The Clio Prizes
N.E.S. Griffiths. From Migrant to Acadian: A North American Border People, 1604-1755. Montréal and/et Kingston, Canadian Institute for Research on Public Policy Administration, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005.
Naomi Griffiths has long been recognized as the foremost authority writing on pre-Deportation Acadia in English, and the winner of this year’s Atlantic region CLIO clearly stands as her masterwork. From Migrant to Acadian consolidates and extends Griffiths’ previous interpretation of the Acadian people’’s evolution from the dawn of the 17th century until the days of their deportation during the mid-1750s. With painstaking attention to detail, she explores how a disparate sprinkling of migrants, caught in the nexus of imperial rivalries that alternated malign neglect with ambivalent attention, gradually developed a unique society and identity. The nature of Acadia has long been contested terrain among scholars and writers, so that even its historiography has become the stuff of history. Griffiths’ account everywhere demonstrates an impressive grasp of that literature, past and present, even as it brims with her own considerable scholarship. The result is a rich and subtle synthesis of social, diplomatic, and cultural history, finely attuned to broader imperial contexts and yet situating itself in a post-colonial “identities” framework, where traditional and contemporary themes complement rather than collide. For all of these reasons, From Migrant to Acadian is a remarkable feat of scholarship. Comprehensive in approach, nuanced in treatment, magisterial in tone, it is unlikely to be surpassed in our lifetimes.
Magda Fahrni. Household Politics: Montreal Families and Postwar Reconstruction. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2005.
This study is an important contribution to the social, political and cultural history not only of Montreal, but more broadly of Canada during the immediate post-war period. In particular, it lets us examine from a new angle the intervention of the federal government in the matter of family policy by bringing out the dynamic role played by citizen movements which militated to make the family a public issue of the highest importance. Far from considering this period as one of the liberal imposition of a particular social model, the work is innovative in revealing, through concretes examples, a period of largely ignored negotiations, innovations and controversies. In many respects, the conclusions of this study will force a re-reading of the origins of the Quebec quiet revolution. For example, a larger place will now have to be made for the words of “ordinary people.” The analysis, based on very solid theory and well entrenched in historiography, is supported by remarkably extensive empirical research, as the author uses a wide variety of sources stemming from all components of Montreal society. Inventive in its narrative and methodological progression, clearly and intelligently written, this work is captivating, passionate and convincing.
Isabel Kaprielian-Churchill. Like Our Mountains: A History of Armenians in Canada. Montreal and/et Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005.
Dr Isabel Kaprielian-Churchill’s detailed and mature study is one of the most evocative treatments of the challenges facing an ethnic group in the ‘New World’ that we have read. She combines the approaches of an insider with those of a detached scholar at a very successful and sophisticated level. The Armenian community is never reified: in Dr Kaprielian-Churchill’s hands it is depicted as a complex and sometimes divided group of people who shared common histories (and challenges) but who read those histories in different ways at diverse times. The author is alert to how ethnicity is cross-cut by religious belief, gender, class, and time of arrival. She wears her grasp of the relevant scholarship lightly, and thus the book can be enjoyed by non-academic as well as specialist readers, as is her intention. Dr Kaprielian-Churchill’s research base is formidable, drawing upon a strong collection of primary documents, extensive interviews, and a wide range of secondary sources. Her writing is engaging, and given the nature of the topic, is never too sentimental. Like our mountains: a history of Armenians in Canada is a fascinating account of how one ethnic group coped in Ontario (primarily) over some one hundred years.
Bill Waiser. Saskatchewan: A New History. Calgary, Fifth House, 2005.
Bill Waiser’s Saskatchewan: A New History is a comprehensive description and analysis of Saskatchewan as both a community and province. It not only synthesizes the most recent scholarship on Saskatchewan themes, incorporating significant new research undertaken by the author, but it is also the first provincial history of the prairie provinces to consistently weave First Nations’ experiences into the larger narrative. He does this in interesting and innovative ways. Instead of beginning the book with an analysis of the fur trade and the economies and societies of the Metis and aboriginal peoples, Waiser begins his narrative in 1870 with an account of the territorial ambitions of the colonizers, and their ineffectual and contradictory efforts to remake aboriginals into economic citizens of the new order. This intersection of native, settler, and government narrative trajectories is thus introduced at the outset and forms one of the underpinnings of the rest of the book.
In explaining the social, cultural and economic trends of Saskatchewan’s past, Waiser keeps the focus on the lived history of the province. The book recounts the stories of outstanding individuals and the experiences of the downtrodden. Waiser has a naturalist’s eye for the impact of agricultural change, and he blends a finely tuned grasp of geography with an intimate sense of human adjustment. His examination of local experiences, like the resettlement of farmers from the southwest to northern forests during the Depression, broadens the geographical vision of the province beyond the farmsteads of wheat growers. Another of the book’s strengths is its integration of the north into the larger narrative.
The book is well written, engaging, and very interestingly shaped and organized. It does not blaze any new interpretive trails, but it does make Saskatchewan’s past come alive for both scholarly and popular readers. This is a model centennial history of the province that will stand the test of time.
Christine Wiesenthal. The Half-Lives of Pat Lowther. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2005.
The committee found The Half Lives of Pat Lowther to be both a beautiful and sensitive “life” of the British Columbia poet which deserves a wide readership across the country. In the work, Christine Wiesenthal provides a richly researched portrait of a complicated woman, and offers a much needed and new perspective on the history of the 1960s and 1970s in British Columbia. The committee was impressed by the author’s depiction of Lowther’s impoverished working class life and the stark family and cultural world in which she wrote her poetry. The committee also admired Wiesenthal for her nuanced examination of the details and troubling issues raised by Lowther’s brutal murder and the posthumous development of her reputation as a poet. The Half Lives of Pat Lowther breaks new ground in several areas of British Columbia history. It is a very worthy recipient of this year’s British Columbia Clio award.
Lifetime Achievement Award
William Barr is one of this country’s best historical editors and finest northern scholars. Trained as a geographer, he developed a life-long preoccupation with the history and geography of the Canadian North, exemplified by a series of superbly edited volumes on aspects of northern exploration and adventure. His work has, from the outset, been characterized by attention to detail and a fine scholarly eye for matters of significance. His careful approach to editing and extensive research has ensured that his volumes are first-rate models of the historian’s craft. The introductions to his books are highly significant works of scholarship in their own right, seeking to balance a greater understanding of the individual’s life with an explanation of the broader social, cultural, economic and geographical context within which the explorer or adventurer operated. The meticulous detail in these books — always supplemented by the superbly drawn maps one expects from a geographer — illustrates the depth of Barr’s knowledge and understanding of northern history.
Barr’s body of work includes over 100 scholarly articles and such important books as Overland to Starvation Cove (1987), The Expeditions of the First International Polar Year (1985), Searching for Franklin (1999), and A Frenchman in Search of Franklin (1992), to cite only part of his contributions. His translations of key international works have made important historical documents available in English, thus contributing to the greater understanding of the international interest in, and contributions to, the history of the Circumpolar World. One of his best contributions is From Barrow to Boothia (2002), a finely edited production of the journal of Hudson’s Bay Company Chief Factor Peter Warren Dease that provides much needed critical insight into this long-ignored explorer. His most recent work, Red Serge and Polar Bear Pants (2004), describes the life and times of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer Harry Stallworthy, using extensive family records to provide an unusually detailed discussion of the experience of serving the RCMP in the North.
The diversity of William Barr’s contributions is further demonstrated by his recent translation (from the German) of Wilhelm Dege’s account of the last German Arctic weather station (published in 2004 as War North of 80). William Barr has done much to keep scholarly interest in northern exploration and science alive at time when the study of Arctic discovery and adventure has lost much of its cachet. He has, in the process, provided a series of foundational studies which scholars across a wide variety of disciplines will continue to exploit to great and positive effect. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Saskatchewan and is currently a Research Associate with the Arctic Institute, University of Calgary. William Barr, historian, editor, translator and Circumpolar expert, is the deserving recipient of the 2006 Clio Award for the North from the Canadian Historical Association.