far exceeded the conditions of their Soviet counterparts.

As I read through the oral histories that began to be collected about fifty years after the dislocation, I was amazed at the glowing terms with which most of the Spaniards described their time in the USSR. “It was like paradise,” said one child, “after living in hell.” Phrases like this forced me to consider why this was, especially because the Spanish children had to live through the horrors of WWII and the Nazi invasion. As engaging as the memories of the children are, they could not tell me anything about Soviet intentions and they are almost silent on educational practices. This shouldn’t surprise us; our memories tend to recall moments of joy and sadness and rarely the prosaic and banal pedagogical strategies employed by a geography teacher. I therefore moved from the conclusions of other scholars’ oral histories to investigate the causation for those memories.

Embassy of Vietnam (formerly Home No. 7)

As I read in the nearly untouched archival files, it eventually became clear. The Soviet system of “non-Russian” education in which children learn Russian as a second language and their subjects in the native tongue, when applied to the niños, created a hybrid identification I call Hispano-Soviet. The niños’ national cultural values – their Hispanidad – of language, song, dance, and more blended with Soviet values of comradery, hard work, patriotism (for two homelands now), friendship of peoples, and much more. In short, the boarding schools for Spanish children fostered the “national in form, Soviet in content” that was typical for the era.

When we examine the educational practices in the schools, we find a blend of uniquely Soviet approaches like the “non-Russian” education above with the more widely modern educational practices common in democracies and dictatorships of disciplining bodies and minds while instilling patriotism in young minds. Most of these primarily poor working-class kids, particularly the girls, would have had little to no access to education in Franco’s Spain. Soviet boarding schools taught them how to stand in line, wash hands and linens, and respect people in positions of authority. Time discipline came in the form of thoroughly scheduled days that moved students through study, meals, and leisure. The most important part of disciplining bodies was the regular health care that took pains to inoculate, provide adequate diets, and to control epidemics.

Patriotism, in this case patriotism for two countries, took place primarily but not exclusively in the classroom. History, geography, and politics courses taught about the Soviet and Spanish experiences. But even in the sciences students would study flora and fauna and natural resources of the Soviet Union that was then used to explain the country’s abundance. Frequent visitors to the children’s homes – including artists, military officers, and heroes like aviator Valery Chkalov – spoke with the children about how the regime’s investment in them had allowed them to do great things for others. Role modeling like this became a seminal tool for remolding the Spanish children and youth much as it was for Soviet students more generally.

Soviet Officer Visits with Spanish Children and Youth

Even during the 1941 arduous evacuation deep into the Soviet interior to avoid the Nazi advance, Soviet educators did all they could to maintain proper schooling. With teachers mobilized to the front, educational materials in short supply, ink freezing in the Siberian cold, and local officials reluctant to provide food and shelter, the niños’ lives took a turn for the worse. Many had to resort to theft to survive. Three remember finding their blind camel dead in the snow and finally having meat in their diet. Adolescents left the boarding schools to take jobs in factories, and many tried to enlist in the Red Army to fight the fascists, seeing WWII as a continuation of the Spanish Civil War. As the war came to a conclusion and they returned to homes outside Moscow, the youngest of the original refugees again felt the largess of the regime with well-appointed schools and regular outings to the zoo, museums, the Bolshoi, parks, and more. Unlike their older peers who went into factories during the war, these younger Spaniards increasingly entered higher education and became professionals, some assisting Fidel Castro in rebuilding Cuba, others becoming prize winning Soviet artists and athletes.

Those who chose to return to Spain as relations normalized in the mid-1950s found that their Sovietness was at least as important as their Hispanidad. Women in particular realized that in this case western Europe was backward because Francoist misogyny prevented them from using their professional training. Many highly trained men also became laborers instead of leading the professional lives they had in the USSR. The obscurantism of the Catholic church and its support for Franco’s abuses led many of these former refugees to return to their “second homeland,” the Soviet Union.

There was a long journey to completing this research. I had to teach myself a new language (Spanish), retrain from an urban historian to an historian of education, childhood, and nationality policy. My knowledge of the Spanish Civil War was spotty, so I had a lot of catching up to do there as well. I thought these sacrifices were worth it because I had so much archival material that was begging to be interpreted by someone.

Stalin’s Niños came about completely by accident, but it complicates our notions of Soviet educational policy, national identification and nationality policy, and commitment to internationalism. Equally importantly, it places the oral histories and handful of memoirs into a historical context, moving beyond aging memories to explore Soviet intentions and practices, successes and failures.

Quite surprisingly, Stalin’s Niños can teach us how to treat refugees, and especially refugee children, more humanely. “Relief” organizations are only now beginning to understand that refugees need to have their dignity as human beings affirmed and restored. This comes from education and meaningful work. Warehousing refugees in camps and children in cages dehumanizes them. The Spaniards’ overwhelming, although not exclusive, praise for their Soviet upbringing reminds us that refugees can become friends, allies, and essential contributors if only given the opportunity.


Karl D. Qualls is the John B. Parsons Chair in Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of History at Dickinson College.

 

Epidemics and the Modern World

Epidemics and the Modern World surveys the role of significant infectious diseases in history from the Black Death of the fourteenth century to the Zika virus in the early twenty-first century. In light of the recent coronavirus outbreak, author Mitchell Hammond discusses how epidemics are a distinctively modern problem as well as a topic of historical interest.


In 1972, two leading virologists, one of whom had won a Nobel Prize, suggested that “the most likely forecast about the future of infectious disease is that it will be very dull.” In Western countries, at least, infectious disease seemed to be on the run after the introduction of antibiotics, the expansion of childhood immunizations, and the success of campaigns against smallpox and polio. Many experts glimpsed a bright future.

Now this optimism seems very distant. Even before the SARS virus appeared in 2003, many scientists agreed that the world was entering a new era of so-called “emerging infectious diseases.” The outbreak caused by the coronavirus—a pathogen that resembles SARS in many respects—reminds us that infectious diseases pose a distinctive set of challenges for the modern world.

Humans have always had diseases, but we have not always had epidemics or pandemics as we understand them today. Before the later nineteenth century, some diseases certainly spread widely but it was difficult to discern their movement over large distances. A turning point was reached in 1889, when the so-called “Russian flu” began several sweeps around the world. Steamships and railroads transported pathogens swiftly across oceans and continents. The flu could be followed more or less in real time because lines of telegraph cable were knitting the world together. This was a modern pandemic—an episode in which microbes and ideas simultaneously spread independently around much of the world.

Our many experiences with the coronavirus today similarly remind us that epidemic diseases are not a holdover from a primitive past when humans were defenseless against natural forces. On the contrary, today’s new infections arise from a world in which organisms and landscapes have been shaped to suit human purposes. Massive use of antibiotics, farming on an industrial scale, and deforestation are some activities that increase exposure to pre-existing pathogens and the evolution of novel pathogens. Once an infection has human consequences, diseases spread faster than ever because the pace and scale of travel have never been greater. The forces that spread disease are not limited to one location or group of people. Pandemics reveal us, all of us, to ourselves. As Ron Barrett and Georg Armelagos recently put it: “microbes are the ultimate critics of modernity.”

Image 2.1 from Epidemics and the Modern World: Mary and the Christ child with pox sufferers.

Another lesson relates to the objectives that I had for this book and my courses at the University of Victoria. Just as we explore today’s emerging diseases with the best tools available, our knowledge of past epidemics is enriched when we incorporate insights from the natural sciences. Epidemics and the Modern World attends to science with focus boxes that develop key concepts at greater length. For example, genomic data gathered from corpses has transformed our understanding of the impact of bubonic plague in Eurasia and Africa after 1348. Studies of arthropods, including hundreds of mosquito species, inform our view of how diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, or Zika virus disease might affect our future.

Such investigations do not answer all our questions, and we cannot accept scientific claims uncritically, especially with respect to the distant past. However, a fuller understanding of both human and non-human biological forces can steer us away from superficial explanations of events. In particular, it can steer us away from stereotypes about how certain societies or peoples bear more responsibility for epidemics than others. The forces that drive the emergence of new diseases today are global forces that belong to everyone.

I finished writing Epidemics and the Modern World before anyone had heard of the new coronavirus. I write this post without knowing what will ensue in the short and long term. But it is clear that epidemics not only influence our modern world, they manifest its essential character.


Dr. Mitchell L Hammond is a professor in the Department of History at the University of Victoria.

To read the the Introduction of Epidemics and the Modern World, click here.

Kuhn, Paradigms, and Aristotle’s Physics

Although Aristotle’s contribution to biology has long been recognized, there are many philosophers and historians of science who call him the man who held up the Scientific Revolution by two thousand years. In this post, Christoper Byrne, author of Aristotle’s Science of Matter and Motion, criticizes these views, including that of Thomas Kahn, a well-known historian and philosopher of science, who was one of many historians that labelled Arisitotle of being the great delayer of natural science.


By Christopher Byrne

In his 1987 essay, “What Are Scientific Revolutions?,” Thomas Kuhn wrote that he came up with his idea of a scientific paradigm by reflecting on what was for him the enigma of Aristotle’s physics. On the one hand, Kuhn wrote, Aristotle clearly made significant contributions to logic, biology, and several other fields; on the other hand, Aristotle’s physics was worthless from the point of view of later physics – indeed, held up progress in physics – and contained many errors of logic and observation. Still, Kuhn wrote, given Aristotle’s contributions to logic and biology, the failure of his physics cannot be explained just by scientific incompetence on his part. Thus, we are faced with the puzzle of understanding how someone could be so good at logical reasoning and the minute inspection of biological organisms, but so wrong about the behaviour of physical bodies in general. It could only be the case, Kuhn concluded, that the basic beliefs about nature that had served Aristotle so well in his biology had fundamentally occluded his judgment when he turned to physics. More generally, Kuhn argued, Aristotle’s physics showed that beliefs about nature are not held piecemeal, but are part of a connected system. Claims about nature that by themselves seem arbitrary and wrong-headed, make sense within the context of a more general set of principles. Thus was the concept of a scientific paradigm born, as well as the attendant belief that scientific revolutions involve exchanging one scientific paradigm for another.

Kuhn admits that his view of Aristotle’s physics was the standard one at the time. One finds similar accounts of Aristotle in Sarton’s A History of Science (1952), Sambursky’s The Physical World of the Greeks (1956), Butterfield’s Origins of Modern Science (1957), and Westfall’s The Construction of Modern Science (1977). All of these accounts have in common the view that Aristotle’s account of nature is thoroughly qualitative and teleological, that is, that all change in nature involves the exchange of contrary qualities in perceptible objects, one of which is the distinctive perfection of the object undergoing the change and the other some type of deficiency in that kind of thing. Thus, every change is either a movement toward a telos, or final cause, or a movement away from that telos; in the first case, the change is natural, in the second, violent. Either way, all change in nature must be understood in relation to the specific perfection of the thing undergoing the change.

Kuhn took this interpretation of Aristotle’s physics to its logical conclusion; in so doing, he made clear its many flaws. Perhaps the best example of the way this interpretation misconstrues Aristotle is found in what Kuhn says about Aristotle’s account of locomotion. Kuhn argues that for Aristotle locomotion is a qualitative change; a change of place is a change of quality. Thus, place must be a quality. The difficulty, however, is that the qualities of perceptible objects move with them; examples of such qualities given in Aristotle’s Categories include colour and temperature, possessing a natural capacity or an acquired skill, say, an athletic ability, and properties such as being healthy or ill, and hard or soft. Place, however, does not belong in the category of quality; in his Categories, Aristotle lists the category of place separately from that of quality. He also explicitly states in his Physics that the place of an object does not move with it; on the contrary, a place has to remain and not move with the body that occupied it if one body is to replace another body in the same place. Thus, from the point of view of Aristotle’s Categories and Physics, claiming that a place is a quality is not only wrong, but a category mistake.

Kuhn made similar mistakes with respect to the role of matter as the substratum of change in perceptible objects and the scope of teleological explanation in Aristotle’s physics. I leave it to others to consider whether scientific revolutions are properly understood as paradigm shifts. I will also suspend for the moment the question of whether a set of causal principles and basic ontological commitments constitute what Kuhn calls a scientific paradigm. I do argue, however, that Kuhn was deeply wrong about the principles of Aristotle’s physics.

Learn more about Aristotle’s Science of Matter and Motion


Christopher Byrne is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy at St. Francis Xavier University and author of Aristotle’s Science of Matter and Motion

 

From the Archives to the Bookstore: Writing the History of the American Canoe Association Encampments

Canoe and Canvasoffers a detailed portrait of the summer encampments of the American Canoe Association between 1880 and 1910, and is particularly concerned with how gender, class, and race shaped these annual events. In this post, author Jessica Dunkin discusses why the canoe is such a fascinating subject to her and why her research led her to some fascinating insights into canoeing and the colonial histories behind it.


By Jessica Dunkin

I became a historian in the basement of Bata Library at Trent University. I was enrolled in a third-year course on Canadian women’s history for which Professor Janet Miron had assigned a research paper based on primary sources. I found my way to the Trent University Archives (TUA), where Bernadine Dodge and Jodi Aoki shepherded me through the process of identifying and working with archival sources. The focus for that paper was early girls’ summer camps in Ontario – TUA is home to the records of the Ontario Camping Association – which remained a topic of interest for me as a Master’s student and which ultimately directed me towards the canoe as a subject of study for my doctoral dissertation.

Adirondack Museum (now the Adirondack Experience), 2009. Image by Jess Dunkin

The canoe is, of course, a massive topic. I had proposed to study the history of women and canoeing to the Graduate Committee in the Department of History at Carleton University. It was in the archive, specifically the Adirondack Museum Archives (now the Adirondack Experience) in Blue Mountain Lake, New York, that I came up against the impossibility of this project, but was also gifted a more manageable topic.

The Adirondack Museum, at that time, had bound copies of Forest and Stream magazine, which during the late nineteenth century enthusiastically supported and documented the activities of the American Canoe Association (ACA), a voluntary society founded in 1880 to bring together canoeing enthusiasts from across the continent; in spite of its name, it had a sizeable Canadian membership in the early years. As I turned the periodical’s large yellowed pages, I had my first glimpse of the organization’s summer encampments.

Beginning in 1880, the ACA hosted an annual gathering at out of the way, if not entirely wild places on both sides of the Canada-US border. For two to three weeks in August, canoeing enthusiasts from Toronto, Philadelphia, Montreal, Boston, and many places in between came together to sleep in tents, socialize, and sail and paddle canoes. I soon realized that these events, which usually featured a multi-day regatta, excursions, campfires, spectacles, and more, offered an opportunity to consider the social worlds that grew up around canoes and by extension the politics of sport and leisure.

From the archives in Blue Mountain Lake, I found my way to Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut, and the New York State Historical Association (now the Fenimore Museum) in Cooperstown, New York, both of which boast sizeable collections of ACA records and ephemera; the archives at Mystic Seaport have 43 boxes and 8 volumes dating from 1881 to 1987, while the Research Library at the Fenimore Museum has 5.5 cubic feet and six oversize folders of materials covering 1879–2009. These collections, which are primarily composed of official records like meeting minutes, annual reports, and correspondence, provided the scaffolding for the project. The texture of the meets came from a thorough search of newspapers local to the event sites (the ACA set up camp in 15 different locations between 1880 and 1902 before establishing a permanent encampment on Sugar Island in the Thousand Islands in 1903).

While it was a pleasure to visit small repositories on both sides of the border to look through old newspapers, you can imagine my joy when I stumbled upon New York State Historic Newspapers, a free, searchable, full-text database of upwards of 400 newspapers, dating from 1795–2014. This website, which currently has more than 9.5 million periodical pages, enabled me to cast a much wider net (sixteen of the pre-1903 meets were held in the Empire State and even when the encampment was elsewhere, New York State newspapers from communities large and small reported on the event), which in turn allowed for a more nuanced understanding of the encampments. Consider, for instance, this excerpt from an 1896 issue of the Syracuse Evening Herald: “The events in which the ladies participated excited more than usual interest. The contests though short were watched from start to finish by an eager throng, who with craning necks and shouts of encouragement for the various favorites, cheered the contestants on.” Whereas a regatta programme indicates the existence of women’s races, periodical accounts tell us something about the meaning and significance of those races.

“The Sneak-Box Mess: Camp of the Brooklyn Canoe Club,” 1887. Image by Seneca Ray Stoddard

I came to know the encampments in different ways through photographs. The ACA Collection at the Fenimore Museum includes more than 500 images gathered by C. Bowyer Vaux. Many of these photographs were taken by Seneca Ray Stoddard, a well-known nineteenth-century photographer who was a familiar face at the ACA meets from 1881 to 1896, but Vaux also collected images from other commercial and amateur photographers. Taken together, these photographs at once support and subvert dominant narratives about the ACA encampments. They played a particularly important role in revealing and reconstructing the labour that enabled the annual events, which is the subject of Chapter Eight in my book, and disrupting the notion of the meets as exclusively spaces of white, middle-class leisure. This Stoddard photograph, for instance, was the first one I saw documenting the presence of a Black person at the encampments. It inspired me to pay closer attention to other visual and textual sources.

A rich and eclectic library of secondary literature helped me to make sense of what I was reading and seeing in the archive. One of the joys of this project was being able to read widely about topics as disparate and related as middle-class foodways and interior design, liberalism, circuses and minstrelsy, waste management, Indigenous craft production, and boat design and amateur sport. What emerged from this entangling of past and present sources and thinking was an account of an annual event that tells us as much about the significance of sport and leisure in the late nineteenth century, both for individuals and for society, as it does about the ACA and canoeing.

I came to this project as an avid canoeist and I remain one to this day, but I understand the canoe and myself as a paddler in different ways as a result of this research. White settlers appropriated the canoe, eventually transforming it into a craft and, enabled by colonial policies of dispossession and assimilation, they paddled and sailed at their leisure. I have benefitted from these same policies, though I did not see that until I began to study the canoe. Understanding colonial histories of the canoe has not only re-shaped my approach to canoeing as a physical and ethical practice, but it has also inspired me to find ways to support the resurgence of Indigenous canoeing traditions in the place that I now call home, Denendeh.

***

Jessica Dunkin is an independent scholar based in Yellowknife, NT. To find out more about Jessica, you can visit her website.


To find out more about Canoe and Canvas, click here.