The Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society Autumn 2016 Lecture Series

Click here for a downloadable programme brochure.


September 21, 2016

“The Private Life of Jessie MacCallum, Diarist of Windsor & St. George, 1901–1910”

Julian Gwyn, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Ottawa

Phyllis R Blakeley Memorial Lecture

There is a growing interest among historians in diaries especially for the light they shine on the private lives of women. Largely written by those of middle class families, there is always excitement when another diary comes to light, especially by a young person. Such is the case of Jessie MacCallum (1885–1956). The diary of her early life in Windsor, Nova Scotia, and St. George, New Brunswick, covers the first decade of the last century beginning on January 1st 1901. Though she continued for the rest of her life to keep a diary, most were wantonly destroyed after her death by one of her daughters‐in‐law, who thought them too depressing. Yet what has survived (1901–08, 1910) deserves, a century later, to see the light of day.

Click here for a bio of Julian Gwyn and here for a poster for Dr. Gwyn’s talk

The 29th Annual Phyllis R. Blakeley lecture is named in memory of the late Provincial Archivist of Nova Scotia who is 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.


October 19, 2016

“The Halifax Relief Commission and the Politics of the Canadian Home Front during the First World War”

Barry Cahill

The 6 December 1917 explosion of a munitions vessel in the Narrows of Halifax Harbour killed or fatally wounded nearly 2000 persons and injured many more. The catastrophic Halifax disaster was the most significant event affecting Canada’s home front during the Great War. Among its lesser-known aspects is the role played by Canada’s Union government, which assumed complete authority over recovery. It did this through the Halifax Relief Commission (1918–1976), established in January 1918 by Order in Council. This lecture examines the political aspects of the process that led to the establishment of the commission, taking place as it did during the bitterest federal election campaign in Canada’s history — the conscription election of 1917.

Click here for a bio of Barry Cahill.


November 16, 2016

“Mi’kmaw Politicism and the Origins of the Micmac Community Development Program, 1900–1957”

Martha Walls, Mount Saint Vincent University

Between 1957 and 1970, the Extension Department of St. Francis Xavier University operated the Micmac Community Development Program (MCDP), intended to build financial and political independence in Mi’kmaw communities in northeastern Nova Scotia. Implicit in the work of MCDP was an assumption that the program would teach the Mi’kmaq political skills with which they would be better able to contest state interferences. This paper challenges this assumption as it explores how, in the decades preceding the MCDP, deeply-rooted and effective Mi’kmaw political mechanisms challenged the most egregious of colonial impositions. The MCDP was no catalyst to Mi’kmaw political action; instead it tapped into an existing and effective Mi’kmaw political network.

Click here for a bio of Martha Walls


December 14, 2016

“The 1921 Aerial Survey of Halifax”

Dirk Werle, ÆRDE Environmental Research

This illustrated talk presents the history, development, and results of aerial photography in Canada immediately after the First World War. The collections of early aerial photography in Canada and elsewhere, as well as the institutional and practical circumstances and arrangements of their creation, represent an important part of our heritage. An episode of one of the first urban surveys, carried out over Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1921, is highlighted. Using the air photos and a digitally re-assembled mosaic of that collection as a guide, a variety of features unique to the post-war urban landscape of the Halifax peninsula are analysed and compared with records of past and current land use. The air photo ensemble is placed into the historical context with thematic maps, recent air photos, and modern satellite imagery.

Click here for a bio of Dirk Werle.

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