The Clio Prizes
Renée N. Lafferty,The Guardianship of Best Interests. Institutional Care for the Children of the Poor in Halifax, 1850-1960.
The public and private institutions that have played a role of guardian of the poor children of Halifax were guided by what they believed to be the “best interests of the child.” On the other hand, their concept of what their “best interests” was remained vague. Renée N. Lafferty demonstrates in her excellent book, The Guardianship of Best Interests that this concept is very indicative of the changing perceptions towards children, social services and the professions working with children. Lafferty’s study examines the creation and management of institutions for poor children from the mid-19th century until their closure a
century later. These institutions are then abandoned in favor of a system of foster families promoted by the Children’s Aid Society.
Through a dynamic and interesting analysis, the author explores the interaction between these institutions and their environment throughout the period studied. The author notes that the institutions did not care about “saving” children from the worst conditions of poverty. The children had first to be made into “useful and responsible” citizens and thereby meet society’s expectations. To achieve these objectives, the children were separated according to age, gender, religion and race. Even though faced with chronic under-funding, these institutions nonetheless stated to be a
lways looking for the best professional methods of child care.
Lafferty’s article makes a significant contribution to Canadian historiography as it sheds new light on the evolution of social services for children. Previous studies argue that we have gone from an ineffective and often harmful network of institutions run by amateurs to a professional system for host families well supervised by specialists in social work. Lafferty questions this argument and demonstrates that the authorities in Halifax and Nova Scotia had long since developed an approach that combined foster families and care in institutions. In addition, these authorities supported services as well as public and private funding.
Mario Mimeault, L’exode québécois 1852-1925. Correspondance d’une famille dispersée en Amérique.
Through his original research, Mario Mimeault offers a new perspective on the Quebec exodus which will help us reflect upon the migration process. His main source of information, consisting of more than a thousand letters exchanged between 1852 and 1925, traces the migration experience of a French Canadian family of high social status dispersed throughout America. Carefully structured, the study examines several aspects of these exchanges and what they revea: the uses of letters, individual dreams and migrants adjusting to new realities, the family and the reconstruction of identity and sense of belonging in a family in transit. In particular, the author highlights the development, over generations, of a culture of migration within the family.
William Jenkins, Between Raid and Rebellion: the Irish in Buffalo and Toronto, 1867-1916. Montreal and Kingston, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013.
Using an innovative methodological approach which combines social historical methodology with historical geography, this book examines the lives and allegiances of Irish immigrants in Toronto and Buffalo in the period between the Fenian Raids and the 1916 Easter Uprising. Jenkins takes up the challenge of rendering the compelling allegiances of those communities intelligible through his examination of the transformations that took place over the politically-charged period of the narrative. The book is organized into two sections, both of which are grounded in a broad array of sources. In the first Jenkins examines the historical geography of the Irish immigrant experience in both Toronto and its American neighbor Buffalo, two rapidly growing cities that were both major destinations for Irish immigrants. In the second he provides an insightful analysis of the transformations and the ‘prevailing threads’ which run from the immigrants to their descendants. It is a work of remarkable complexity and it is firmly-rooted in the historical scholarship of both the Irish diaspora and Canadian and American politics. At one level, its insightful interpretations and its comparative structure add greatly to our understanding of a commonality of experience. More importantly, however, the subtlety and thoroughness of the argument and the skill of the author as a writer provide a richly nuanced study which accounts for national and transnational influences and for the power of geography as a vital historical determinant.
James W. Daschuk, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life. University of Regina Press, 2013.
James Daschuk’s Clearing the Plains offers a sweeping overview of the health of North America’s indigenous plains societies from pre-contact times through to the end of the nineteenth century. It combines original research with a synthesis of much recent work. Daschuk’s capacity to draw from archaeology, as well as the fields of ethnohistory, historical climatology, biology, veterinarian science and human epidemiology develops a significant new understanding of the pre-history and territorial history of plains aboriginal people and their precipitous demographic losses in the period of colonization. The “clearing of the plains” according to Daschuk, can be traced to the earliest periods of the fur trade, particularly as trade routes, disease pathways and episodic, regional game depletion became more widespread after 1821. In doing so, he sustains the observation that colonial commercial empires linked by market economies transformed as much world ecologies as they did economies. In this case, the realities of people of the Northern Great Plains were changed before colonization began, when the biotic and market impacts of the fur trade significantly altered aboriginal presence, forced bands to reconstitute themselves in new territories, or face subsistence crises aggrieved by climate events and ecological changes. A key contribution of the book links such earlier changes to the territorial period. In a masterful re-examination of the 19th century, Dashuk shows how, as bison disappeared from the plains, the numbered treaties, and later, the construction of the CPR and the events surrounding the 1885 resistance constituted far darker episodes in Canadian history than many appreciate. Dashuk demonstrates that famine, so associated with the treaty and early reserve era, cannot be linked to merely the absence of food in the post-bison period. Plains people bore the shock of the bison crisis to strategize as best as they could through treaties and new agricultural pursuits. However, their worst health crises occurred as famine enveloped reserve life. Food shortages were linked inextricably to the inefficiencies and corruption of rationing programs, insufficient territorial infrastructure and transport, and, especially, governance failures when Indian Affairs programs often store-housed, rather than distributed, food on reserves to populations now weakened by hunger and susceptible to disease.
While the book is self-consciously a work of medical history, it persuades the reader that ill health and disease cannot be separated from political decisions, shortfalls in governance, and racist ideology. In telling detail, Daschuk shows how the latter, in particular, led to malnutrition and epidemic disease in the early reserve period. Highly engaging and accessible to a broad audience, this important and timely re-interpretation of the familiar narrative of western Canada make it most deserving of the Clio Prize.
The prize was not attributed this year
Sean Kheraj, Inventing Stanley Park: An Environmental History (UBC Press, 2013).
Inventing Stanley Park is not just an environmental history of one of Canada’s great urban parks. It is also a story about Canadians’ complicated relationship with “Nature”. On the one hand we like our nature “virgin” and “wild” but we also want it “tidy” and “handy”. Kheraj tells a story of a tongue of land that falls just short of closing the mouth of Burrard Inlet, controlling access to what became Vancouver Harbour and its extension,Indian Arm: a location so strategic that for thousands of years it was home to Coast Salish people and then with the arrival of immigrants was quickly declared a military reserve. Harvested by First Nations and then by sawmill loggers, its strategic military value preserved it from urbanization until invasion threats passed and this much-used landscape was declared a natural refuge. Kheraj documents the interaction of humans and the environment of the park area from its early habitation through the response of Vancouverites to a dramatic blow-down in the park in 2006 focussing on how ideas of park changed over time. His work draws on a rich, recent literature on parks in general and on Stanley Park in particular, but he moves beyond the accepted premise that nature is a human construction and argues that ecosystems are, in their unpredictability and force, a key part of the historical record. He sees the physical environment as an actor that deserves independent attention, and yet cannot be disentangled from human actions in the park. In Stanley Park, Kheraj provides a microcosm of the contentious issues one sees in the creation of larger national parks, including the eviction of Indigenous People and the suppression of subsistence uses, along with the issues of urban parks influenced by the “city beautiful” movement with its bourgeois aesthetic and class components. Drawing on a sophisticated literature this accessible, well-illustrated volume overturns some popular understandings of the park and invites us to see it as a site with multiple histories still being written. It captures the flavour of a quintessential British Columbia landscape and the ongoing debate over how to define and defend it.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Arguably Jean Wilson has had a larger impact on the writing of British Columbia History than any other single person, a claim that is certainly true for the decades 1988-2008.
Jean’s impact on BC history comes not from any book she has written, nor from book reviews or journals she has edited. Jean Wilson has been midwife to hundreds of books of BC History over an outstanding career as Associate Director, Acquisitions of UBC Press. Without her mentoring, encouragement, and support of young scholars, and her even more patient assuaging, cajoling, and arm-twisting of old scholars one cannot imagine in what state the field would be. An astonishing number of the books she acquired have won the major awards in BC (including many Clio Award winners), nationally, and abroad.
When Jean joined UBC Press, it was a troubled publishing house; the university even considered shutting it down. Jean played a key role in rebuilding its reputation and operational structure, turning it into one of the most respected university presses in North America, twice serving as acting director. Jean has become Canada’s foremost editor of western history and is considered by many academics in that field as one of its most learned scholars. She is also leading editor and a recognized authority on native studies. As well, Wilson founded UBC Press’s highly regarded Sexuality Studies series. Retirement from UBC Press in 2008 meant a new role at the University of Manitoba Press, new responsibilities at the journal BC Studies, and more fostering of historical talent.
Jean is one of Canada’s most preeminent editors, universally admired by members of the Canadian book publishing community, and has been an ally to just about every scholar of B.C. history, no matter the field.
Some of the award-winning books on which Jean has worked are:
Julie Cruikshank, Do Glaciers Listen?
Peter L. Stork, Journey to the Ice Age
Cole Harris, Making Native Space
John Lutz, Makúk
B. K. Issenman, Sinews of Survival
Bob McLennan and Karen Duffek, The Transforming Image
Allan Ryan, Trickster Shift
Mary Ellen Kelm, Colonizing Bodies
Other works, which are particularly pertinent titles in BC Studies/History, include (alphabetical by title):
Freeman M. Tovell, At the Far Reaches of Empire: The Life of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra
John Belshaw, Becoming British Columbia
Ruth Sandwell, ed., Beyond the City Limits: Rural History in British Columbia
Melanie Buddle, The Business of Women
Wing Chung Ng, Chinese in Vancouver: The Pursuit of Identity and Power
Richard A. Rajala, Clearcutting the Pacific Rain Forest: Production, Science, and Regulation
Dan Clayton, Islands of Truth: The Imperial Fashioning of Vancouver Island
James Gibson, Lifeline of Oregon Country: The Fraser-Columbia Brigade System, 1811-47
Brett Christopher, Positioning the Missionary: John Booth Good and the Confluence of Cultures in Nineteenth-Century British Columbia
Margaret Seguin Anderson and Marjorie M. Halpin, Potlatch at Gitsegukla: William Beynon’s 1945 Field Notebooks
Cole Harris, The Resettlement of British Columbia
Andrea Laforet and Annie York, Spuzzum: Fraser Canyon Histories 1808-1939
Christopher Mckee, Treaty Talks in British Columbia
Judith Hudson Beattie & Helen M. Buss, Undelivered Letters to Hudson’s Bay Company Men on the Northwest Coast of America, 1830-57
John Hinde, When Coal Was King: Ladysmith and the Coal-Mining Industry on Vancouver Island
Robert Galois, A Voyage to the Northwest Side of America
Patricia A. Roy, A White Man’s Province; The Oriental Question; The Triumph of Citizenship
Chad Reimer, Writing British Columbia History, 1784-1958
Lindsey McMaster, Working Girls in the West
And not to be forgotten are the books in the Pioneers of British Columbia series, listed here: