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Mark Salber Phillips

Mark Salber Phillips

The Wallace K. Ferguson Prize


Mark Salber PhillipsOn Historical Distance. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.

On Historical Distance is at once an intellectual history and a contribution to historical theory. Its subtle exploration of a major, understudied historiographical theme ranges with consummate skill from Renaissance Italy through Britain in the Enlightenment and Romantic eras to late 20th-century North America. For each of the countries and periods he considers, the author displays deep familiarity with the specific scholarly context as well as with the relevant discursive evidence. Examining literary history, art history and historical fiction as well as historical narrative as modes of representation, the book displays a deep and truly masterful exploration of three different historical eras. Written with subtlety and grace it offers profound insight into what it means to think about and write about history. It is a book that speaks to every practitioner of our discipline.

Shortlisted Books
Timothy BrookMr Selden’s Map of China: Decoding the Secrets of a Vanished Cartographer. Anansi, 2013.
Ian K. SteeleSetting All The Captives Free: Capture, Adjustment, and Recollection in Allegheny Country. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013.

Podcast: Historical Research on Canada and Beyond
For the first time the winners of the two highest distinctions given annually by the Canadian Historical Association met for an exchange with the public and between each other. Jim Daschuk, author of the account of the “forced starvation” of aboriginal peoples in the Canadian plains in the 19th century, and Mark Phillips, whose book explores the many ways by which historians and their object are “distant” and close, met for a public conversation on a Saturday afternoon, November 1, 2014 at Ottawa’s City Hall.

Daschuk spoke about the long process of putting this account together, and of the many reactions it has encountered after publications, amongst First Nations and European Canadians, including the uneasy queries of those responsible for the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of John A. Macdonald. Phillips spoke about the genesis of the idea of exploring the relative nature of distance in time and space, between researchers and the people they research. He read the early pages of his writings, and the concluding ones on his personal understanding of the My Lai massacre perpetrated by US soldiers during the Vietnam War, and the attempt to demonize the military officer who denounced it at the time.

The CHA would like to thank Activehistory.ca for posting a recording of the discussion on its website.