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

 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

 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

 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.

RNSHS Annual Dinner and Lecture – Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Citadel on Stage

Alex Boutilier

Note: This lecture takes place at our Annual Banquet at the Dalhousie University Club. Tickets will be available to purchase in March.

 Alex Boutilier’s 2015 book, The Citadel on Stage, is a lively and entertaining social history. While it is a biography of the people of Halifax during the colonial era, it is also the story of the British army and Royal navy in a garrison town, and a study of the relationship of politics, religion, economics, and culture, as well as social activities in pre‐confederation Halifax. It also traces British military theatre, sports, and recreation in colonial Halifax.

Click here for a bio of Alex Boutilier.


Tickets for this event must be purchased by Thursday, 12 April 2018.

Update: Banquet details are now available.

Seating for this event is limited. If you are interested in attending, please notify Rosemary Barbour at 902 424-6070 or email membership@rnshs.ca to ensure your ticket reservation and before submitting payment.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, March 21, 2018

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

Leprosy in Cape Breton — 1852–1907

Dr. Kenneth Murray, Family Physician, Neil’s Harbour

 In the 1850’s a very unusual disease appeared in two separate communities of Inverness County, Cape Breton. The disease spread slowly in localized areas causing significant disfigurement and a number of deaths. Some speculated this was leprosy. Others disagreed. It wasn’t until after the 1880’s that outside medical researchers visited to examine some of the victims. Was this leprosy? Was this another disease? Where did it come from and how did it get there? How did the community and the government respond? How was it contained? Were the measures implemented by health authorities effective? This presentation will examine these questions.

Click here for a bio of Kenneth Murray.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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

Other Stories from the Great War: The Third Jamaican Contingent and “The Halifax Incident” of 1916

Professor Hyacinth Simpson, Ryerson University, Toronto

 During the First World War, British resources—both in manpower and materials—did not always prove adequate to meeting the demands of waging war on such a large scale. British authorities responded to the problem by coming up with innovations within their own borders and also by turning to their colonies for assistance. For example, when recruitment needs could not be met in the British Isles and its white-settler Dominions, British West Indians—from whom military authorities in London had previously rejected offers of service on the grounds that black men should not fight in a “white man’s war”—were eventually allowed to serve via a special Royal decree. But, while over 10,000 “coloured” men from the British West Indies were happy to volunteer on behalf of “King and Country”, their needs were not always properly attended to by British authorities. Transportation, accommodation, and medical attention were often sub-standard, and at times outrightly neglected.
On occasion, that neglect even led to non-combat fatalities. The most infamous example of the toll such neglect took on the British West Indians involved a group of over 1,000 (mostly Jamaican) volunteers who were part of the Third Jamaica Contingent that sailed for England in March 1916 on the SS Verdala. On the outward journey, the Verdala was diverted to Halifax, Canada during a terrible blizzard. The tragedy that unfolded from the moment the Verdala arrived in Halifax to the day, months later, when the last Contingent man left the city is at the centre of a dramatic story of unprecedented co-operation between Canadians and Jamaicans. That co-operation proved highly beneficial for both countries, with Canada using the opportunity to jump-start a rehabilitation program for its injured soldiers.

This presentation gives a full account of this story, which has never been told before in its entirety; and, in the process, shows how the Canadian Military Hospitals Commission parlayed this incident in Halifax into creating what later became a comprehensive network of convalescent hospitals that helped prepare Canada’s wounded warriors for post-war life.

Click here for a bio of Hyacinth Simpson.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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

Ordinary People; Extraordinary Times: Minnie and Stewart Ross confront the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion

David A. Sutherland — retired professor, History Department, Dalhousie University

 A working-class couple living in Halifax’s North End, Minnie and Stewart Ross were leading unremarkable lives as their city became embroiled in World War One. For them it appeared to be a “good war,” in the sense that while Stewart enlisted, he never went overseas, instead serving on board the Niobe, flag-ship of Canada’s east coast navy. That semi-derelict vessel remained in port throughout the hostilities, meaning that Stewart got home every evening, while earning steady promotion in the ranks. Then came disaster. The December 1917 explosion levelled the Ross home, killing all four of their children, seriously injuring Minnie and leaving Stewart prone to the onset of tuberculosis. This presentation follows the family through 1918 as they, in association with the Halifax Relief Commission, sought to rebuild their lives in the face of multi-faceted adversity.

Click here for a bio of David Sutherland.


RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 — 7:30 p.m., Nova Scotia Archives

City’s Saviours: The Military Response to the Halifax Explosion

Col. John Boileau (Ret’d)

 When the Belgian relief ship Imo collided in the Narrows of Halifax Harbour with the munitions-laden Mont-Blanc at about 08:45 on the morning of December 6, 1917, it started a fire that eventually resulted in an earth-shattering explosion at 09:04:35, perhaps the largest man-made, non-nuclear explosion in history.

The public safety and emergency service organizations that exist today were unknown, the city’s fire and police departments had few members, public hospitals had only recently come into existence and private ones were small. Halifax and Dartmouth were clearly unable to cope with the scale of the disaster and emergency assistance was desperately required. Other cities and towns in Nova Scotia quickly mobilized help once word of the disaster got to them, and American assistance from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York also was dispatched to the stricken city.

It took time to organize this response however, and in the interim it was the large number of Canadian, British and American soldiers, sailors and nursing sisters who were in the city at the time that immediately came to the city’s rescue. Among other actions, their response saved lives, prevented further destruction and stopped looting—in short, they prevented the disaster from becoming greater than it was.

Halifax’s role as the Canadian city most involved in the war effort—a function that led to the explosion in the first place—was also the main reason why the reaction to the disaster was so quick and coordinated. The important role the armed forces played in the rescue and recovery operations has never been given the formal recognition it deserves. It remains a mystery why the contributions of the servicemen and -women who offered so much in the explosion’s aftermath have never been officially acknowledged.

Click here for a bio of John Boileau.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

“The people’s rights we have sustained”
The Nova Scotian Repeal and Annexation Movements (1867–1869)

Mathias Rodorff, PhD Candidate, History Department, LMU Munich and Dalhousie University

 In September, 1867 the Dominion of Canada was challenged by the newly elected Nova Scotian government wanting to repeal it and by anti-confederate groups from Yarmouth calling for annexation to the United States. Although these opposition movements failed, they had significant impact that merits re-examination.
Mathias Rodorff will discuss the causes and courses of the Repeal and the Annexation Movements, the controversial role of the Mother Country and the contribution of the press and thus will offer new perspectives on the relationship between Confederation and the people of Nova Scotia.

Click here for a bio of Mathias Rodorff.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The End of the “Gentlemen’s Agreement”: the Collapse of Catholic Education in Nova Scotia

Robert Bérard, Professor and Director of Graduate Education, Mount Saint Vincent University

 The paper looks at the history of the so-called “Gentleman’s Agreement” between Nova Scotia Premier Charles Tupper and Archbishop of Halifax Thomas Connolly to provide limited public support for Catholic schools within a non-denominationsl public school system, particularly at the collapse of that informal arrangement just over one hundred years later. Demographic, political and cultural changes in Nova Scotia within the Catholic Church put an effective end to the “Gentleman’s Agreement” and, in turn, to the closure of most non-public Catholic schools in the province.

Click here for a bio of Robert Berard.