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Mary-Ellen Kelm

The CHA Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History Prize


Mary-Ellen Kelm. Colonizing Bodies: Aboriginal Health and Healing in British Columbia, 1900-1950. (UBC Press).
In this well written book Dr. Kelm considers the encounter between Euro-Canadian and Aboriginal people in British Columbia by examining matters of health and healing. While the effects and the deficiencies of the provision of health services to First Nations communities is not a new topic, Dr. Kelm’s study offers novel perspectives on a variety of questions. She suggests that the health of the native body became a central issue in the province, and that differing concepts of health and healing practices, some native, others endorsed by Canadian government officials, sometimes clashed, but also co-existed within First Nation communities.
The book is based on a wide range of secondary readings on the body, colonialism, ethnohistory, archaeology and medical history. Dr. Kelm also makes effective and sensitive use of first-person narratives and interviews with elders. She discusses contrasts between the evidence generated by different kinds of source material, and avoids privileging one over another. Altogether, Colonizing Bodies makes an important contribution not merely to the subject of the history of native health in Canada, but to the more general topic of the cultural construction of colonialism.

Honourable Mentions:
Donald H. AveryThe Science of War: Canadian Scientists and Allied Military Technology during the Second World War. (University of Toronto Press).
Dr. Avery’s book fills a notable gap in the history of the Canadian scientific contribution to World War II. The topic is large and daunting, but Dr. Avery succeeds here in placing the work of Canadian scientists firmly in the larger context of the country’s relations with the United States and Great Britain and the exigencies of war. The book also shows how the efforts of Canada’s scientists were relevant to questions of state security and dissidence that troubled the war years. Conflicting views on the realm of war-making science first raised in the earlier part of the twentieth century continue to exercise scientists and politicians today: Dr. Avery’s book, then, has important relevance to ongoing discussions of the role of the state in scientific research and of conflicts between pure science and morality. The study is based on a solid and well informed reading of official documents and personal papers, and goes some way towards illuminating and making accessible a field that is often viewed as highly technical.

Dominique MarshallAux origines de l’État-providence. (Presses de l’Université de Montréal).
Dr. Marshall’s work on the origins of social welfare in Quebec makes an important contribution to Quebec historiography. Focusing on several legislative programmes introduced to the province in the early 1940s, the book illustrates the complex inter-relationship among the family, society, the economy, reform and the state in the period of the first universal welfare programme in Canada. Marshall argues that the reforms were closely linked to the Duplessis regimes but also to the development of the Quiet Revolution, and that they formed part of a continuing process involving not merely bureaucrats, but also those who administered the laws at government, school board or school levels, as well as parents and their families. The author’s thorough examination of official documents and a well informed review of pertinent secondary literature are revealed in the breadth of approach to questions of cultural and institutional history apparent in the work. Aux Origines de l’état-providence offers a stimulating review of a variety of important subjects relating to the welfare state, government, the family and Quebec society in a period of transition.