Six Years, 10 Books: The Wilson Institute for Canadian History Book Series Celebrates a Milestone

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The Wilson Institute of Canadian History has reached an important milestone: the publication of the 10e book in the series “Rethinking Canada in the world”.

Launched in 2016, the book series publishes works that examine Canadian history from a transnational and global perspective; that is, how the history of Canada affects and is affected by world events and forces.

The series is published by McGill-Queen’s University Press and is edited by Ian Mckay, director of the Wilson Institute, and Sean Mills, professor of history at the University of Toronto.

Many books are the result of “Wilson workshops”, gatherings of scholars for the specific purpose of producing a book on a particular topic. The books produced through these workshops have become popular places for young scholars to publish their work, many of whom want to critically probe Canada’s complicated relationship with racialized minorities and Indigenous peoples. In fact, five of the 10 books in the series address these issues.

“The new perception of Canadian history as intertwined with global processes has been enthusiastically embraced by a younger generation of scholars,” says McKay. “For them, a critical Canadian history, working as a discipline with concepts such as capitalism, liberalism and modernity, but also very attentive to local trends and particularities, is the only one capable of giving Canadians an honest overview of contemporary problems. The series of the Institute has, over time, identified with this approach.

The Institute’s 10 books address issues on topics as diverse as black female teachers in the Ontario school system, the Rebellion of 1837, and the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II.

  • The first book in the series was a collection edited by Colin McCullough and Robert Teigrob, Canada and the United Nations: Legacies, Limits, Prospects. The book, which included a foreword by former Foreign Secretary Lloyd Axworthy, raised questions about Canada’s tendency to be “complacent” in viewing the country as the world’s premier peacekeeper.
  • The following book, published in 2017, was the first result of a “Wilson Workshop. The book, Nondiplomatic History: The New Study of Canada and the Worldedited by Wilson Fellows Asa McKercher and Philip Van Huizen, describes how the study of Canada and the world has been revitalized through new perspectives of research and analysis, including race, gender, political economy, identity, religion and environment.
  • With Revolutions Across Borders: Jacksonian America and the Canadian Rebellion (2019), edited by Maxime Dagenais and Wilson Fellow Julien Mauduit, the Institute, in collaboration with researchers from the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, has published a major re-examination of the 1837 rebellion in Canada as a continent-wide struggle for democracy.
  • Left Transnationalism: The Communist International and National, Colonial, and Racial Questions (2020), edited by Oleksa Drachewych and Ian McKay, asked whether the Communist International has changed transnational discourses on race, nation and colonialism, making a difference in the world. The collection also focused on the work of researchers from countries in the South.
  • In Landscapes of Injustice: A New Perspective on the Internment and Dispossession of Japanese Canadians (2020), editor Jordan Stanger-Ross and other contributors take a deep dive into one of the most difficult times in Canadian history: the displacement of thousands of Japanese Canadians in the 1940s. The result of a major research partnership involving dozens of scholars across the country, the book also includes descendants of the dispossessed eager to establish a fuller picture of the period.
  • Canada’s Other Red Scare: Indigenous Protests and Colonial Encounters in the 1960s, by Scott Rutherford, was the Institute’s publication of a comprehensive monograph, rather than a collection of essays. The book was recognized by the Ontario Historical Society in 2020-2021 as “the best book on the social, economic, political or cultural history of Ontario published in the past three years” and received the award JJ Talman.
  • Will Langford The Global Politics of Poverty in Canada: Development Programs and Democracy, 1964-1979 (2020) linked local efforts to reduce poverty at home and abroad to the transnational pursuit of capitalist approaches to poverty eradication.
  • Schooling the System: A History of Black Female Teachers (2021) by Funké Aladejebi, investigated how black women worked as “cultural mediators” within the Ontario school system, creating innovative teaching methods and helping to mitigate racism within the education system.
  • Constant Struggle: Stories of Canadian Democratization (2021), edited by Jennifer Tunnicliffe and Julien Mauduit, is the first book look at the history of democracy in Canada from the 1830s to the 1990s, when “democracy” was often a controversial idea, opposed by many leaders of the country. founding leaders.
  • The 10e series book, Daniel Meister The racial mosaic: a prehistory of Canadian multiculturalism (2021/early 2022), takes a close look at the three “founding fathers” of Canadian multiculturalism: Watson Kirkconnell, Robert England and John Murray Gibbon, who laid the initial foundations for subsequent government policies that attempted to answer the question: do say be Canadian?

Although efforts like these to critically rethink the study of history have sometimes met with polemical opposition, says McKay, the point is not to be deliberately negative, but to look at history. honestly and with subtlety.

“The Institute has sought to show that it is possible to combine critique of central Canada’s historical trends with an intelligent awareness of the country’s accomplishments and limitations,” he says. “Making this new kind of Canadian history one that speaks to the majority of Canadians will be a central task of the 2020s.”

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