RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 15 October 2014


Click to download lecture poster

“’A Tense and Courageous Performance’: The Leadership of The Honorable Allan J. MacEachen in the Creation and Passage of Bill C-227, the Medical Care Act, 1966”

Ross Langley, Dalhousie University

7:30 pm, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 6016 University Avenue

In the long, tortuous, complex and important history of the development of comprehensive health insurance in Canada, few events were as critical as the creation and passage through Parliament of a medicare bill by a minority government. On July 12, the Honorable Allan J. MacEachen introduced Bill C-227 the Medical Care Act. Over the next six months intense Parliamentary debate followed. Skillfully piloting the Bill, masterfully parrying attacks and maintaining its integrity, he won acclaim, forging parliamentary unity as it passed by a vote of 177 to 2; ensuring Medicare would be considered “undoubtedly the single greatest public policy story of the past 50 years”.

Click here for a bio of Dr. Ross Langley.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 17 September 2014


Click to download lecture poster

The British Capture and Occupation of Downeast Maine, 1814-1815/18

G. Frederick Young, Professor Emeritus, History Department, SMU.

7:30 pm, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 6016 University Avenue


In the summer of 1814, after Napoleon had abdicated in April, the British were free to go on the offensive against the young (to RN officers, upstart) American republic to make it feel “the bitters of war.” One of the objectives decided upon in London was to ‘correct the border’ between the Maritime Provinces and the State of Maine stipulated in the Treaty of Paris of 1783, and restore the ‘historic natural frontier’ at the Penobscot. This necessitated a joint naval-military expedition which was organized here in Halifax and which intended to eliminate the American armed outposts at Eastport, Machias and Casine. Eastport was taken easily enough in July, but then the news that the American Corvette Adams (28 guns) had put into the Penobscot for repairs caused the British to go straight to the Penobscot to destroy that American warship. The consequence of this change in plans resulted again in the easy capture of Castine, but then the British had to push upriver to assault the Adams at Hampden. The Americans did mount a defense to protect the ship, but the militia at the Battle of Hampden was no match for the British regulars, and so both Hampden and the ‘timber town’, Bangor, were taken and sacked … much like Alexandria, Virginia, and the 24-hour raid on Washington, DC, at the same time. A mopping up action took Machias a week later.

The British fully intended to hold the 100 miles of coast from the Penobscot to the New Brunswick border, as well as the whole expanse of territory north of the Penobscot River, i.e., the northern salient of Maine, to make contiguous the territory of the Maritimes with Lower Canada (Quebec). They settled in in style at Castine, and opened the port to imperial trade… John Young (later Halifax’s Agricola) being one of the principal traders. Things would have remained this way, but for defeat in the somewhat obscure naval action on Lake Champlain on 11 September 1814, which caused the British to rethink their position (given the diplomatic dealings going on in Vienna — not Napoleon’s ‘escape’ from Elba in March, 1815) and sign a peace treaty with the Americans on the basis of status quo ante. That was on Christmas Eve 1814, and so Castine and Downeast Maine were returned to American sovereignty after ratification of the treaty on 17 February 1815; Eastport was held a little longer but also returned in 1818 after some further negotiations.

Click here for a bio of Dr.Frederick Young.

RNSHS Public Lecture and Annual Meeting – Wednesday, 21 May 2014


Click to download event poster

NOTE: This lecture will follow the Annual General Meeting of the Society which will begin at 7:30 pm.

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

RNSHS Annual Dinner and Lecture – Wednesday, 16 April 2014

RNSHS_April Lecture

Click to download event poster

NOTE: This event has now sold out and no further tickets will be available.

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


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.


6:00 pm Cash Bar (featuring local beers and wines)
6:30 pm Dinner – Annual Nova Scotian History Quiz
7:30 pm Lecture

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 below, 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.



Afua Cooper – “The political education and revolutionary consciousness of the Black Loyalists.”

Extracts from the lecture meeting minutes of January 15th, 2014 at which the speaker, Dr Afua Cooper, spoke about the political culture of the Black Loyalists as manifested in the actions of the Sierre Leone colonists.


James Morrision, the Vice President of program, introduced the evening’s speaker Dr Afua Cooper the occupant of the James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Studies at Dalhousie University. Dr. Cooper’s book on slave life in Montreal, based on evidence of the trial of Angelique in 1734, attracted a Governor General’s award and her contemporary poetry has received critical acclaim.  Her lecture was titled “The political education and revolutionary consciousness of the Black Loyalists.”

She situated her lecture in a growing body of literature on Black Loyalists who asserted their agency in the determination of their future. In contrast to being passive fellow travelers on much of the same journey as the non-Black refugees from the Revolution this new literature asserts that Black Loyalists were agents of their own change and actively sought their freedom and the changes it would mean to their communities. From her own casual encounter with George Liele’s Baptist Church in Jamaica at a time before realizing his life path to the work of Cassandra Pybus in situating Black Loyalists in uprisings at Botany Bay in Australia there is a pattern of Black Loyalists continuing the radical consciousness that many associate with the American Revolution into their new situations.

This radical consciousness was also cradled in the heightened religious expression of Black churches which bloomed in this period. The Christian message delivered through the growing number of Black preachers became a call for recognition and equality whether delivered through a sermon at church or petitions conveying grievances to colonial governors. Additionally the demographic profile of the Black Loyalists was such that nearly half of those arriving in Nova Scotia had experienced freedom and self-determination in Africa during their life before Nova Scotia.

She then followed the Sierra Leone migration from Nova Scotia to Africa in which the popular historical narrative is that Abolitionist John Clarkson sought to create a free colony of Blacks under the British Flag in the home port of the slave trade. Yet in the colony of Clarkson under the corporate world of the Sierra Leone Company the lives of those who were now free on paper was one in which their freedoms were fleeting. With little land, less political say and a commercial colony the situation didn’t really seem much better.

Dr Cooper went on to argue that the truer keepers of the what we see now as the ideals of the French and American revolutions were not the shopkeepers of Boston who marched against the garrison at Bunker Hill, or the rising middle class of France but the Black Nova Scotians of Sierre Leone, half of whom were born in Africa, who carried the ideals of religious freedom, political self determination and economic equality into their uprising against the Sierre Leone company.

In declaring themselves free men and women and the rightful proprietors of the colony they also declared themselves not subject to the laws of Britain and were labelled as Jacobites by noted abolitionist William Wilberforce. Although ultimately not successful in their revolution Dr Cooper rooted the evolution of their ideals in their values of pre-slave Africa and the effect of the Christian gospel as voiced by African native preachers.

Following a period of discussion the speaker was thanked by the president and the meeting adjourned to refreshments.

Full minutes: Lecture Meeting – January 15, 2014

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 19 March 2014


Click to download Lecture Poster

Highland Shepherd: Rev. James MacGregor, 1759-1831

Dr. Alan Wilson, Professor Emeritus, Trent University

7:30 pm, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 6016 University Avenue


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.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 19 February 2014


Click to download Lecture Poster

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

Dr. Catherine Cottreau-Robbins, Nova Scotia Museum

7:30 pm, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 6016 University Avenue


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.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 15 January 2014


Click to download Lecture Poster

The Political Education and Revolutionary Consciousness of the Black Loyalists

Dr. Afua Cooper, Dalhousie University

7:30 pm, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 6016 University Avenue


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.

Click here for a bio of Dr. Afua Cooper.


RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 11 December 2013


Click to download Lecture Poster

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.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 20 November 2013


Click to download Lecture Poster

“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.