The Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society Fall 2013 Lecture Series

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 followed by refreshments.


Wednesday, 18 September

“In the Balance: Atlantic Canada and the Legacy of the Peace of Utrecht”

Dr. Elizabeth Mancke, Department of History, University of New Brunswick

With Panel responses by Dr. Kenneth Donovan, Dr. James Hiller and Anne Marie Lane Jonah

Note: This lecture will be given at the Maritime Museum of the  Atlantic, 1675 Lower Water Street


The 1713 treaties of Utrecht, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713), embedded the idea in European international relations that peace and stability could be attained through the “balance of power” among the various antagonists.  Concessions were exacted, territories exchanged, promises made.  The scholarly literature emphasizes balancing within Europe, but many of the territories exchanged were in the extra-European world, including Acadia/Nova Scotia and the French concession that Britain held sovereignty over Newfoundland, albeit with important fishing privileges extended to France and Spain.  This talk will analyze how overseas territory became important to the European balance of power, with particular attention to the Atlantic region of Canada.

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.

Click here for a short bio of Dr. Elizabeth Mancke



October 16

“Nova Scotia soldier pensioners in their British Imperial context, 1812-1827″

Dr. William R. Miles, Memorial University & Dr. Michael E. Vance, Saint Mary’s University.


The Napoleonic Wars produced a mass mobilization that touched every community in the British Isles. Indeed, the scale of the mobilization was not surpassed until WWI and, as with the later twentieth-century conflict, the settlement of veteran soldiers in the Empire was viewed by many as a means to forestall potential unrest following demobilization at the end of hostilities (Cookson:1997; Fedorowich: 1995). Our paper is based on the examination of the War Office Registers that identified British Soldiers receiving their pensions in the colonies in the post-Napoleonic period. These records provide details of military service, occupation prior to recruitment, and the community of origin as well as the colony of settlement – including Nova Scotia. In the 1930s J.S. Martell made use of Colonial Office and newspaper records to itemize the various soldier settlements founded in Nova Scotia after 1812. Using the War Office records, our paper will build on this earlier work by providing particular histories of a few individual soldiers who were located in the Nova Scotia settlements. British soldier pensioners were found in the West Indies, the Cape Colony, and New South Wales as well as British North America and, as a consequence, our paper will also examine the Nova Scotia settlements within this larger imperial context.

Our research has lead us to two broad conclusions. First, that military service records are an under used source for both the social history of the army and the history of migration from the British Isles. We would argue that this is in part a reflection of the historiography of the military which has tended to focus on battles and campaigns rather than on the army as a social institution and migration studies which have too often artificially separated soldiers from emigrants. Second, that colonial settlements within the British Empire, such as those in Nova Scotia, were often inter-connected in surprising ways. Soldiers who were recruited in the same regions of the British Isles ended up settling in widely dispersed areas of the Empire and we would argue that this fact greatly contributed to the flow of information on the range of potential emigrant destinations back to the homeland and, indeed, between colonies.

Click here for a short bio of Dr. William R. Miles & Dr. Michael E. Vance.


November 20

“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.


December 11

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.


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