The Clio Prizes
Jerry Bannister. The Rule of the Admirals: Law, Custom and Naval Government in Newfoundland, 1699-1832. (Toronto: Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History/University of Toronto Press, 2003).
Jerry Bannister has written a lively and fascinating book that opens up the relatively unknown world of 18th century Newfoundland. Bannister shatters myths of isolation and the despotic nature of naval justice between the Newfoundland Act of 1699 and the establishment of representative government in 1832. The result is the opportunity to think more generally about the nature of law, state formation, governance and political culture as they related to British colonial and naval projects and Newfoundlanders. The book represents a significant reinterpretation of Newfoundland history, and the chronological scope of its coverage, more than 130 years of colonial development, is almost Newfoundland into the new historiography of the First British Empire.
The Rule of the Admirals explores hitherto underutilized court and naval records, and disentangles a complex interrelationship of the state and society. This book suggests that the state in Newfoundland, despite the conclusions of later Whig nationalist historians, passed through a succession of forms that met the needs of the fishery. Bannister argues that this system lasted for over a hundred years because it worked and served the interests of the various parties involved. The book is based on outstanding research in Newfoundland and British sources and the author has chosen to highlight the primacy of legal texts with the inclusion of primary documents at the end of each chapter and a useful notes on primary sources section at the end.
While the existing literature focuses upon the English law and the fisherys economic organization, Bannister points out that much of the law governing social relations within the fishery were local customs that later became codified through formal law. He expertly traces the development of legal apparatus from the days of the Fishing Admirals through the rule of Naval surrogates to the establishment of courts of civil jurisdiction.
Unlike the traditional interpretation, Bannister argues that the Fishing Admirals and Naval authorities provided effective regimes that were well suited to the needs of the local community. As Bannister explains, the Georgian Royal Navy, far from being corrupt and inefficient, managed the largest industrial organization in the Western World. (23). During each transition from one regime to the next, he points out, the victors rhetoric condemned the earlier regime. Bannister follows Keith Matthewss argument that historians have been too quick to accept these judgments as fact.
While demarking the outlines of the shifting legal structures, Bannister argues against the idea that Newfoundland was exceptional and advances a new interpretation of Pallisers Act and a general re-emphasizing the criminalization of servants failure to live up to contractual obligations. This discussion of paternalism and corporal punishment promises to provoke much debate among those who study this pivotal period.
Jean-Philippe Warren. L’engagement sociologique : La tradition sociologique du Québec francophone (1886-1955). (Boral, 2003)
A history but also a sociology of ideas, Jean-Phillippe Warren’s L’engagement sociologique is a remarkable study dealing with an ambitious subject the development of a sociological tradition in francophone Quebec, from Léon Gérin’s stay in France in 1886 to Father Georges-Henri Lévesque’s departure from the deanship of the Social Sciences Faculty of Universit Laval in 1955. Written in a sumptuous style that captivates the reader, no matter how wary of anything scholarly, J.-P. Warrens study raises issue with the familiar bromides on the supposed backwardness of intellectual and scientific life in francophone Quebec. It presents a detailed and erudite analysis of the three schools formed with the institutionalization of sociology, the Le Play School, doctrinal sociology and Laval sociology. He elucidates a discipline less uniform and ramshackle than the one insisted on by those with a preconceived idea about the modernization of Quebec society. The members of the jury of the 2003 Clio Prize, Quebec section, recognize the consistent sensitivity to and successful implementation of an interdisciplinary dialogue between sociology and history. Jean-Phillippe Warren’s L’engagement sociologique is a work that will significantly mark the field of intellectual history, and contribute strongly to the investigation of the subject of science as social practice. It is with great delight the kind that comes from the pleasure of knowledge that the members of the jury unanimously award the 2003 Clio Prize, Quebec section, to Jean-Phillippe Warren and his innovative study.
Terry Crowley. Marriage of Minds: Isabel and Oscar Skelton Reinventing Canada. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, Studies in Gender and History series, 2003).
Terry Crowley’s Marriage of Minds makes an important contribution to intellectual and political history and to the gender history of Canada. It successfully crafts together these diverse frameworks for narrating the lives and careers of two prominent Ontarians. Unusually, it gives equal weight to female and male protagonists, the professor turned mandarin and the literary author, exploring their conceptions of self and nationhood. Husband and wife bob and weave through constitutional crises, everyday political confrontations, intellectual disputes, and the dramas of domestic life. With its analysis of the development of nationalist identity in the late 19th and early 20th century, the book helps us to understand the polity through the eyes of individuals, as intellectuals and also as people shaped by family and gender expectations. Marriage of Minds proves conclusively that social history can help us better understand the nation.
Raymond J. A. Huel. Archbishop A.-A. Taché of St. Boniface: The Good Fight and the Illusive Vision. (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2003).
Raymond Huel’s Archbishop A.-A. Taché of St. Boniface: The ‘Good Fight’ and the Illusive Vision is the first scholarly biography of this central figure in western Canadian history, whose views provide unique and rich insight into the founding events of Manitoba’s history. Alexandre-Antoine Taché, born and raised in Québec, was the first Oblate missionary to come to western Canada in 1845. He was the first of his congregation to be ordained, he served as a missionary to Chipewyans in Ile-à-la-Crosse, he was the first Oblate bishop in the northwest, and he was the first archbishop of Saint-Boniface. By the time Taché died in 1894, he had played a major role in negotiating a peaceful settlement of the Red River Insurrection and helped shape the early years of the province of Manitoba. Archbishop Taché’s central wish during his career was to create a “sister province” of Quebec in the northwest, and cement Canada as a bilingual and bicultural nation. Although Taché’s vision proved illusory, he fought long and hard to promote French and Catholic interests in the region, encourage French Canadian immigration, and protect the rights of the Métis.
Huel’s biography provides a nuanced portrait of Archbishop Taché in an array of contexts, including as a young missionary, a maturing bishop, a hardened archbishop, a passionate politician, an efficient bureaucrat, and a homesick son. Huel’s work is important in a number of regards. He illuminates a mostly unwritten chapter in early western Canadian history, that of the French, French Canadian, and the Catholic, and their institutional and foundational role in shaping the west. Huel demythologizes Taché and explains the issues that were dear to his heart. The study is thoroughly researched and masterfully constructed, with a good balance between Taché’s “life” and the “times” in which he lived. Huel’s account of Taché’s perspectives on the Riel amnesty question and the school’s question in Manitoba and the Northwest is an especially impressive addition to scholarship. In addition to providing a sensitive and compelling portrait of Taché and the complex worlds through which he moved, Huel also writes more broadly about the benefits and problems associated with the genre of biography, and his thoughtful analysis of sources runs through this biography.
Jean Barman. Sojourning Sisters: The Lives and Letters of Jessie and Annie McQueen. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003).
In Sojourning Sisters Jean Barman stresses the ordinariness of her subjects, two sisters from Nova Scotia who made their way to British Columbia in the late 1880s. Jessie and Annie McQueen were young teachers who took posts in the provinces Interior. They lived in a number of places in BC during the following years, but they remained connected to the Maritimes, at times traveling home for extended periods. The narrative offers intimate knowledge of the womens lives; over five hundred letters to or from the sisters survive, as well as a larger number between their parents and siblings. These letters, covering the period from 1860 to 1930, offer extraordinary insights into feelings and aspirations; the roles of daughters, sisters, and wives; and work and leisure experiences. Life on the British Columbia frontier is seen close up.
Two things particularly elevate this book. First, the book is a pleasure to read. Second, Barman links the lives of these women to the larger process of nation-building, the spreading of assumptions about religion, culture, and race from one coast to another. Here ordinary people were truly constructing Canada.
Ishmael Alunik, Eddie Kolausok and David Morrison. Across Time and Tundra: The Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic. (Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2003).
Northern Canada is engaged in a rich and potentially transformational historiographical exercise. For generations, the writing of northern history rested in the hands of southern-based historians and antiquarians. Only rarely were northern voices and, even more rarely, were indigenous perspectives given more than passing historical attention. That is now changing rapidly, and nowhere more powerfully and dramatically than in the Canadian North.
Across Time and Tundra is an engaging, beautifully illustrated cross-cultural exercise in northern historical writing. The authors represent the diversity of northern historical perspective. Ishmael Alunik contributes as an Inuvialuit elder. Eddie Kolausok is an Inuvialuit land claims negotiator, and David Morrison is an historian with the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The collaboration resulted in a rich blend of historical narrative, perceptive analysis founded on recent scholarship, direct engagement with the issues of the contemporary western Arctic, and the unique insights of Inuvialuit elders.
This book sparkles with insight and understanding of the Inuvialuit of the western Arctic. Where most portraits of the Arctic emphasize the sparseness and isolation of the environment, Across Time and Tundra highlights the deep and abiding connections between the people and their land and, through the words of elders and the well-chosen photographs and illustrations, documents the complex transformations resulting from the arrival of newcomers. Historians and other scholars have, for several decades, learned how to collect information from indigenous peoples. Increasingly, as with this deserving book, indigenous elders, writers and non-indigenous scholars have discovered how to share their insight and to collaborate on projects designed to challenge existing perceptions of the indigenous experience.
Across Time and Tundra is a worthy choice of the Canadian Historical Associations Clio Award for Regional History (The North). The authors are to be commended for their excellent work in bringing the history of the Inuvialiut forward in such an accessible, creative and insightful fashion.