Some thoughts on teaching the colonial Canadian survey (from Borealia)

I contributed a post to Borealia: A Group Blog on Early Canadian History, offering some thoughts on how we frame the early Canadian survey course. Denis Kim of Borealia asked me to contribute something on teaching, prompted by a brief Twitter conversation I had had with Tom Peace of Huron University College this past spring. Tom, at the meeting of the Canadian Historical Association in Regina in June 2018, presented a piece discussing Huron’s decision to shift their Canadian survey to a broader transnational focussed course.  That work is outlined in a post for ActiveHistory.ca.

Comparing the two, it’s clear that Tom and I are very much concerned with similar issues, and equally to break with a traditional nationalist view of colonial Canadian history. We differ on where our basic framing begins:  on the nation-state that defines us today or in a blurrier transnational context. Blurry, I think we agree, is good, but some of its assumptions demand different expression.

A taste:

In teaching about Canada, I want my students to see something that is both familiar and strange – something they recognise as their country, but often in ways that they had not previously imagined. In the colonial survey, I often begin with the map on our header, Nicolas Bellin’s 1744 map of Isle Royale (Cape Breton/U’nama’kik). It looks like Cape Breton, but it also introduces us to this strange island off the coast of Acadie/Mi’kmaki/Nova Scotia (in 1744, it was very much all three of these!). In this one image, we see the familiar (the simple outline of what is normally today called Cape Breton), places we’re coming to know (like that fortress along the coast named for the French king), and places we can’t see any more like Port Toulouse/Quescouminigan, Moulagash, and le grand lac Bideauboch “rectifee … sur l’orginal des sauvages.

Read the entire post here.

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