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.


RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Folklore – Is it relevant in the 21st century?

Clary Croft

Phyllis R Blakeley Memorial Lecture

 Once known as the study of Popular Antiquities, then Folklore and, now, Intangible Cultural Heritage, the collection and analysis of oral and material culture is often seen as quaint and irrelevant in today’s society. Nothing could be further from the truth. Folklore researcher, Clary Croft, whose mentor was Dr. Helen Creighton, will explore the traditional aspects of Nova Scotia folklore and discuss his impressions of this field today.

Click here for a bio of Clary Croft.

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.