RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Designing Nova Scotia's History

Andrew Steeves, Gaspereau Press

 The printing trade has always been closely associated with the organization and dissemination of scholarly texts. In modern times, scholarly publishing has evolved into an area of specialization most often undertaken by university presses, but for a range of reasons (and to varying degrees of success) trade
publishers continue to take on scholarly projects in an attempt to present them to a wider readership.
 In his illustrated talk, Gaspereau Press's Andrew Steeves will discuss a few representative examples of works of historical scholarship published in Nova Scotia since 1752, paying specific attention to the ways in which the design and production of these publications succeed or fail in answering the requirements of their text.

Click here for a bio of Andrew Steeves.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

‘after planting their few potatoes they wander about the Island’: The Mi'kmaq
and British Agricultural Policies in Nineteenth Century Nova Scotia.

Courtney Mrazek, Doctoral Student, University of New Brunswick

 Beginning in the early eighteenth century, British colonizers in Nova Scotia, a portion of the territory known by its indigenous inhabitants as Mi’kma’ki, sought to reform Mi’kmaw people’s concepts and utilization of land through agricultural policies. They hoped that in doing so, the Mi’kmaq would become stationary instead of transient, and ultimately be “civilized.” While the Mi’kmaq never became the agriculturalists the British envisioned, they did participate in sporadic farming activities and made active use of the British legal system to petition the government for various aids and rights. This presentation will argue that although the agricultural policies the British hoped would “civilize” the Mi’kmaq fell short of their intended outcome, Mi’kmaw communities negotiated their pressures and possibilities, managing to use agricultural opportunities to alleviate difficult social and economic circumstances through a myriad of treaty expectations and negotiations, friendships, petitions, and gift-giving.

Click here for a bio of Courtney Mrazek.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Training of the Jewish Legion at Fort Edward during the First World War

Sara Beanlands, Principal and Senior Archaeologist, Boreas Heritage Consulting Inc.

 In 1917, the British War Office approved the raising of a Jewish military contingent for active duty in Palestine. This Jewish fighting force, which included the 38th, 39th, 40th and 42nd Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, became known as the Jewish Legion. The Imperial Recruiting and Training Depot was established at Fort Edward, in Windsor, Nova Scotia, in 1918, to serve as a basic training centre and point of departure for all North American recruits. Among the Jewish soldiers that underwent basic training at Fort Edward were David Ben‐Gurion and Yitzhak Ben‐Zvi, later to become the first Prime Minister and second President of the State of Israel. This talk will look at the training of the Jewish Legion in Nova Scotia — a brief but important episode in the sequence of events that led to the establishment of the State of Israel and the formation of the modern geo‐political world.

Click here for a bio of Sara Beanlands.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 14 December 2016

December 14, 2016

“The 1921 Aerial Survey of Halifax”

Dirk Werle, ÆRDE Environmental Research

This illustrated talk presents the history, development, and results of aerial photography in Canada immediately after the First World War. The collections of early aerial photography in Canada and elsewhere, as well as the institutional and practical circumstances and arrangements of their creation, represent an important part of our heritage. An episode of one of the first urban surveys, carried out over Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1921, is highlighted. Using the air photos and a digitally re-assembled mosaic of that collection as a guide, a variety of features unique to the post-war urban landscape of the Halifax peninsula are analysed and compared with records of past and current land use. The air photo ensemble is placed into the historical context with thematic maps, recent air photos, and modern satellite imagery.

Click here for a bio of Dirk Werle.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 16 November 2016

November 16, 2016

“Mi’kmaw Politicism and the Origins of the Micmac Community Development Program, 1900–1957”

Martha Walls, Mount Saint Vincent University

Between 1957 and 1970, the Extension Department of St. Francis Xavier University operated the Micmac Community Development Program (MCDP), intended to build financial and political independence in Mi’kmaw communities in northeastern Nova Scotia. Implicit in the work of MCDP was an assumption that the program would teach the Mi’kmaq political skills with which they would be better able to contest state interferences. This paper challenges this assumption as it explores how, in the decades preceding the MCDP, deeply-rooted and effective Mi’kmaw political mechanisms challenged the most egregious of colonial impositions. The MCDP was no catalyst to Mi’kmaw political action; instead it tapped into an existing and effective Mi’kmaw political network.

Click here for a bio of Martha Walls

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 19 October 2016

October 19, 2016

“The Halifax Relief Commission and the Politics of the Canadian Home Front during the First World War”

Barry Cahill

The 6 December 1917 explosion of a munitions vessel in the Narrows of Halifax Harbour killed or fatally wounded nearly 2000 persons and injured many more. The catastrophic Halifax disaster was the most significant event affecting Canada’s home front during the Great War. Among its lesser-known aspects is the role played by Canada’s Union government, which assumed complete authority over recovery. It did this through the Halifax Relief Commission (1918–1976), established in January 1918 by Order in Council. This lecture examines the political aspects of the process that led to the establishment of the commission, taking place as it did during the bitterest federal election campaign in Canada’s history — the conscription election of 1917.

Click here for a bio of Barry Cahill.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Click here for a downloadable programme brochure.


September 21, 2016

“The Private Life of Jessie MacCallum, Diarist of Windsor & St. George, 1901–1910”

Julian Gwyn, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Ottawa

Phyllis R Blakeley Memorial Lecture

There is a growing interest among historians in diaries especially for the light they shine on the private lives of women. Largely written by those of middle class families, there is always excitement when another diary comes to light, especially by a young person. Such is the case of Jessie MacCallum (1885–1956). The diary of her early life in Windsor, Nova Scotia, and St. George, New Brunswick, covers the first decade of the last century beginning on January 1st 1901. Though she continued for the rest of her life to keep a diary, most were wantonly destroyed after her death by one of her daughters‐in‐law, who thought them too depressing. Yet what has survived (1901–08, 1910) deserves, a century later, to see the light of day.

Click here for a bio of Julian Gwyn and here for a poster for Dr. Gwyn’s talk

The 29th Annual Phyllis R. Blakeley lecture is named in memory of the late Provincial Archivist of Nova Scotia who is remembered for her contributions to local history, as a writer in her own right, and also as an archivist, a facilitator of research and a mentor, reader and advisor to many historians.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, May 18, 2016

“Immigration to Atlantic Canada: Historical Reflections”


Click to download lecture poster.

John Reid, Saint Mary’s University

Presented in conjunction with the Immigration to Atlantic Canada Conference. The public lecture will take place in the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Theatre at Pier 21 at 8:00pm, following our Annual General Meeting at 7:00. 

This lecture will present a broad analysis of historical immigration patterns in Atlantic Canada, setting migration within an Indigenous context and distinguishing between Newfoundland and the Maritime region. The twin processes of Indigenous dispossession and settler colonization will be considered as contexts for Atlantic Canada’s roles and responsibilities in a world increasingly shaped both by the need to recognize the rights of Indigenous peoples and by the forces of global migration.

Click here for a bio of John Reid.

RNSHS Annual Dinner and Lecture – Wednesday, 20 April 2016

“Outslicking Sam Slick: The Mysterious Stranger (Henry More Smith) in Nova Scotia: 1812‐1815”


Click to download lecture poster

Gwendolyn Davies, University of New Brunswick

Note: This lecture takes place at our Annual Banquet at the Dalhousie University Club. Space is limited! See below for ticket information. 

In 1812, a charming young English trickster swept through Rawdon, Windsor, Halifax, and Pictou leaving behind a trail of identities and audacious thefts. Condemned to death in New Brunswick in 1814 for horse theft, he was nonetheless back in Nova Scotia in 1815 embarking yet again on a life of audacious crime and inspiring Sheriff Walter Bates’ 1817 bestseller, The Mysterious Stranger.

Click here for bio of Gwendolyn Davies.


Tickets for this event must be purchased by Friday, 15 April 2014.  Seating for this event is limited. If you are interested in attending, please notify Rosemary Barbour at 902 424-6070 or email Rosemary.Barbour@novascotia.ca to ensure your ticket reservation and before submitting payment.  To reserve tickets please print and complete a copy of the reservation form available here, and then mail it along with a cheque (made payable to the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society), to: The Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, PO Box 2622, Halifax, NS B3J 3P7.  CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD RESERVATION FORM.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 16 March 2016

“The Triumph of the ‘Larger Unit’: Origins and Impact of the School Consolidation Movement in Antigonish County, 1923 to 2012”


Click to download lecture poster

Paul W. Bennett, Founding Director of Schoolhouse Institute and Adjunct Professor of Education, Saint Mary’s University

The modern school consolidation movement, pioneered in Alberta between 1913 and 1919, eventually emerged a decade later in full force in the Maritimes. In April 1923, Pastor James Boyle of Havre Boucher, Antigonish County, NS, dismissed the one school “district unit” as a relic of the past and signaled the advent of school consolidation to address the impoverishment of rural schools. Building upon research undertaken for Vanishing Schools, Threatened Communities (2011), this lecture will explore and analyze the origins, extent and impact of the first school consolidation movement in Antigonish County from the 1920s until the full adoption of the “Larger Unit” as provincial policy in 1954.

Click here for a bio of Paul W. Bennett.