My blog posts revolve around my interests and vocation as a historian: the intersection of history and contemporary church life, the intersection of history and contemporary politics, serendipitous discoveries in archives or on research trips, publications and research projects, upcoming conferences, and speaking engagements.
I sometimes blog for two other organizations, the Canadian Baptist Historical Society and the Centre for Post-Christendom Studies.
The views expressed in these blogs represent the views of the authors, and not necessarily those of any organizations with which they are associated.
One advantage of having a cottage with no internet (and no data plan on my phone) is that I get a ton of reading done in the evenings. In fact, I think I will stay a luddite on this issue for the foreseeable future – it is simple too much of a boon to my page count to have no electronic distractions!
My reading this summer was very eclectic, and some books were only added to the list because they were fun and cheap discoveries at the used book section of our local cottage-country store. Here they are in no particular order along with a comment or two regarding their relative merit.
I loved the movie, and often listen to the theme song while I work, but I had never read the book. This summer I found a used copy for $2.00, and so I committed to reading it. It was a good call, for the book is a classic in nineteenth-century American literature. However, [spoiler alert] if you are looking for a happy ending you should find another book. Any book that ends with the deaths of two main figures (the only son of a Mohawk chief, and the daughter of an aged British general), is not for the faint of heart. On that sad note, I leave you with the last paragraph of the book:
Memorable Quote: “‘It is enough,’ he said. ‘Go, children of the Lenape, the anger of the Manitto is not done. Why should Tamenund stay? The pale faces are masters of the earth, and the time of the red men has not yet come again. My day has been too long. In the morning I saw the sons of Unamis happy and strong; and yet before the night has come, have I lived to see the last warrior of the wise race of the Mohicans.’” (329)
Anyone that thinks that academics are beyond being cowardly sheep, petty partisan hacks, or mindless followers of popular scientific theories definitely needs to read this book. Norwood traces the pathetic response of American academic institutions and professors to the rise of Nazism in Germany. It is well known that German academics were solidly behind the rise of Nazism, and Norwood confirms that the track record in America was quick compromised on that issue as well. In sum, professors are not so special – they are just like everyone else when it comes to personal and professional biases (perhaps even worse, due to the pervasive arrogance of the profession).
Memorable Quote: “During the early months of Nazi rule in Germany, many Americans recognized that the Hitler regime represented an unprecedented relapse into barbarism….As succeeding chapters demonstrate, the leaders of America’s colleges and universities remained for the most part uninvolved as others in that country forcefully protested the Nazi’s barbaric treatment of Jews….But although academicians were the American’s most conversant with European affairs, few engaged in public anti-Nazi protests….Influenced by their administrators’ example, and that of many of their professors, college and university students for the most part adopted a similar attitude.” (34-35)
This book is a very well written and researched book on the reality of slavery before and during the arrival of European empires. It demonstrates the tragic and violent trade in human lives in the slave economies of native American peoples in the southern colonies. It demonstrates the agency of both Europeans and American Indians in empire building, waging war, and trading in slaves. Not a pretty picture, but a necessary one to acknowledge in our age of romanticizing or demonizing the past.
That said, my memorable quote below is the author’s statement on method. Those familiar with the discipline of historiography may think that his words sound remarkably like what historians have done – to a lesser or greater degree – since Thucydides’ gathering and interpreting evidence.
Memorable Quote: “Historians must be detectives, social scientists, and philosophers. As detectives, we seek out information, decode fragments, and interrogate witnesses: the documents. We measure words against actions to reconstruct the patterns of thought by past peoples construed reality. As social scientists, we fit individual behavior into group dynamics to delineate what is singular and what is indicative of the larger historical forces at work. As philosophers, we meditate on the meaning of that singular moment created by many forces converging and merging into something unique – yet linked to other singular moments by the common humanity of the participants….I have employed no single methodology for disclosing the patterns that exist in the evidence. My judgments on colonialism, colonists, and native peoples are drawn not only from an analysis of the evidence but also from observations made from reading about colonialism in different places in a variety of eras. I have also turned to ethnohistory, anthropology, and archeology for an understanding of the native peoples who did not leave written materials about their lives before and just after contact with Europeans.” (x-xi)
My son and daughter-in-law gave me this book last Christmas. Wow – it is not for the faint of heart. What a depressing account of the plight of indigenous peoples in northern Ontario, primarily around the city of Thunder Bay. It details the events surrounding the deaths of seven indigenous youth, as well as examines the troubling incompetence and/or racism of government officials in their dealings with indigenous peoples. It is easy sometimes to get jaded by the seemingly never-ending politicking around issues of racism in Canada, but this stark and compelling book reminds us of the human costs and human tragedies that are behind the news cycle.
Memorable Quote: “To understand the stories of the seven lost students who are the subject of this book, the seven ‘fallen fathers,’ you must understand Thunder Bay’s past, how the seeds of division, of acrimony and distaste, of a lack of cultural awareness and understanding, were planted in those early days, and how they were watered and nourished with misunderstanding and ambivalence. And you must understand how the government of Canada has historically underfunded education and health services for Indigenous children, providing consistently lower levels of support than for non-Indigenous kids, and how it continues to do so to this day. The white face of prosperity built its own society as the red face powerlessly stood and watched. All this happened as Nanabijou [a godlike figure of Ojibwe legend] slept.” (11)
The next time you attend a memorial service celebrating the end of the Second World War, remember that the story did not really have a happy ending at all. In fact, the carnage and chaos in Europe continued into the 1950s. Yes, the “war ended” with the defeat of Nazi Germany, but the war had opened up multiple pandora’s boxes of ethnic tensions, historical grudges, competing land claims, health crises, and imperial ambitions. In other words, most of Europe was a complete mess – and with such devastation horrible violence continued. And much of what took place was marked by a passionate vengeance to utterly destroy enemies. This book is a must read for those who think that when a war ends all violence ends. In some cases (especially after such devastation and dislocation as a world war), the end of war is just the beginning of more wars, perhaps even bloodier than what has just ended. In fact, in some parts of Europe today, there are still lingering grievances of those dark postwar years. And that does not bode well for the future.
Memorable Quote: “In the aftermath of the war waves of vengeance and retribution washed over every sphere of European life. Nations were stripped of territory and assets, governments and institutions underwent purges, and whole communities were terrorized because of what they were perceived to have done during the war. Some of the worst vengeance was meted out on individuals. German civilians all over Europe were beaten, arrested, used as slave labour or simply murdered. Soldiers and policeman who had collaborated with the Nazis were arrested and tortured. Women who had slept with German soldiers were stripped, shaved and paraded through the streets covered in tar. German, Hungarian and Austrian women were raped in their millions. Far from wiping the slate clean, the aftermath of the war merely propagated grievances between communities and between nations, many of which are still alive today. Neither did the end oif the war signify the birth of a new era of ethnic harmony in Europe. Indeed, in some parts of Europe, ethnic tensions actually became worse.” (xv-xvi)
This older book was a pleasure to read. As the title indicates, it was written for the younger generation. However, I enjoyed it nonetheless as it does a good job informing readers of the meaning behind everyday images seen in churches. The simple artwork is also a boon to helping makes sense of such symbols. I will definitely be reading this to any grandchildren that happen to come into our family.