The society meets monthly from September to May inclusive to hear and to discuss individual papers about personalities, places and events integral to the history of Nova Scotia at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia. Society lectures are open to the public and are completely free. Lectures are followed by refreshments.
Unless otherwise indicated, our meetings are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday evenings at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 6016 University Avenue, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Please note that the December lecture is held on the second Wednesday of the month.

Latest information on our upcoming lectures is here

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019

Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019 — 7:30 p.m., Nova Scotia Archives

“The Home of Cricket”: The Sport of Cricket in Pictou County, to 1914

John G. Reid, Saint Mary’s University

Abstract:
 Insofar as cricket forms part of Nova Scotia’s historical memory in the 21st century, it is often imagined as an imperial sport played primarily by a gentlemanly social elite that consisted largely of recent English immigrants or by military and naval officers. Although this image has some limited validity when applied to Halifax, it is manifestly inaccurate elsewhere in the province. Cricket, in reality, was played primarily by settlers of at least the third generation, and the social composition of the many cricket clubs distributed throughout the province was varied and complex. This lecture will investigate the particular cricket culture of Pictou County during the ‘long’ nineteenth century (to 1914), including the emergence of provincially dominant teams in Stellarton and Westville that had their roots in the extended history of cricket in the county’s coal-mining towns and villages.

Click here for a bio of John Reid.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018

Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018 — 7:30 p.m., Nova Scotia Archives

Charlie’s War:  The Life and Death of a South African Soldier in the No. 2 Construction Company, 1917–1918

Kirrily Freeman, Saint Mary’s University

Abstract:
 On the night of September 22-23, 1918 Private Charles Some died of wounds in France, but he did not die in battle or from war injuries: he was murdered on a narrow mountain road in eastern France, stabbed multiple times in the face, chest, back and neck, his throat severed. Although Charlie Some died a violent death in France in 1918, it was outside of battle and likely at the hands of an ally or comrade. Though he fought with the CEF, Charlie Some was not Canadian — he was born in the British colony of Natal in southern Africa. He joined the No. 2 and lived in Africville, but was a newcomer to that historic community. When he was hospitalized, it was a result of civilian encounters, and his service file is peppered with absences and punishments. In short, Charlie Some’s experience in the First World War differs significantly from the Great War stories familiar to most Canadians.
But Charlie Some’s experience is revealing when placed in a wider context. In his migration from Natal to Nova Scotia, his recruitment as a Black man into the military, his health and hospitalization, the labour he performed, and his non-compliance with the regulations and routines of military life, the influence of racism and empire are overwhelming, and illustrate the connections that existed between local, national, and imperial policies and practices. Ultimately, Charlie’s experience — which on the surface seems exceptional — is in fact remarkably representative of much broader global patterns.

Click here for a bio of Kirrily Freeman.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019

Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 — 7:30 p.m., Nova Scotia Archives

“Malagash Man”: Chief Justice Lorne Clarke and Canadian Judicial Biograph

Barry Cahill

Abstract:
 The late Honourable Lorne O. Clarke QC was Chief Justice of Nova Scotia from 1985 to 1998 and is generally credited with rehabilitating the judiciary after the disastrous consequences of the prosecution and wrongful conviction of Donald Marshall Jr. This paper provides a preliminary assessment of the significance of Clarke’s career in the context of Canadian legal history.

Click here for a bio of Barry Cahill.

RNSHS Annual Dinner and Lecture –
 Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Women and the War at Home: Pictou County Women in Industrialized Work, 1939 to 1945:  The New Woman Worker of Shipbuilding

Kirby Ross, Halifax Women’s History Society and Saint Mary’s University

Note: This lecture takes place at our Annual Banquet at the Dalhousie University Club – 6:00 for 6:30. Tickets will be available later.

Abstract:
 As Canada entered the Second World War, the opportunities for women had to change drastically, as a vast number of men were sent across the world to fight against the Axis powers. World War Two provided newfound opportunities for women to join work forces which had previously been closed off to them. Particularly, these new jobs were found in the industrial settings that men left. Employers in Pictou County needed to replace the missing men, and women filled these positions. Industrial roles clearly differed from the domestic work that women primarily performed before the war years. Some of these jobs were in fields that women had worked in during World War One while others represented new opportunities. In Pictou County, women began working in different industrial fields, such as shipbuilding. With labour shortages, the attitude towards women working in this field changed as demand grew for these jobs to be filled. In examining Pictou County, an important industrial center in Nova Scotia but relatively small by Canadian or global standards, the presentation will analyse not only the new work opportunities that opened to women in shipbuilding but also illustrate the ties between these new industrial opportunities and women’s prior experience and the social and economic networks that shaped their industrial employment.

Click here for a bio of Kirby Ross.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 — 7:30 p.m., Nova Scotia Archives

HMS Jervis Bay – the Nova Scotia and Maritime connections

Harold E. Wright, retired Saint John historian

Abstract:
 HMS Jervis Bay, an Armed Merchant Cruiser, was sunk in November 1940 while protecting convoy HX84 outbound from Halifax. The ship had recently been refitted at the St. John Drydock. A large number of her crew was from the Maritimes. This presentation will give a brief overview of the ship and crew but focus on Convoy HX84 and her Nova Scotia crew.

Click here for a bio of Harold Wright.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018

Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018 — 7:30 p.m., Nova Scotia Archives

Encountering the Indigenous Other in Historic Nova Scotia, 1749–1900

Richard H. Field, Saint Mary’s University

Abstract:
 In many respects, the significance of the New World has less to do with Columbus’s so-called “discovery” and more to do with the ensuing colonial and post-colonial aftermath. Ann Stoler explains. Reading Derek Walcott’s “Ruins of a Great House”1 as a “searing eulogy to empire” Stoler suggests, “the process of decay is on-going, acts of the past blacken the senses, their effects without clear determination. These crimes have been named and indicted across the globe, but the eating away of the less visible elements of soil and soul more often has not.”2 Robert Bevan in The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War also methodically chronicles the systematic obliteration of objects and architecture for the sole purpose of erasing the memories, history, and identities of the people attached to them to deny their past as well as their future.3 As Bevan states, “The link between erasing any physical reminder of a people and its collective memory and the killing of the people themselves is ineluctable.”4

Yet, the remnants of physical structures and objects have the capacity to embody and convey destroyed histories and memories. Beneath the farmlands, forests, streets, parking lots, common lands, gardens, public parks, and architectural structures of Nova Scotia lies the original shorelines, hinterlands, and settlements first occupied by Indigenous peoples for millennia that support long-standing Mi’kmaq claims of ownership by first possession later denied them by conquest and colonization. And it is in museums, archives, private collections, and archaeological sites where we find the skeletal remains and stone, bone, and pottery fragments of that Indigenous ruination often portrayed as the enchanted remains of a vanished past resulting from the inevitable consequences of empire building.
Using case studies, this essay examines various encounters between colonists, the Mi’kmaq, and the physical and affective landscape of British Nova Scotia from the founding of Halifax to the end of the 20th century.

  1. Ann Laura Stoler, “The Rot Remains” in Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination, ed. Ann Laura Stoler (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2013), 1.
  2. Stoler, “The Rot Remains,” 1.
  3. Robert Bevan, The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War (London: Reaktion Books, 2006), 8.
  4. Bevan, The Destruction of Memory, 8, 33.
  5. Click here for a bio of Richard Field.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018

Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 — 7:30 p.m., Nova Scotia Archives

Coastal Stories: A History of the Eastern Shore Islands

Sara Spike, University of New Brunswick

Abstract:
 From Jeddore Rock to the St. Mary’s River, in the Mi’kmaw territory of Eskikawa’kik, more than 700 islands are nestled along the rugged Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. Although today most of the islands have returned to a state of relative wilderness, boasting a diversity of natural landscapes and ecosystems, they each have a long history of human use and occupation. At least 80 islands in the archipelago were inhabited, beginning with pre-contact Mi’kmaw use and a series of forgotten early colonial encounters. Settler family homes were established in the late 18th century and flourished throughout the 19th century alongside sawmills, lobster canning factories, and flocks of sheep. The largest islands were home to small communities with one-room schools. As families moved ashore in the early 20th century, they floated their houses in with them, but throughout the archipelago, traces remain in shell middens, mossy cellars, and overgrown stone walls that mark the places where families once made their lives. Rather than a series of dramatic exploits, the history of the Eastern Shore Islands is made up of small stories about a dynamic, intimate relationship with this challenging coastal environment. This paper will share these stories and discuss the community-directed research project that brought them to light.

Click here for a bio of Sara Spike.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018

Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018 — 7:30 p.m., Nova Scotia Archives

“Halifax was Plunged into Gloom”, The Impact of the Spanish Influenza Pandemic on Nova Scotia, 1918–1920

Allan Marble, Chair of the Medical History Society of Nova Scotia

Phyllis R Blakeley Memorial Lecture

Abstract:
 According to death certificates kept by the Department of Vital Statistics of Nova Scotia, Marjory B. McDonald, aged 26, died from Spanish Influenza in the town of Inverness, Cape Breton, on 1 September 1918. The person who probably brought the influenza to Inverness was Murdo Kennedy, a soldier, who died there from the disease on 3 September after having been ill for a week. This was the beginning of three years of terror about influenza for Nova Scotians and resulted in over 2,000 deaths. This paper focuses on the source of the epidemic, the lack of responses from provincial and federal governments, and the miraculous work carried out by doctors and nurses in Nova Scotia who provided quarantine and treatment which resulted in Nova Scotia having one of the lowest death rates from influenza in North America.

Click here for a bio of Allan Marble.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 — 7:30 p.m., Nova Scotia Archives

Medicine at the Fortress of Louisbourg: Trauma, Disease, and Cultural Influences

Jeannette Verleun and Dr. Carly MacLellan, Dalhousie University

Abstract:
 In early 1700s Europe, surgery and medicine were separate professions. Advances in combat medicine led to changes in civilian medicine as well as system practices. In Nova Scotia, French explorers had been in contact with the Mi’kmaq since the 1500s through at least the 18th century. Accounts show that the Mi’kmaq and French colonists relied on each other for aspects of health care. In 1713, the Fortress of Louisbourg was established and a formal health care system was developed at the fort. Using primary sources, published data from the Government in Canada, and historical journal articles, this paper will explore the structure of the medical system at Louisbourg between 1713 and 1758 in the context of cultural influences.

Click here for brief biographies of the speakers.