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, 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, in the Mi’kmaw territory of Eskikawa’kik, more than 700 islands are nestled along the rugged Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. Although today most of the islands have returned to a state of relative wilderness, boasting a diversity of natural landscapes and ecosystems, they each have a long history of human use and occupation. 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 flourished throughout the 19th century alongside sawmills, lobster canning factories, and flocks of sheep. The largest islands were home to small communities with one-room schools. As families moved ashore in the early 20th century, they floated their houses in with them, but throughout the archipelago, traces remain in shell middens, mossy cellars, and overgrown stone walls that mark the places where families once made their lives. 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, stabbed multiple times in the face, chest, back and neck, his throat severed. Although Charlie Some died a violent death in France in 1918, it was outside of battle and likely at the hands of an ally or comrade. Though he fought with the CEF, Charlie Some was not Canadian — he was born in the British colony of Natal in southern Africa. He joined the No. 2 and lived in Africville, but was a newcomer to that historic community. When he was hospitalized, it was a result of civilian encounters, and his service file is peppered with absences and punishments. In short, Charlie Some’s experience in the First World War differs significantly from the Great War stories familiar to most Canadians.
But Charlie Some’s experience is revealing when placed in a wider context. In his migration from Natal to Nova Scotia, his recruitment as a Black man into the military, his health and hospitalization, the labour he performed, and his non-compliance with the regulations and routines of 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 remarkably representative of much broader global patterns.

Click here for a bio of Kirrily Freeman.