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Cameron Willis

Cameron Willis

Best Article Prize in Labour History


Cameron Willis, “‘If You Want Anything, You Have to Fight for It’: Prisoner Strikes at Kingston Penitentiary, 1932-1935” Labour/Le Travail 89 (Spring 2022): 89-145

In this close and considered study of the carceral regime at Kingston Penitentiary in the early 1930s, Cameron Willis draws on exceptionally detailed sources to document a history of prisoner protests and resistance that ran from complaints and grievances to hunger strikes and refusals to work. In the so-called “riot” of October 1932, which began as a work stoppage and ended in violent suppression, the well-organized prisoners produced a manifesto and a series of demands that anticipated later progressive reform. As the inmates generally came from the ranks of young, unskilled and unemployed male workers, this incisive account challenges narratives of exclusion and marginalization and adds an original new dimension to the history of working-class unrest in the Great Depression.

Honourable mention 

L.K. Bertram, “The Other Little House: The Brothel as a Colonial Institution on the Canadian Prairies, 1880-93” Journal of Social History vol. 56 no. 1 (2022), pp. 58–88.

In “The Other Little House: The Brothel as a Colonial Institution on the Canadian Prairies, 1880-93,” L. K. Bertram illuminates a critical and commonly overlooked worksite for the imposition of class, gender, and racial hierarchies in the construction of Canada’s Prairie West. Deftly and engagingly, Bertram demonstrates how the labour of sex workers (white, Indigenous, Black and mixed race) as well as police, settlers, and colonial administrators set white heterosexuality and male privilege at the core of the imperial project. Unruly women and suspect Indigenous and incomer populations were essential but ultimately disposable labourers as Canada sought to secure a turbulent western frontier in the name of civilization and progress.