The Clio Prizes
Maureen K. Lux, Medicine That Walks: Disease, Medicine, and Canadian Plains Native People, 1880-1940 (University of Toronto Press, 2001).
In Medicine that Walks, Maureen Lux applies innovative frameworks to the exploration of disease among Native peoples on the Canadian plains from 1880-1940. She challenges the virgin population explanation for on-going and widespread pestilence among First Nations well into the twentieth century. European-Canadian settlement on the plains was accompanied by military, economic and cultural invasions, as well as the loss of bison herds and forced settlement on reserves, which led to grinding poverty, malnutrition, and overcrowding. For Native peoples, health was not simply the absence of disease, rather it was a holistic sense of well being –having food, clothing, shelter, and political self-determination. Likewise, the Canadian government equated poverty among Native peoples with ill health. Bureaucrats, missionaries and physicians explained high death rates and continued ill health of plains peoples in the quasi-scientific language of racial evolution, and saw disease as an inevitable stage in the struggle for civilization. This well-researched book draws on oral sources, ethnography, archaeology, epidemiology, ethnobotany, and documentary records, and demonstrates that poverty and poor living conditions allowed disease to spread through Native communities. Yet Native peoples survived and consistently demanded a role in their own health and recovery. This book is more than just a provocative contribution to the existing historiography, it seeks to fundamentally challenge the scholarship over the causes of disease among prairie First Nations communities and over the supposed ensuing decline of Native medicine. This book is especially original in integrating approaches from the history of medicine with Native ideas of health and disease, and reveals a new layer to the interactions between Native peoples and European-Canadians.
Margaret Conrad and James K. Hiller, Atlantic Canada: A Region in the Making (Oxford University Press, 2001).
A distillation of a complex historiography, this is an accessible yet scholarly work by two established historians. Working within the confines of a word limit imposed by the publisher, the authors cover 500 years of regional history in a succinct and graceful fashion. They strike an impressive balance in synthesizing current scholarly work on the region, including archaeological scholarship, in a popular and readable form. The attention payed to different regions within Atlantic Canada is balanced, as is the treatment of the First Nations, ethnic groups and both genders. The inclusiveness of the synthesis, with the diverse experiences elegantly included in both written and visual form, is particularly appreciated. The authors recognize that Atlantic Canada is largely a region only in terms of its relationship with the federal state in the period after 1949 – yet succeed in finding commonalities in the lives of people in the disparate regions that make up what is now the Atlantic provinces. This book, suitable as a text for courses in Atlantic Canada, redresses the imbalance in recent historiography by paying more attention to the pre 1867 period than the post Confederation era. The selection of maps, photographs and illustrations is especially effective – in many cases providing significant information about the past. Those teaching in universities and colleges finally have something that can replace W.S. MacNutts monograph of 1965. On the whole, Atlantic Canada: A Region in the Making is an attractive and effective popular history that should exert a wide influence in academic circles and beyond.
Adele Perry, On the Edge of Empire: Gender, Race, and the Making of British Columbia, 1849-1871 (University of Toronto Press, 2001).
In this scholarly yet colourful study about gender and race in colonial British Columbia, Adele Perry argues that the best efforts of a diverse group of reformers, including missionaries, politicians, and journalists, failed to regulate experience on the edge of empire. The homosocial culture of white males and the relationships between these men and Aboriginal women resisted transformation, and the mass immigration programs and land policies that reformers thought would reshape the colony were never implemented and thus never effected their intended miracle. Rather than remoulding colonial society, the assisted immigration of white women highlighted the discrepancies between imperial intent and practice. In the end, Perry concludes that the organization of British Columbia society occurred through the twinning of the processes of the resettlement of white settlers and the dispossession of indigenous peoples but also that the intertwining of gender and race is the essence of the colonial process in British Columbia. She draws selectively from feminist theory, Marxism, and post-colonial and post-structural theory and merges her insights convincingly when constructing her discussion. This important book fuels and raises to a higher level the debate about gender, race, and class in which British Columbia historians have engaged for three decades, and it will be read – and no doubt argued about – for years to come.
Serge Courville & Normand Séguin (dir.). Atlas historique du Québec. La paroisse (Presses de lUniversité Laval, 2001).
This remarkable study deals with an institution that had a profound impact on the social construction of the landscape and on the sociohistoric evolution of Quebec. Using various approaches, the study gives a brilliant account of the central place of the Roman Catholic parish as the nexus of urban and rural sociability, the locus for a sense of shared socio-cultural belonging, and the meeting place where the abstract reality of the state found expression. The structure of the argument exposes the various components of parochial reality [origin and volution, landscape and organization, medium of life, its expansion outside of Quebec]. The sections on the expansion of parishes outside of Quebec and on relations between parishes and state administration are major contributions to contemporary historiography. Part of the ambitious project of the Historic atlases of Quebec, this volume on the parish testifies will to the heuristic character of the interdisciplinary approach (geography, history, anthropology) of an institution that has been too often reduced to its simplest component. Finally, the cartography and iconography in this book are sumptuous and very effective.
Alexandra Palmer, Couture and Commerce: The Transatlantic Fashion Trade in the 1950s (University of British Columbia Press, 2001).
Couture and Commerce explores the links between Parisian couture houses and the realm of fashion in 1950s Toronto. Alexandra Palmer uses an innovative and creative blend of sources – oral histories, company records, and sketches photographs of couture wear – to bring an often-overlooked dimension of Ontario’s past, that of the history of fashion, into the mainstream of the province’s history. Palmer’s study of couture calls our attention to the significance of ties between Toronto and Europe during this decade. Previous scholarship has traced the links between Ontario, Britain, and the United States; Palmer thus provides new dimensions to our knowledge of Ontario’s position within a wider international spectrum. Couture and Commerce is written in an engaging and accessible style and is also well-grounded in scholarly work in fashion history and material culture. The book’s beautiful illustrations are carefully used to demonstrate consumers’ use of couture clothing. Palmer’s sensitive use of material culture suggests new and exciting directions for Ontario history.
Renée Fossett, In Order to Live Untroubled: Inuit of the Central Arctic 1550 to 1940 (University of Manitoba Press, 2001)
Renée Fossett has produced a work of sincere and insightful scholarship. Her study of the Inuit of the Central Arctic draws on a wide variety of archival and oral sources and is greatly enriched by the insights gleaned from a decade-long residence in the region. In Order to Live Untroubled provides a sweeping analysis of four centuries of Inuit history, providing a chronological and thematic assessment of the transformation of Inuit life in the region. The broad temporal coverage permits the author to assess the pre-contact history and life-ways of the Inuit and to assess the impact of successive waves of Europeans and other outsiders on the peoples of the Central Arctic. She documents the creative manner in which the Inuit reacted to the intrusions and arrival of outsiders and considers the degree to which these external influences affected and, on occasion, attacked the core of Inuit life. The breadth of her research and the balance of Inuit insights and theoretical perspectives gained from an extensive review of the secondary literature makes this a worthy and valuable addition to northern Canadian scholarship. The committee is pleased to recommend Rene Fossett’s In Order to Live Untroubled as this year’s winner of the Regional History Award (Northern Canada) award from the Canadian Historical Association.