The Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society Winter/Spring 2014 Lecture Series

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.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Political Education and Revolutionary Consciousness of the Black Loyalists

Dr. Afua Cooper, Dalhousie University


In 1800, the Black Loyalist Nova Scotians who had been living in Freetown, Sierra Leone for eight years, rose up in rebellion against the Sierra Leone Company, rulers of the nascent colony. These settlers had fled Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone in search of full freedom and independence. Eventually, the frustrations, disappointments, and bitterness experienced by the Black Loyalists reached the boiling point, and they moved to overthrow the colonial government and white rule as represented by the Company.

What would impel the settler to engage in such a radical action as rebellion? Why did they feel so empowered to launch their protests? And why, from the moment of their arrival in Sierra Leone, they behaved as if it was their colony and they had every right to determine how it should run? What were the forces that shaped the consciousness of those settlers that made them take up arms against the Company, and were willing to die for their freedom?

The Black Loyalists are important because they embodied perhaps, one of the earliest collective examples of a transnational and Pan African consciousness and subjectivity. They were instrumental in originating and creating a Black Atlantic revolutionary tradition. However, this aspect of their history, i.e. the creation of a revolutionary consciousness and identity has been overlooked by historians who have delved into the Black Loyalists experience.

This talk will explore the making of the political consciousness and identity of Black Loyalists, primarily those from Canada and Britain, which is where the majority of these Loyalists went, and help to develop a transatlantic and Pan-African approach to the study of these eighteenth-century Black subjects.

Click here for a bio of Dr. Afua Cooper.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Loyalist Plantation: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Informing Early African – Nova Scotian Settlement

Dr. Catherine Cottreau-Robbins, Curator of Archaeology, Nova Scotia Museum


At the close of the American Revolution thousands of American Loyalists were forced into exile and made their way to British colonies beyond the United States. Most of the Loyalists landed in British North America, particularly the Maritimes. The research presented is a study of the Loyalists. Specifically, it explores a Loyalist and his journey from Massachusetts to Nova Scotia along with his family and servants, including enslaved Black Loyalists. A central objective of the research is to illuminate the story of the enslaved and magnify their place in Nova Scotia’s colonial history narrative. The objective is addressed by adapting a holistic perspective that considers a single geography – the plantation. The holistic perspective, developed through an interdisciplinary methodology, explores the people, places and culture that formed the Loyalist plantation and were informed by it. The picture that emerges is one that puts into place the structure and organization of a Loyalist plantation in the late eighteenth century Atlantic northeast. When mapped, the historical data compiled provides clues to a wider and deeper landscape of slavery in Nova Scotia’s Loyalist era.

Click here for a bio of Catherine Cottreau-Robbins


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

 Highland Shepherd: Rev. James MacGregor, 1759-1831

Dr. Alan Wilson, Professor Emeritus, Trent University


A review of Macgregor as missionary, ecclesiastical statesman, Gaelic authority and poet, agent of the Enlightenment in the Scottish diaspora, and influential Improver in science, technology, industry, agriculture and education in the Maritime Provinces.

 Click here for a bio of Dr. Alan Wilson.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

 Thomas Raddall and the ‘Jolly Millionaire’ Leo Koretz: A Young Author, A Fugitive Chicago Swindler and Nova Scotia’s Dazzling Summer of 1924

Dean Jobb, Associate Professor and Associate Director
School of Journalism, University of King’s College, Halifax


Tickets for this event must be purchased by Friday, 11 April 2014. Seating for this event is limited. 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.  Please be sure to phone or e-mail the Society about your plans to attend the dinner meeting, using the contact information in the reservation form. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD RESERVATION FORM. 


Thomas Raddall, the acclaimed author of popular histories and historical novels, was a young bookkeeper in Liverpool, N.S., in the summer of 1924 when he befriended a wealthy American newcomer. Lou Keyte was a mysterious figure who hosted lavish parties at his secluded Queen’s County estate and became a fixture of Halifax’s social scene. Raddall dubbed him the “jolly millionaire” and was as shocked as anyone when Keyte was arrested and exposed as Leo Koretz, a notorious swindler wanted in Chicago for promoting a multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme. It’s a saga of Prohibition-era glitz and glamour that Raddall, the master storyteller, kept mostly to himself.

Click here for a bio of Dean Jobb.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Transformation and Triumphalism: The Irish Catholics of Halifax in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Dr. Terrance Murphy, Professor Emeritus, Saint Mary’s University


The middle decades of the nineteenth century were a transformational period for the Irish Catholic community of Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Increased strength came in part from the rapid growth of the Irish Catholic population and the expansion of Catholic institutions. By mid-century, Catholics comprised one-third of the population of the town and two parishes, a small college, two convents, well-staffed  Catholic schools for boys and girls, and an episcopal corporation had all been established. Institutional maturity and increased human resources supported efforts to bring rank and file Catholics more into conformity with clerical standards of belief and practice. Even more crucial in this respect was the proliferation of devotional societies which inculcated the demonstrative piety of the Ultramontane revival. The associational life of Catholics included nationalist and philanthropic organizations which worked closely with religious societies to build a sense of common purpose and identity. The Irish Catholics of Halifax were part of an increasingly cohesive and confident community, not only on the local scene but throughout the English-speaking world. A network of Irish bishops, created and led by Paul Cullen, Archbishop of Dublin, worked in concert to create a sort of spiritual empire imbued with devotion to the papacy, commitment to ecclesiastical discipline, and determination to defend Catholic interests.  Greater assertiveness sometimes bubbled over into triumphalism and fuelled an anti-Catholic backlash, but outbursts of “no popery” were less severe and less violent than in many other North American cities. Expressions of sectarian rivalry and ethnic conflict continued long after 1860.  Still, Catholics,  occupied an increasingly secure place in Halifax society and became more and more visible in the public sphere. This visibility expressed itself in both practical and symbolic terms. Besides the prominent role of Catholic laymen in the business and political affairs of the city, public demonstrations of Catholic piety, such as frequent and elaborate religious processions, became a familiar and generally accepted feature of Halifax life.

Click here for a bio of Dr. Terrance Murphy

The Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society Fall 2013 Lecture Series

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.


Wednesday, 18 September

“In the Balance: Atlantic Canada and the Legacy of the Peace of Utrecht”

Dr. Elizabeth Mancke, Department of History, University of New Brunswick

With Panel responses by Dr. Kenneth Donovan, Dr. James Hiller and Anne Marie Lane Jonah

Note: This lecture will be given at the Maritime Museum of the  Atlantic, 1675 Lower Water Street


The 1713 treaties of Utrecht, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713), embedded the idea in European international relations that peace and stability could be attained through the “balance of power” among the various antagonists.  Concessions were exacted, territories exchanged, promises made.  The scholarly literature emphasizes balancing within Europe, but many of the territories exchanged were in the extra-European world, including Acadia/Nova Scotia and the French concession that Britain held sovereignty over Newfoundland, albeit with important fishing privileges extended to France and Spain.  This talk will analyze how overseas territory became important to the European balance of power, with particular attention to the Atlantic region of Canada.

The 27th Annual Phyllis R. Blakeley Memorial Lecture is a joint lecture with the Royal Society of Canada and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. The Phyllis R. Blakeley lecture is named in memory of the late Provincial Archivist of Nova Scotia who was 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.

Click here for a short bio of Dr. Elizabeth Mancke



October 16

“Nova Scotia soldier pensioners in their British Imperial context, 1812-1827″

Dr. William R. Miles, Memorial University & Dr. Michael E. Vance, Saint Mary’s University.


The Napoleonic Wars produced a mass mobilization that touched every community in the British Isles. Indeed, the scale of the mobilization was not surpassed until WWI and, as with the later twentieth-century conflict, the settlement of veteran soldiers in the Empire was viewed by many as a means to forestall potential unrest following demobilization at the end of hostilities (Cookson:1997; Fedorowich: 1995). Our paper is based on the examination of the War Office Registers that identified British Soldiers receiving their pensions in the colonies in the post-Napoleonic period. These records provide details of military service, occupation prior to recruitment, and the community of origin as well as the colony of settlement – including Nova Scotia. In the 1930s J.S. Martell made use of Colonial Office and newspaper records to itemize the various soldier settlements founded in Nova Scotia after 1812. Using the War Office records, our paper will build on this earlier work by providing particular histories of a few individual soldiers who were located in the Nova Scotia settlements. British soldier pensioners were found in the West Indies, the Cape Colony, and New South Wales as well as British North America and, as a consequence, our paper will also examine the Nova Scotia settlements within this larger imperial context.

Our research has lead us to two broad conclusions. First, that military service records are an under used source for both the social history of the army and the history of migration from the British Isles. We would argue that this is in part a reflection of the historiography of the military which has tended to focus on battles and campaigns rather than on the army as a social institution and migration studies which have too often artificially separated soldiers from emigrants. Second, that colonial settlements within the British Empire, such as those in Nova Scotia, were often inter-connected in surprising ways. Soldiers who were recruited in the same regions of the British Isles ended up settling in widely dispersed areas of the Empire and we would argue that this fact greatly contributed to the flow of information on the range of potential emigrant destinations back to the homeland and, indeed, between colonies.

Click here for a short bio of Dr. William R. Miles & Dr. Michael E. Vance.


November 20

“No paleolithic is he, but braw Canadian Scotch”: Cape Breton’s Giant MacAskill

Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell, St. Francis Xavier University


The 150th anniversary of the Giant MacAskill’s death invites a reassessment of his career and the elaborate mythology which his physical prowess and size have generated.   In the heyday of the freak show, the celebrated Cape Bretoner, attired in Highland costume, joined the exhibition circuit, entertaining audiences from Halifax to Havana in a combined performance of ethnicity and physical anomaly. Even in death, the Giant did not leave the world of the sideshow behind.  In his transformation from monster to marvel to marketing device, he has proved a versatile muse for writers, cartoonists, entrepreneurs, politicians, and tourist policy makers who have exploited his potential as an heroic spectacle of superior size and brawn, and as an icon of Scottish physical strength.

Click here for a short bio of Dr. Laurie Stanley-Blackwell.


December 11

Acadian Cemeteries in Nova Scotia: Changing Cultural Landscapes

Dr. Sally Ross, Independent Scholar


Cemeteries are sacred places of remembrance and commemoration, but they also bear witness to changing values and beliefs. As cultural landscapes shaped by people, they reflect many aspects of their communities, ranging from social stratification to linguistic assimilation. Based on her 2003 field research in 60 post-Deportation Acadian cemeteries in the eight different Acadian regions of Nova Scotia, Sally Ross will illustrate the regional specificities and the shifting iconography that characterize these landscapes.

Click here for a short bio of Dr. Sally Ross.