Saturday, May 26, 2012

Raucous Procession: Montreal Protests and Charivari

Montreal street protest
Flickr xddorox
The spring 2012 Quebec protests have expanded beyond their focus on student tuition hikes in part due to the backlash against Bill 78.  In response to the law, which necessitates police approval for protest and assembly, Quebecois of various backgrounds have taken to the streets armed with various culinary noisemakers.  Banging pots and pans in protest has a long history in the province.  French-Canadians imported these practices from Europe, where the "charivari", a raucous procession used to shame a moral offender, dates back to the Middle Ages.

G. Desplat, Charivaris en Gascogne.1982.Darby's Diary

Brian Palmer outlines the practice of charivari in its earlier European forms in a 1978 article in Labour/Le Travail, "Discordant Music: Charivaris and Whitecapping in Nineteenth-Century North America."  Palmer wrote that, "the demonstration was most often initiated under the cover of darkness, a party gathering at the house of the offender to beat pans and drums, shoot muskets, and blow the ubiquitous horn, which butchers often rented out for the occasion. Sometimes the guilty party was seized, perhaps to be roughly seated on a donkey, facing backwards, and then paraded through the streets, passers-by loudly informed of his/her transgression.  (p.9) The ritual was "most often used to expose to the collective wrath of the community adulterous relationships, cuckolded husbands, wife and husband beaters, unwed mothers, and partners in unnatural marriage."

Palmer notes that in England, the term "rough music" was applied to the ritual, and that if warnings for bad behaviour were not heeded, the procession would set out for the house of the deviant.  "Under the cover of darkness a procession formed, headed by two men with huge cow-horns, followed by an individual with a large old fish-kettle around his neck, representing the trumpeters and big drum of a serious parade. The legendary neo-marxist historian E.P. Thompson described the procession as, "a motley assembly with hand-bells, gongs, cow-horns, whistles, tin kettles, rattles, bones, frying-pans, everything in short from which more and rougher music than ordinary could be extracted.''  Palmer notes that the different forms of charivari in early-modern Europe were "a pre-political form of class action" used for social control.  (p.15).

In North America, the charivari was first prominent in Lower Canada, Lousiana and Alabama (Palmer, p.17)  At times the practice could manifest in racist actions where citizens felt racial boundaries had been overstepped.  On occasion the rite was used as a form of political protest, but Palmer argues this was rare. Palmer notes that around 1890, North American charivari practice died down, replaced in part by white-capping, or vigilante justice against moral offenses.

Allan Greer disagreed with Palmer on the importance of charivari as a mode of political protest.  In his 1990 Social History article "From folklore to revolution: charivaris and the Lower Canadian rebellion of 1837", he notes that the rebellion changed the charivari procession from its traditional role of social protest to more explicit political purposes.  Prior to the rebellion, charivaris were used specifically against marriages which were considered ill-matched.  Yet during the failed uprising of the Patriotes, the charivaris could take a aggressive stance towards local Loyalist officials.

Greer cites the case of one Lieutenant Dudley Flowers of St Valentin, whose house was subject to a particularly violent form of charivari, where the Patriots sought his resignation.  Flowers wrote in 1837,

On the following day (Sunday) about seven in the evening, some sixty or seventy individuals attacked my house a third time in the same manner and with the same threats as on the former occasions but if possible with much more violence, beating kettles and pans, blowing horns, calling me a rebel, saying it would be the last time they would come as they would finish me in half an hour. They had in a short time with stones and other missiles broken in part of the roof of my house and boasted that it would soon be demolished. Fearing that such must inevitably be the case, I opened the door and told them that if four or five of their party would come in and give their names I would give them up my commission. (Greer, p.38)

Flickr: alexsnaps
It appears that it is this form of political protest that has inspired Montrealers to take their pots and pans to the streets.  Some mention has been made of the Chilean cacerolazo protest of the 1970s and 1980s, and a facebook callout linking the Montreal protests to this practice.  It seems odd that charivaris would be downplayed as the logical cultural precursor to this form of protest.

Western Canadian First Nations Midwives

The role of the plains Native midwife is an interesting aspect of aboriginal life, which offers insight into spiritualism, medicine, and early native-newcomer contact. Maureen Lux’s Medicine that Walks: Disease, Medicine, and Canadian Plains Native People, 1880-1940 (2001) is largely a social history of medicine which plots the devastating demographic effects of disease and malnutrition. Lux notes that aboriginal birth has been largely unstudied, due the morbid focus inherent in the tragedy of the early-reserve era.
Glenbow Museum File number: NA-1241-296
Title: Mrs. Thomas Lefthand, Stoney.
Date: [ca. 1940]

Lux notes that many aboriginal midwives were also considered healers with connections to the spirit world. The details of the birthing process show that birth was a group effort.

The mother kneeled with her back against a chest-high support and was attended by three other women. The primary midwife stood behind the mother and supported her; another received the newborn and cut the umbilical cord; the third assisted the other two. To speed the birth of the placenta, hot water was placed under the woman as she knelt. The umbilical cord was cut ‘at a point one hand grip and one thumb’s breadth’ from the abdomen. A light dressing made from the powdery centre of the prairie puffball (Lycoperdon gemmatum batsch) was applied to the navel; this acted as a styptic (Lux, p.92)

The umbilical cord itself was considered a special part of the process. As Blackfoot elder Russell Wright noted,

When a child was born, it was traditional for the midwife to cut the umbilical cord and the child’s aunt or older sister would clean and dry it. Then she made a hide pouch in the form of a turtle or some other animal, beaded it, and sewed the cord inside. The child wore it for the first five years of life at special occasions when people gathered together. The pouch reminded people the child had many parents and everybody was responsible to help the child grow to become worthy to the tribe.

Image No: NA-1271-2
Title: Mrs. Adam Callihou, Metis at Hazelmere, Alberta.
Date: 1955
Remarks: Mrs. Callihou, nee Veronique Gladu, was born at Lac St. Anne in 1856
. First married to Francis Hambler and after his death to Adam Callihou.
 They farmed at Flying Shot Lake, southwest of Grande Prairie, Alberta and
 Mrs. Callihou acted as midwife and nurse for the first settlers in the area.

An interesting cultural facet of the childbirth itself was the expectation that a mother would show no pain. Women were expected not to announce that they were in labour until the last moment. Independence was emphasized and women were to prepare for the moment by themselves. They were to maintain their composure and remain quiet during the birth. (Lux, p.94) Europeans often mistook such control for a painless or effortless childbirth.

File number: NA-1030-4
Title: Mrs. David McDougall.
Newcomers also benefited from the experience of plains Native midwives. In Manitoba, Annie McKenzie McDougall married the trader David McDougall in 1871 and shortly thereafter birthed their first child. She remembered her native friend Mary Cecil acting as her midwife. In the Rocanville district of Saskatchewan, a Cree woman by the name of Bastien acted as midwife to new immigrants. One woman recalled she was the “nearest thing to an angel on earth”. (Lux, 98) Later, in the 1930s, women reportedly used Native midwives when they couldn’t afford going to the hospital.

Midwifery is still an important factor of First Nations life.  The National Aboriginal Health Organization released a series of pamphlets on the subject in 2009.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Wall Street: The Embodiment of Evil in the 1880s

The portrayal of Wall Street as the embodiment of an evil capitalist is as familiar to the reader of 2012, as to an American of the mid-west in the late nineteenth-century.  Russel B. Nye's Midwestern Progressive Politics (1959), notes that it did not take long for the alienated Midwest to strike back against the colonial pressures of "the triple alliance of railroads, banks and tariff-protected industry." (Nye, 12)  Nye noted that

 'Wall Street' became very real to the Midwest as a general term including the entire body of Eastern influence - the moneylender, the high-tariff manufacturer, the market speculator, the railroad king, the trust holder, the mortgage owner.  It might mean Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas city, St. Louis, or Boston as well as New York, but "Wall Street" was a living entity, a major influence in Midwestern thinking after 1865.

The evil Rockefeller depicted in"What a Funny Little Government" Horace Taylor 1899 Haley Ghiringhelli's Blog

One Granger writer wrote of the Midwestern concept of a meeting of the directors of one of these nefarious corporations.  The sinister meeting agenda would read thus:

"Order of Business:
bankrupt farmers,
form new monopoly,
rig market,
fix prices;

Resolutions Passed:
raise interest rates,
lower farm prices,
instruct business through interlocking directorates to raise prices on all goods sold to farmers,
order newspapers to support regular party candidates,
allot money to 'educate' legislatures,
declare dividend,

Nye notes that Midwestern Americans of the late nineteenth-century expressed, "the feeling that the average Midwesterner had entertained for some time, that something (he was not certain what) was riding him hard.  He called it variously the Money Power, the Rich, Invisible Government, Plutocracy, Wall Street, the Trusts, the Interests, or the Gold Bugs." (Nye, 106)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

24 May 1944 Lord Strathcona's Horse CONNOLLY tank casualties

The horrible burning deaths suffered by tank crews in the Second World War, are uncomfortable to comprehend.  The breaking of the HITLER LINE in the Second World War is usually treated as a triumph, but as per usual on the battlefield, tragedy was a part of victory.

Forces canadiennes avançant de la ligne Gustav vers la ligne Hitler.
Credit: Strathy Smith / Canada. Ministère de la défense nationale / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada / PA-140208

The Lord Strathcona's Horse war diary lists the soldiers killed in the confrontation on 24 May 1944. John Milroy recorded the casualties in his CMH article: "The battle cost the Strathcona's 17 tanks for the destruction of five German tanks, eight selfpropelled guns and various other equipment. Two officers and 18 other ranks were killed; seven officers, including the second-in-command and the "A" and "C" Squadron commanders, and nine other ranks, were wounded."

The Strathcona's had advanced by using ground considered not-tank-country, and surprised German Panther tanks and guns on the far side of the Melfa River which were covering a more passable ford.  The action was an anomaly of armoured combat in the Italian campaign as a tank duel erupted between the panthers across the river and 'A' and 'C' squadrons of the Straths.  The confrontation would be a rough initiation to the grim side of warfare for many of the Canadian soldiers.  Some would not live through it.

Four crew would perish in the tank CONNOLLY, reported "hit by 88" on 24 May, and burned with its crew inside.  The men were commanded by Capt R.G. Crimes whose next of kin was listed as his father who lived in Halifax, but may have been from St. Thomas, Ontario.  Captain Crimes commanded a western crew whose driver had the remarkably low army identification number of, H-46. Thirty-year old Trooper Albert P. "Bud" Lee's wife, Mrs. Rita Pearl Lee, lived in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.  The bow gunner A.A. "Smitty" Smith was said to "chum" with "Bud" Lee.  His father resided in Saskatoon.   Trooper George.T.Davis  "Davey" was the gunner operator.  His father lived in Vermillion, Alberta.

The men were first interned in a cemetery on the Melfa, but were transferred to the Cassino War Cemetery.  They were four men out of the millions who perished in the Second World War.  The Commonwealth War Graves lists 27 men with the name of A.A. Smith alone.  Despite the immensity of the conflict, the individuals who lived and died are important.  A glimpse into their lives gives a human meaning to the casualty figures.
Captain J.A. Gardner talking with a wounded German soldier in the Liri River valley, Italy, 24 May 1944.  Credit: Lieut. Strathy E.E. Smith / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-144981

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sam Hughes the Sure Shot : Of Ranges and Ross Rifles

Sam Hughes was the irascible Minister of Militia and Defence responsible for the mobilization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in August of 1914.  Hughes was a fiery Orangemen, whose trenchant belief in the value of the gun-slinging, rough-riding, amateur militiaman never faltered. Ronald Haycock noted in his 1986 biography of Sam Hughes that "Nearly everyone in Ottawa had a favourite story about Hughes which was half-fiction, half-truth, but which captured the essence of the Minister's personality." (Haycock, Sam Hughes, 1986,p. 3)  One 1912 anecdote came from W.A. Griesbach, who would become the commanding officer of Edmonton's 49th Battalion:

Lieutenant General Sir Sam Hughes, K.C.B., M.P.
Painted by Harrington Mann
Beaverbrook Collection of War Art
CWM 19710261-0394
Some weeks ago I met an old man in my part of the country who told me that he had learned to shoot while serving in Sam Hughes' battalion of infantry....He said one day when the men were shooting badly Sam Hughes, who was then a Sergeant, picked up one of the rifles and lay down on the mound.  He fire and missed the target.  Turning to one of the men he said "That's the way you shoot."  Firing again, he again missed the target and turned to another man and said "That's the way you shoot." Firing for the third time, he scored a bull's eye.  Speaking to the men, he said: "That's the way I shoot" and walked on.

Hughes' bulls-eye was no lucky shot.  He was a member of several shooting societies and president of the Dominion Rifle Association (Haycock, p. 4).  During the Laurier years, Hughes reputation was welded to the manufacture of the Ross rifle, a weapon adopted by the Canadian militia at the end of the Boer war.  From 1901 on, Hughes would support the rifle against numerous complaints in the House of Commons regarding its manufacture.  The British were none too pleased about the Dominion straying from their standard Lee Enfield rifle, and disqualified many Canadian shooters at the British National Rifle Association's competitions for light triggers or heavy barrels. (Haycock, p. 123)
"Interior View of Ross Rifle Factory" 1900-1905 Credit: Library and Archives Canada / PA-107378

The unfortunate results of these British rebuttals was the altering of the Mark III Ross Rifle to insure victory at these marksmanship competitions.  As Haycock notes, "Machine tolerances were tightened; fit was made better; and the weapons won.  But close bearing surfaces, complicated and fragile target-type sights, and tight chambers capable of firing only exact dimension ammunition changed the rifle from an efficient combat weapon to an efficient target one." (p. 123)

The failure of the Ross rifle in the swampy conditions of the First World War, and Hughes' persistence that the weapon was sound, would contribute to Hughes' final dismissal as Militia minister in 1916.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Victoria Day May Long Weekend in Canada

The Victoria Day long weekend is a long tradition in Canada, which has come to be largely separated from Her Majesty Queen Victoria's birthday of 24 May 1819.  Now, "May 24" is sooner associated with the convenient coincidence that there is 24 beers in a flat (or a case if you are Ontarioan), and has slightly less pomp and ceremony than earlier celebrations.

The weekend itself, of course, has had different flavours in different eras.  In 1902, the North West Mounted Police band paraded down the clap-board streets of Dawson, Yukon.  One must assume that God Save the Queen was on the playlist.

NWMP Band and Personnel, Victoria Day Parade, May 24th, 1902, Dawson, Yukon Territory.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada / e008128928
A Great War era poster of 1917 uses familiar imagery to promote an Ottawa fund raiser for veterans featuring a camp fire and "circus of sports".  This image of the rejoicing soldier, is central to a celebratory language of the war connecting the conflict to earthly triumph, which continued in Canada into the 1930s.   (Vance, Death so Noble, p.14)

Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-28-518
Canadian weather does not always cooperate with a late May celebration.  A 1953 photo of some young Calgarian women who bravely donned their bathing suits for a Bow River fishing session, shows that winter conditions were not too far in the past. Presumably they chose a warmer fishing spot, when the camera left the scene.
Glenbow Archives Image No: NA-5600-6194b
Title: Girls in swimsuits sun bathing and fishing on snow at the edge of the Bow River, Calgary, Alberta.
Date: May 1953
Photographer/Illustrator: De Lorme, Jack, Calgary, Alberta.
The May long weekend, in the age of auto-tourism is the first time of the year to pile the kids in the camper van and head out to the "wilderness".  In 1971, cartoonist Leonard Norris poked fun at the growing traffic issues accompanying this supposed tranquil escape.
"We promised the kids, if we get a break in the traffic we're going away for the long weekend." 
 Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1988-243-690
Copyright: Estate of Leonard Norris

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spoilt Reputations: Swine metaphors in Joseph Flavelle's profiteering scandal

The Edmonton Bulletin,

 July 13, 1917, Page 1

In 1917, Joseph Flavelle ran what was effectively the largest business in North America through his chairmanship of the Imperial Munitions Board.  Flavelle's reputation was never to fully recover from an expose of his business interests in the William Davies meat-packing industry.

On 13 July 1917, the Ottawa Journal was the first newspaper to leak news of Flavelle's profits which they headlined as "Huge Margins Shown on Bacon Trade".  Michael Bliss' biography of the capitalist takes a sympathetic approach to the scandal, noting the government report which fuelled the outrage in the press was "in a many ways...a misleading, in fact stupid, document", which showed no comprehension of the  meat-packing industry.

Bacon Export Trade examination.  Flavelle far right.  Redcliff Review, November 8, 1917, Page 3

The press couldn't resist the metaphors on a scandalous profiteering in industry whose product was synonymous with gluttony.  As Bliss writes,

Foods That Will Win The War And How To Cook
Them (1918), by C. Houston Goudiss
 and Alberta M. Goudiss Gutenburg

the bacon scandal was prime fare for editorial writers.  The Globe was glad to see that the O'Connor report had generated too much heat to be put in cold storage.  The Star  thought the order of Baronets needed to be supplemented by a class for Baconets; the Ottawa Citizen accused the packers of having hogged everything but the squeal.  The Regina Leader, on of the most bitter Liberal papers, wrote of "price hogs" and the need to treat profiteers as traitors. (Bliss, p.343-44)


On 6 September 1917 William Henry Taylor of the Toronto World waxed poetic in a piece he titled "The Patriotic Hog".

He swallows all the food that he can hold-
When presto! change! the meal is turned to gold;
No doubt his pride will swell when he has found
That bacon sells for fifty cents a pound.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Legendary Paratrooper : The Leadership of Marcel Bigeard, 1956

Syndey Morning Herald Obit 2010
Marcel Bigeard was one of the legendary paratrooper leaders of the Algerian conflict.  His training regime was as rough as they come, and his leadership style was a text-book example of leading from the front.

Bigeard's introduction to the Second World War shared the disapointment of many of his French compatriots, but he quickly rose to prominence.  Captured in 1940 in the Maginot Line, he managed to escaped the next year to Senegal joining a colonial infantry unit in De Gaulle's Free French Forces.  In 1944, he parachuted into France, and spent the postwar years in French Indo-China.
Bigeard in Indo-China. Independent.
On his third combat tour to Vietnam, it was Bigeard's misfortune to be dropped into Dien Bien Phu.  Again he showed his determination in commanding what Alistaire Horne called in his Savage War of Peace, "one of the most inspired counter-attacks."(1987, p.168)
Bigeard was subjected to three months of brainwashing, and this may have inspired his belief that the "subversive warfare" in Indo-China was the beginning of a world-wide attack of which Algeria was a part.

Arriving in Algeria, Bigeard commanded the 3rd Regiment of Colonial Parachutists, which immediately was purged of the weakest members.  Others who did not wish to be in the unit were offered transfers.  Those that remained were subjected to a brutal training regime in the dry lands of Algeria.  They returned a new breed of Para, sporting a long-brimmed camouflage cap, causing the pied noirs (Algerians of european stock) to nick-name them, the "lizards".  Bigeard denied the use of torture during the conflict, but did admit to "muscular interrogations."

Alistair Horne doesn't pull his punches in describing the paras as, "on their way to becoming a crack force; one of the most effective in the Western world". (p. 168)  An early construction of the Bigeard legend was the book The Centurions (1960) by Jean Lartéguy, which featured a character modelled after the commander.
A film based on The Centurions.
Bigeard led from the front, conducted his own reconnaissance and jumped with the first wave.  Horne notes, "tall and powerful, with a beaked nose that imparted a look of a bird of prey, Bigeard had that particularly French quality of allure essential to an outstanding commander.  He seldom did anything without panache.  Instead of arriving by staff car, or even helicopter, his favourite manner of inspecting a unit was to drop by parachute, arm at the salute as he touched down."

Imitators of the Bigeard command-style should, however, be wary.  Horne notes that in later life, when Bigeard was approaching sixty, one such troop inspection went wrong.  In Madagascar, Bigeard was dropped into shark-infected waters, breaking an arm.  His unfortunate yet "faithful" staff, who parachuted into the water with him, managed to save the General from the waters.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Details of the Canadian Pork Trade, 1890s

Michael Bliss' biography of Joseph Flavelle, A Canadian Millionaire (1978) offers not only an intimate perspective on an archetypal Canadian capitalist, but also explains much of the changing pork industry in Toronto where he got his start.

Bliss writes that "the pig was and is man's best friend in the animal world". (p.37)  He goes on to cite that swine store 35% of the energy they consume on their body, while sheep and cattle only convert 11% of their diet into mass.  More of the pig is usable than cattle, and the protein is also better from pork providing the greatest energy value.  Pork is also the easiest meat to preserve.  No pigs were interviewed to determine their thoughts on this "friendship".

Twelve typical bacon hogs (2,200 lbs. together).
 The Wm. Davies Co., Toronto.Topley Studio / 
Library and Archives Canada / PA-026091
Canada could never compete with the United States and Argentina in selling chilled and frozen beef overseas.  New Zealand and Australia had cornered the sheep and lamb market.  With pork left, Canadians could still not compete with the fat salt pork producers south of the border.  Bliss noted that costs were kept down in the Mississippi Valley corn belt in an unappetizing manner.  These farmers, "supplied Chicago with mountains of cheap hogs grown wonderfully fat and round from following cattle and eating the corn in their excrement." (p.39)

William Davies, the namesake owner of a meatpacking company which Flavelle would come to dominate, discovered that the peas, grains, and skim-milk refuse from dairies that Ontario farmers fed their pigs developed a superior meat.  Davies left the cheap salt pork to others and specialized in the British market for bacon and ham.

Pen of hogs. The Wm. Davies Co.  
Topley Studio / Library and Archives Canada / PA-026094
Davies and Flavelle could not initially meet the supply of leaner hogs they needed.  Bliss wrote, "Not any old porker would do.  Ontario farmers had to get over their North American preconception that the ideal hog was a two- or three-hundred-pound symmetrical ball of lard." (p.39)  In the early days, Davies purchased the small number of undersize hogs that showed up in Chicago.

Animal husbandry responded to the growing demand created by this market as Davies introduced of the Improved Yorkshire into Canada.  As prices were higher for these leaner English breeds, Davies is said to have effected, "the Anglicization of the Canadian hog." (p.40)  Bliss writes, "his parentage, length, leanness, and lightness now sharply distinguished him from his corpulent American neighbour.  There were some Canadian who took a certain national pride in not raising hogs fed on cattle turds.  It was an altogether cleaner business north of the border."
Purebred Yorkshire sow purchased by William D. Albright, Beaverlodge, Alberta. NB-15-47
 The Glenbow Museum has chose an interesting placement for their archival brand in the above shot of a Yorkshire.  Perhaps with all the recent government cuts in the heritage sector, they are considering the meat packing business?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Terry Copp Keynote 2012 LCMSDS Conference Huron College

Terry Copp's keynote address to the annual Canadian Military History Colloquium was a sneak peak into his article for the Canadian Historical Review, which gives a retrospective on his career.  He joins Desmond Morton and Margaret Conrad on the list of heavy-hitting historians examining their own pasts in recent CHR articles.  One must be slightly wary when asked to write one of these "career in hindsight" pieces, as the inference is that you are not only learned, but aged!

Cleghorn 2010- Langemark German War Grave Cemetery

 Copp sees the light at the end of the tunnel?  Canadian military historians certainly hope not!

"Cleghorn 2010- Langemark German War Grave Cemetery" by Nick Lachance

Copp's address noted that after a rocky high school career he was mentored as a young scholar in Montreal by Robert Vogel.  Copp's early social history was inspired in part by a late 1950s stint teaching junior high school in Montreal and his exposure to the conditions at Weredale House, where some of his students resided. His experience there shaped his attitudes against E.P. Thompson's  celebratory approach towards working class culture.  Copp assumed most working people would prefer to be upwardly mobile!

A visit to the Leopold canal inspired Copp to begin questioning interpretations of the Canadian Army in the Second World War.  In the 1980s, military history was a perversion in the academy, but Copp soldiered on.  Fortunately the students were not as anti-war as the professoriate.

The Maple Leaf Route series, co-written with Vogel, was hard-core operational military history, and received a cool reception in the book-world.  To all intents and purposes the first instalment in the series was self-published.  Explanation of the difficulties co-authoring Battle Exhaustion with William McAndrew gave an insider's view to an important book in the field.

Copp eventually got around to addressing the history of Brigadier Bill Megill,which his keynote nominally took for its subject.  He used the controversies over Megill's reputation, inflamed by the Valour and the Horror CBC series, to emphasize his own methodology.  No one  minded that Megill took a sideshow to Copp's autobiography, and the release of a festschrift dedicated to the speaker was announced by the Laurier Centre after his excellent keynote.

The theme for this year's conference was pedagogy, and numerous digital additions to the classroom were debated.  The Laurier Centre seem as committed to solid history teaching as they are to their impressive web presence.  

The 21st Military History Colloquium - April 29th to The 21st Military History Colloquium -10

"April 29th to The 21st Military History Colloquium -10" Nick Lachance photo

An old podcast is available for Copp's 2011 keynote which addresses the capture of Walchern Island by the First Canadian Army.  That talk embodied a sober strategic and operational analysis of the combined assault on the Island.  They also have a great blog which features the text to Copp's 2010 keynote on the Italian Campaign. His methodology has a healthy respect for operational research, and like C.P. Stacey, favours message logs as the best sources to build "logical answers to clear questions."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

CP Stacey on the tardy American entry into the First World War

C.P. Stacey is a giant among Canadian military historians, and rightfully so.  Having penned the official histories of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, and innumerable works on the Canadian armed forces, his impressive oeuvre speaks for itself.  One would not expect Stacey to share the common knee-jerk anti-Americanism that is so wrapped up in Canadian identity.  In Canada and the Age of Conflict. Stacey's sober analysis notes that in 1903, the Alaska boundary dispute sowed seeds of distrust for Americans which may have played a role in Canadian rejection of the Liberal's 1911 reciprocity plank.  Stacey notes that the First World War did little to warm Canadian-American relations, and uses a autobiographical anecdote to prove his point:

Toronto Normal School. 1911? 
William Jame Fonds 1244, Item 1702
City of Toronto Archives
"In the school year 1918-19 the writer was in the top form of the Normal Model School in Toronto.  One of our academic exercises was known as 'oral composition'.  A classmate of mine took as his topic 'The United States in the War'.  My recollection is that it was a pretty scarifying presentation, and that it was universally acclaimed.  I remember specifically one point, the story with which the boy ended.  It concerned General Pershing in Paris.

General John J. Pershing. General Headquarters

 Chaumont, France., 10/19/1918. NARA.

The general, it seems, called a taxi, and it did not arrive quite on time.  When it did arrive, Pershing protested to the driver, who was a female: 'My good woman, you're three minutes late.' And the lady replied, 'My good man, you're three years late.' We twelve-year-olds thought that a sparkling piece of repartee; and I am sure that in this we were fairly representative Canadians of that day." (Stacey, 1977, p.234)

Stacey seems little effected in the long run by his peer's anti-American rhetoric.  The scholar earned his PhD in Princeton, and lectured there from 1933-1940.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Upton Sinclair's THE JUNGLE: Slaughterhouse Expose, 1906

The muckraking journalists of the progressive era set their sights on the worst facets of industrialization and urbanization.  They sought to expose the exploitation of the workers and the working and living conditions of the urban poor.  A classic example, and one that led to reforms in the food industry was Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (1906) which sought to show the world the  conditions in the Chicago slaughterhouses.
Union Stockyards, Chicago 1920 Pax Canadiensis

One particularly revolting facet of the industry was the use of beef which had developed cysts due to the use of cheap fodder.  Upton wrote

"It seemed that they must have agencies all over the country, to hunt out old and crippled and diseased cattle to be canned.  There were cattle which had been fed on "whisky-malt," the refuse of the breweries, and had become what the men called "steerly" - which means covered with boils.  It was a nasty job killing these, for when you plunged your knife into them they would burst and splash foul-smelling stuff into your face; and wean a man's sleeves were blood, and his hands steeped in it, how was he ever to wipe his face, or to clear his eyes so that he could see? It was stuff such as this that made the 'embalmed beef' that had killed several times as many United States soldiers as all the bullets of the Spaniards, only the army army beef, besides, was not fresh canned, it was old stuff that had been lying for years in the cellars."  As quoted in (Hofstadter, Richard, ed. The Progressive Movement, 1900-1915. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1963.)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Algonkin Toll Booth, 1650

In theory, toll booths are used to pay for the expensive upkeep of infrastructure.  They can also be used for local authorities to extort those passing through.  Anyone who has been forced to pay a toll motivated by the armament of the checkpoint constabulary will know that coercion can at times be an important facet of "user fees".

Jim Miller's Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens notes that coercive toll booths in North America go back at least to the seventeenth-century.  Miller wrote,

"Particularly well-situated groups, such as the Algonkin of Allumette Island in the Ottawa River, used their position and power to exact tolls from canoe brigades, including those of traders, who passed through their territory.  The mastery they exercised was demonstrated graphically by their leader Le Borgne in 1650.  Offended by the efforts of a group of Huron under Jesuit leadership to evade his toll collection, Le Borgne had the priest 'suspended from a tree by the arm-pits.'  He told 'him that the French were not the masters of his country; and that in it he alone was acknowledged as chief.'" (p.37)
Champlain with Astrolabe on the West Bank of Ottawa River, 1613 (C.W. Jefferys, Library and Archives Canada/Charles William Jefferys fonds/C-073632) Champlain visited Allumete Island in 1613. Ontario Heritage Trust