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 usually followed by refreshments.
Unless otherwise indicated, our meetings are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday evenings at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 6016 University Avenue, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Please note that the December lecture is held on the second Wednesday of the month.

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, 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, more than 700 islands are nestled along the rugged Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. 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, as families moved ashore in the early 20th century, they ϐloated their houses in with them. 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, Nov. 21, 2018

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

Encountering the Indigenous Other in Historic Nova Scotia, 1749–1900

Richard H. Field, Saint Mary’s University

 In many respects, the significance of the New World has less to do with Columbus’s so-called “discovery” and more to do with the ensuing colonial and post-colonial aftermath. Ann Stoler explains. Reading Derek Walcott’s “Ruins of a Great House”1 as a “searing eulogy to empire” Stoler suggests, “the process of decay is on-going, acts of the past blacken the senses, their effects without clear determination. These crimes have been named and indicted across the globe, but the eating away of the less visible elements of soil and soul more often has not.”2 Robert Bevan in The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War also methodically chronicles the systematic obliteration of objects and architecture for the sole purpose of erasing the memories, history, and identities of the people attached to them to deny their past as well as their future.3 As Bevan states, “The link between erasing any physical reminder of a people and its collective memory and the killing of the people themselves is ineluctable.”4

Yet, the remnants of physical structures and objects have the capacity to embody and convey destroyed histories and memories. Beneath the farmlands, forests, streets, parking lots, common lands, gardens, public parks, and architectural structures of Nova Scotia lies the original shorelines, hinterlands, and settlements first occupied by Indigenous peoples for millennia that support long-standing Mi’kmaq claims of ownership by first possession later denied them by conquest and colonization. And it is in museums, archives, private collections, and archaeological sites where we find the skeletal remains and stone, bone, and pottery fragments of that Indigenous ruination often portrayed as the enchanted remains of a vanished past resulting from the inevitable consequences of empire building.
Using case studies, this essay examines various encounters between colonists, the Mi’kmaq, and the physical and affective landscape of British Nova Scotia from the founding of Halifax to the end of the 20th century.

  1. Ann Laura Stoler, “The Rot Remains” in Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination, ed. Ann Laura Stoler (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2013), 1.
  2. Stoler, “The Rot Remains,” 1.
  3. Robert Bevan, The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War (London: Reaktion Books, 2006), 8.
  4. Bevan, The Destruction of Memory, 8, 33.
  5. Click here for a bio of Richard Field.

RNSHS Public Lecture – Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018

Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018 — 7:30 p.m., Nova Scotia Archives

Charlie’s War:  The Life and Death of a South African Soldier in the No. 2 Construction Company, 1917–1918

Kirrily Freeman, Saint Mary’s University

 On the night of September 22-23, 1918 Private Charles Some died of wounds in France. But he did not die in battle or from war injuries: he was murdered on a narrow mountain road in eastern France. Though he fought with the CEF, Charlie Some was born in the British colony of Natal in southern Africa. He joined the No. 2 Construction Battalion and lived in Africville, but was a newcomer to that community. In his migration to Nova Scotia, his recruitment as a Black man into the military, his health and hospitalization, and his labour and non-compliance with military life, the influence of racism and empire are overwhelming, and illustrate the connections that existed between local, national, and imperial policies and practices. Ultimately, Charlie’s experience — which on the surface seems exceptional — is in fact representative of much broader global patterns.

Click here for a bio of Kirrily Freeman.