RNSHS Public Lecture – RESCHEDULED to Wednesday, 1 April 2015


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“American sponsorship of Helen Creighton’s folk song collecting in Nova Scotia during the Second World War”

Creighton Barrett, Digital Archivist, Dalhousie University Archives

In 1942, Helen Creighton received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation to attend the Folklore Institute at Indiana University. The fellowship enabled Creighton to meet several prominent American folklorists, including Alan Lomax, who helped her borrow sound recording equipment from the Library of Congress. The Rockefeller Foundation followed with two grants to cover Creighton’s expenses as she hauled the recording equipment across Nova Scotia. With this joint sponsorship, Creighton made hundreds of folk song recordings during the summers of 1943 and 1944, an incredible accomplishment given the ongoing Second World War. The recordings were sent to the Library of Congress and copies were deposited at what is now the Nova Scotia Archives. This sponsorship from two American organizations was a pivotal moment in Helen Creighton’s career, and helped secure her status as one of Canada’s best known folklorists.

Click here for a bio of Creighton Barrett.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 18 February 2015

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Click to download lecture poster

Up and Coming Research: A Panel of Graduate Students at Dalhousie University including Meghan Carter, Katherine Crooks and Hilary MacKinlay

“Barriers or Bridges to Representation? Nova Scotia Political Culture and Protected Constituencies for Acadians and African-Nova Scotians”
Meghan Carter (Co-authored with Ben Bisset)
From 1993 to 2013 the Nova Scotia provincial electoral map included four districts designed to promote the election of Acadian and African-Nova Scotian representatives. These ‘protected constituencies’ are the only example in modern Canadian history of affirmative gerrymandering. What accounts for the creation of the protected constituencies and their removal just 20 years later? We argue that the creation of the constituencies was as a result of a trend in electoral law discourse. The elimination of the constituencies reflects the liberal nature of political culture in Nova Scotia.
Click here for a bio of Meghan Carter.

“The Quest for Respectability: The Charitable Irish Society in Victorian Halifax”
Katherine Crooks
In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Charitable Irish Society increasingly took advantage of the public attention attracted by Irish holidays in Halifax in order to construct a particular vision of what membership in the British Empire meant for Society members, as well as Irishmen more broadly. This talk will examine the Society’s cultivation of associations with local strands of militarism and imperialism through an analysis of its self-representation in the Halifax press.
Click here for a bio of Katherine Crooks.

“Halifax on the High Seas: The Pacific Whaling Journal of Thomas Creighton, 1843-46″
Hillary MacKinlay
Between 1827 and 1850, ships from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joined their American counterparts in the Pacific whaling trade. This paper is an exploration of the journal kept by Dartmouth native Thomas Creighton on his three year voyage to the Pacific. In 1843, at the age of seventeen, Creighton sailed from Halifax aboard the Rose. He came of age while circumnavigating the globe and encountering people from many different cultures. This paper is a case study of Creighton’s experience, using his in-depth accounts to analyze how his social relationships were altered or maintained throughout his voyage.
Click here for a bio of Hillary MacKinlay.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 21 January 2015

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Click to download lecture poster

“Nova Scotia’s Part in the Great War: An Update”

Brian Tennyson, Professor Emeritus, Department of History and Culture, Cape Breton University

In 1920 M. Stuart Hunt published “Nova Scotia’s Part in the Great War,” an impressive and still useful book reporting on the battalions recruited in Nova Scotia and the activities of various organizations on the home front during the war. Surprisingly  little has been written since then on Nova Scotia’s involvement in the war. This paper explores who Stuart Hunt was, points out aspects of that involvement not treated effectively or at all in his book, and suggests further lines of exploration for historians.

Click here for a bio of Dr. Brian Tennyson.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 10 December 2014


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“Putting the War of 1812 to Rest”

Deborah Trask, Nova Scotia Museum

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

A review of the human scale of the War of 1812 in Nova Scotia, as evidenced in the burial places.

Click here for a bio of Deborah Trask.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 19 November 2014


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The Monuments Women: Captain Edith Standen and the Restitution of Looted Art”

Kirrily Freeman, Saint Mary’s University

Note: This lecture will be given at Royal Artillery Park, 1575 Queen Street.

Edith Appleton Standen was born in Halifax in 1902. Educated at Oxford, she joined the US Women’s Army Corps in 1942, and went to Germany with the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Division of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in 1945. With the MFA&A, Standen joined the group of “Monuments Men” charged with safeguarding and returning the European masterpieces looted by the Nazis, and in 1946 she became Director of one of the largest art restitution centres in Germany.

Click here for a bio of Dr. Kirrily Freeman.

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.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, 15 October 2014


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“’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


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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


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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

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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