The Clio Prizes
Philip Girard, Lawyers and Legal Culture in British North America: Beamish Murdoch of Halifax.
In this nontraditional biography of Beamish Murdock, Philip Girard immerses us in the life of a colonial lawyer in pre-confederation Nova Scotia. It is an insightful recreation of Murdoch’s world, contextualized within the development of the legal profession and a broader colonial legal culture in British North America. Legal culture, he posits, is not comprised of rigid laws and legal institutions. Rather, it is a dynamic terrain that is affected by the ideas and values of a variety of sub-cultures, which are in turn influenced by legal discourse. This dialogic relationship situates the colonial lawyer squarely within the intellectual, cultural, and economic life of his community. Indeed, the colonial lawyer’s non-legal activities were intertwined with his professional identity. Girard describes Murdoch, himself, as a “virtual whirlwind of improving activity,” engaged in journalism, law reform, philanthropy, temperance, municipal and provincial politics, and literary activity. In his major writing, the Epitome, Murdoch explicated a conception of modern liberty that embraced life, freedom, and property, but only to the extent that they could be molded by a representative assembly to protect the public interest. Ultimately, for Murdoch, “the highest form of liberty was not the absence of restraint but the right to participate in free institutions….”
Exploring the development of legal cultures in other colonies in British North America, Girard demonstrates that colonial lawyers shared certain experiences and attitudes towards their roles in their communities. Although rooted in English common law, the legal culture in the colonies was in many ways much more responsive to client demands. And it avoided the British two-tiered, essentially class-based system of legal professionals, comprised of solicitors who dealt with clients and barristers who tended to insulate themselves from their clients. Girard ably demonstrates that Murdoch’s own career, which sprang from humble beginnings, was representative of this colonial adaptation.
Bettina Bradbury, Wife to Widow. Lives, Laws, and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Montreal.
Wife to Widow. Lives, Laws, and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Montreal captures, through the issue of widowhood, how the nineteenth century helped to reshape the space of marital relationships, family and women’s place in society in Montreal. Much more than classic historical reconstruction, Bradbury’s book renews conceptual and methodological perspectives by merging quantitative approaches and those focused on demographic and individual actors and, rarer still, actresses. Behind a complex and efficient web of scales of analysis, the investigation of the ways in which women shaped the city through culture and institutions – precisely because of their exclusion from positions of authority and power which move during the century – brings a new vision.The very title of the book evokes a transition that involves negotiations for individuals, couples, families, institutions whose issues are reflected in the politics of the colonial era. Following two generations of widowed women, one in the 1820s, the other in the 1840s, the study takes us through the entire nineteenth century, a period which disrupts the rules and fates of Ancien regime. Bradbury combines admirably the feminist perspective of history, which articulates the personal and political issues, to the most recent one, which combines the concepts of gender and (post) colonialism. This approach allows her to explore the dynamics of the application of colonial rule in its broad spectrum, whose effects are felt in the private sphere and extend in the now. Finally, the book has, with its particularly mastered formatting as evidenced by the remarkable fluidity of the writing and aside from its universal scope on widows, all the qualities of a monograph of monumental proportions. We are dealing with an exceptionally comprehensive text which is already recognized as a staple in the historiography of Quebec and Canada.
Stuart Henderson, Making the Scene: Yorkville and Hip Toronto in the 1960s
Brilliantly conceived and engaging, Stuart Henderson’s Making the Scene: Yorkville and Hip Toronto in the 1960s, argues that counterculture is performed by actors “within”, not outside, of the cultural process. Yorkville set in the midst of “Toronto the Good” was never merely a hippie haven but was always inhabited by people of differing class, ethnic and ideological backgrounds and affected by the wider society. The actors whether hippies, greasers, bikers or weekenders claimed and negotiated that space as they went about making and remaking the scene. Identities in “The Village” were ill-defined, contradictory and ultimately illusory as Yorkville was transformed from an unassuming ethnic enclave to a lively bohemian haunt then into an increasingly immoral thrill-seeking zone for the disenchanted. Yorkville as synonymous with hippies was but a fleeting and partial reality and by the mid-1970s their streets of counter-culture had become a yuppie shopping boutique Mecca. The author effectively sets this local history within the larger cultural debates and youth movements of the era. He enriches his analysis with aptly chosen theoretical perspectives and contributes to the literature on counterculture, authenticity, space and performance. He combines a sensitive and critical reading of media and written sources with oral interviews and thereby captures the voices of musicians, deviants, shop-owners, stodgy middle class mid-lifers, social workers, politicians and tourists. Yorkville became a cultural attraction, a media obsession influencing the younger generation across the province and the nation. It became the meeting point for a wide range of young people who flocked there to either observe or make the scene. This book is a masterful piece about an important episode in Canadian youth culture and ideological history.
Shannon Stunden Bower, Wet Prairie: People, Land and Water in Agricultural Manitoba
Shannon Stunden Bower’s Wet Prairie: People, Land and Water in Agricultural Manitoba is an exemplary bioregional history, representative of the flourishing field of environmental history in Canada. It probes the history of seemingly unproblematic efforts to drain the wet prairie of southern Manitoba to facilitate agricultural settlement. Stunden Bower employs sophisticated political and social analysis to explore the nature of liberalism, state development, and colonization in this region of the prairie West. As John Gunther claimed sixty-five years ago, “touch water and you touch everything” (John Gunther, Inside U.S.A., New York: Harper, 1947, p. 214). Settlers in Manitoba faced the unpredictable and variable conditions of the wet prairie, and attempted to solve problems associated with ever-changing levels of water on the land through various forms of intervention in the prairie landscape: without altering the terrain to control water, commercial agriculture was extremely difficult. White settlers living in Manitoba’s ‘low country’, however isolated and distanced in terms of ethnicity and culture, tended to link with one another to mobilize government action. At the same time, the situation of Aboriginal communities was largely ignored. State investment in water management was enormously complex and expensive, placing intellectual, financial and administrative burdens on successive municipal and provincial governments. Governments and individuals slowly came to realise that water did not respect individual notions of ownership, political boundaries imposed on the land, or colonists’ determination to cultivate grains. While some water management strategies enjoyed a measure of success, they also left their own legacy of unintended environmental change.
Wet Prairie challenges our notion of the meaning of ‘prairie’ agriculture and settlement, with which an excess of water is rarely associated. It explains the history of this region not only in light of its water flows, but explores the significance of water and environment to Manitoban society to the present day, where relations between urban Winnipeg and rural agricultural districts have been timed to the incessant flood and water problems of the region, and multicultural communities have established particular, if not unique, forms of cooperation. It is a book suggestive of the valuable contribution of ‘environment’ to our understanding of the diversity of the prairie past and present.
Timothy J. Stanley, Contesting White Supremacy: School Segregation, Anti-Racism, and the Making of Chinese Canadians
A complex, sophisticated, and substantial piece of empirical and theoretical scholarship, Contesting White Supremacy makes an important and unique contribution to the history of British Columbia.Timothy Stanley clearly shows the multiple and subtle ways in which racist thinking was established and then reinforced and reworked in the structure of social, political and cultural life in British Columbia. In doing so, he demonstrates the extent to which anti-Chinese racism is central to the construction of British Columbia as a place, and how colonization, dispossession and disenfranchisement were interconnected in colonial state formation.From the central narrative of a student strike in 1922-1923, Stanley places the experience of Chinese-Canadian students and their parents in Victoria at the centre of the story, while also attending to larger questions about the history of racialization in other parts of the province. The title, Contesting White Supremacy, points to an underlying theme: that Chinese immigrants, other racialized groups, and white allies constantly contested those who sought a “white man’s” province. This one of the few scholarly books on the history of Chinese communities in British Columbia to use Chinese language sources, which helps to make this a breakthrough book in the field and a nuanced and complex historical project. Complementing the rich archival research is Stanley’s use of critical race theory, which highlights the constructed nature of racialization and the complex and multiple histories of various Chinese communities in British Columbia. His attentiveness to the ways in which ‘Chineseness’ and ‘Chinese-Canadian’ were constructed, claimed and re-worked contributes a great deal to understanding the complex process of how racialized groups actively engaged with the colonial state. This book is a welcome addition to the history of race in British Columbia and speaks to scholars interested in colonialism, the comparative history of racialization, the construction of whiteness, state formation, and anti-racist education and pedagogy.
Lifetime Achievement – Julie Cruikshank
Julie Cruikshank has made a profound contribution to the field of northern history through a lifetime of scholarship devoted to Aboriginal oral tradition primarily in the Yukon Territory. Cruikshank’s work is significant for its pioneering incorporation of Athapaskan and Tlingit views of non-linear time and history, effectively challenging the notion that oral stories are merely supplementary evidence meant to augment traditional archival studies and linear historical narratives. Cruikshank’s work has also stretched disciplinary boundaries, deepening our understanding of place, culture and time in northern Canada by effectively linking approaches from history, geography and anthropology. Currently a Professor Emerita in the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Cruikshank’s work has constantly challenged her readers to account for the ways that the competing indigenous and colonial assumptions about the nature of knowledge inevitably shape our historical understanding of northern Canada. Cruikshank has published four books over her career. The first, Life Lived Like a Story (1990), is the product of an extended period of residence in the southern Yukon and a close collaboration with three elders: Angela Sidney, Kitty Smith, and Annie Ned. The book was awarded the CHA’s Macdonald Prize in 1991. Her next book, Reading Voices: Dan Dha Ts’edenintth’e (1991), was a commissioned work designated for teaching purposes at the secondary level in the Yukon. The 1998 volume, The Social Life of Stories, is a significant collection of essays on the nature of knowledge within the oral tradition. It embraces diverse themes including oral narratives on the Klondike Gold Rush, the incorporation of traditional environmental knowledge into policy processes, and the cultural politics of the Yukon International Storytelling Festival. Cruikshank’s most recent volume, Do Glaciers Listen? (2005), is a study of the production of environmental knowledge (specifically the representation of glacial ice) among northern explorers and indigenous communities that was awarded the CHA’s Clio North Prize and two prizes from the American Anthropological Association: the Victor Turner Price in Ethnographic Writing and the Julian Steward Book Award. Add to this collection of books an impressive list of published articles, book chapters, and awards, and it is clear that Cruikshank is among the most prolific and important historians working in northern Canada over the last three decades.