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Sarah Elvins & Janis Thiessen


Best Scholarly Article in Canadian Business History



Sarah ElvinsSarah Elvins, “Lady Smugglers and Lynx-Eyed Customs Agents: Gender, Morality, and Cross-Border Shopping in Detroit and Windsor”. CHR, Volume 101 Issue 4, December 2020, pp. 497-521

This article offers a brilliant look at what Canadians and Americans have historically viewed as consumer necessities, and why. It also enables in-depth understandings of the lengths to which many consumers have gone to obtain foreign goods. By showing that Canadians and Americans regularly crossed the Detroit-Windsor border to buy items on each side between 1900 and 1960, Elvins reveals that when it came to material entitlement, consumers in both countries viewed their own countries’ laws as irrelevant. Ignoring customs regulations and risking fines, female shoppers, especially, purchased such items as meat, butter, and clothing on both sides of the border, and attempted to smuggle such items home, in a variety of ways. Revealing not only the gendered aspects of cross-border shopping, but also the motivations compelling such shoppers to break laws, this article makes a highly original and innovative contribution.

Janis Thiessen 202IJanis Thiessen, “The Narrative Turn, Corporate Storytelling, and Oral History: Canada’s Petroleum Oral History Project and Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action No. 92”. Enterprise and Society, 20, 1 (March 2019): 60-73.

This is an excellent, necessary, and important article on the pressing need for business historians to engage with the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada: Calls to Action report, particularly the call to action number 92, on the importance of adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a “reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and … activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources.” In particular, argues Thiessen, corporate historians must engage in oral history work with Indigenous Peoples. Such partnerships will help reveal the role that business has played in resource development on Indigenous lands, and the impacts and profits, among other effects, that such developments have generated. By adopting this 92nd call to action, business historians will offer more critical, thorough, and fulsome histories of the companies and other entities that they study. They will also help to bring the goals of truth of reconciliation more centrally into their research, findings, and practice.