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The Questionnaire to Past CHA Presidents

Happy Birthday to us!


2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Historical Association, formed in 1922 out of the Historic Landmarks Association.

To celebrate this auspicious milestone, the CHA struck an ad hoc committee in 2018 that quickly assembled an ambitious list of projects that, at one point, even included hosting the AGM of the International Committee of Historical Sciences at the Canadian War Museum. Then COVID hit and, like everyone else, we found ourselves navigating the world of Zoom, Teams, and online pedagogies.

Scaling back its ambitions, the CHA commissioned a new – and super cool – 100th-anniversary logo; the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association has organized a handful of panels for the 2022 annual meeting; and we launched The CHA President’s Questionnaire, modelled – very loosely – on Marcel Proust’s famous questionnaire and popular parlour game.

The questions are deliberately open-ended, allowing past presidents to talk about the association, the profession, and their own work. The questionnaires will be published online each month and four at a time in each of the three issues of Intersections in 2022. Except for the one written by our current president Steven High – honour given where honour is due, which will be posted online in January, they will not be published in any particular order. The questionnaires are, we think, a fun way to learn about the CHA and about the people who were chosen by their peers to lead the profession at a particular moment in time.

Reading them gives us insight into the nuts and bolts of the CHA, from building a website and restructuring the office to lobbying the federal government on behalf of historical research and moving the annual meeting online in the middle of a global pandemic.

But their answers also give us insight into the women and men who have led the CHA. Indeed, we discovered new things about old colleagues and what makes them tick intellectually. Most surprising – and rewarding – to us is what they chose as their most meaningful work and why. As E.H. Carr said so many years ago, all history is autobiographical.