It’s the time of year again (does the second time make it a tradition?) when we reveal the nominees for the Wilson Book Prize and the Viv Nelles Essay Prize. And once again, after months of deliberation, we have come up with a shortlist of three books and three essays that we believe best fit their description.
This year, we changed things up a little. First, instead of revealing the winners at a Wilson Institute event like we did last year at the Studio Bar in downtown Toronto, both winners will be revealed at the CHA’s award ceremony in Regina. Like last year, we asked publishers to nominate the book (or books) that they believe best fit the prize’s description. However, this year, we encouraged publishers to send more than one nomination. Most publishers accepted our invitation, resulting in significantly more nominations (~70) … and reading. With the Viv Nelles Essay Prize, we allowed students – and not just their professors/supervisors – to nominate their own papers. As a result, we received three times more submissions!
Thank you all for your submissions and nominations!
Let’s get down to business. First up, the Wilson Book Prize. The Wilson fellows, Ian, and I have settled on a short list of books that we believe best fits the award’s description: “the book that offers the best exploration of Canadian history that, in the view of the Wilson Institute, succeeds in making Canadian historical scholarship accessible to a wide and transnational audience.” Last year, the winner was Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle, published by Between the Lines. This year, the nominees are:
- Kristine Alexander, Guiding Modern Girls: Girlhood, Empire, and Internationalism in the 1920s and 1930s (University of British Columbia Press)
- Laura Madokoro, Francine McKenzie, and David Meren, Dominion of Race: Rethinking Canada’s International History (University of British Columbia Press)
- Jordan Stanger-Ross and Pamela Sugiman, Witness to Loss: Race, Culpability, and Memory in the Dispossession of Japanese Canadians (McGill-Queen’s University Press)
Guiding Modern Girls is a wonderful analysis of the Girl Guide movement in Canada, Britain, and India. Kristine Alexander investigates how the association attempted to “mold” young women in three very different areas, with very different social, political, economic, and cultural realities. Throughout, Alexander confronts important questions related to youth history, imperialism, settler colonialism, global mobility and interconnectedness, race, class, and gender. Guiding Modern Girls is also a very accessible book on a subject that, we believe, will interest readers beyond academic circles.
Laura Madokoro, Francine McKenzie, and David Meren’s Dominion of Race investigates a very important question: how did race shape Canada’s foreign policy? With contributions from some of Canada’s leading historians of foreign policy and diplomacy, this volume is rooted in transnational history and shows how race played an integral role in shaping Canada’s international history. Though edited volumes do not always get the recognition they deserve at annual award ceremonies, Dominion of Race’s scope and historiographic impact make it a worthy contender for any award.
Finally, Jordan Stanger-Ross and Pamela Sugiman’s Witness to Loss is an analysis of Japanese Canadian dispossession during the Second World War. This book does two things. First, it translated and published, for the first time, the memoir of Kishizo Kimura, a Japanese Canadian that was directly involved in the dispossession of his own people as member on two committees that administered it. The memoir is then followed by four commentaries, including from historians Laura Madokoro and Timothy Stanley, who use it as a jumping off point to discuss issues of race, discrimination, citizenship, resistance, and collaboration, with each bringing their own specialization and personal connection to it.
There are two other books that although were not nominated deserve special acknowledgement: Daniel Coleman’s Yardwork: A Biography of an Urban Place and Jennifer Brown’s An Ethnohistorian in Rupert’s Land: Unfinished Conversations. First, we all appreciated Coleman’s personal history of Hamilton, Ontario. Beautifully written and accessible, Coleman invites us on his quest to discover the history of his adopted city. Though this book is undoubtedly aimed at a non-academic audience, Coleman tackles complex historical issues, discussing Indigenous history, the arrival of Europeans settlers, and the impact of newcomers. Coleman even discusses the region’s environmental history. There’s something for everyone. Second, we all appreciated Jennifer Brown’s An Ethnohistorian in Rupert’s Land’s unique approach. Though some may critique this book as a collection of mostly already published material, it is so much more. Brown revisits old
articles, book chapters, and talks – some unpublished – and provides further context and insight for each. I personally love this. We all evolve as historians and I appreciate when academics reassess and critique their past work.
And finally, we have three nominees for the second Viv Nelles Essay Prize, a prize awarded to the student paper that we believe best places Canada in a transnational framework. For 2016, the winner was Alexandra Montgomery, a PhD candidate from the University of Pennsylvania, for a paper titled “Philadelphia’s Plantations: The Great Nova Scotian Land Boom and Reimagining the British Empire between the Wars, 1763-1775.” Our three nominees this year are: 1. Kristina Molin Cherneski, a student at the University of Alberta, for a paper titled “A “Tenderfoot” in Canada: Imperial Femininity and Hunting Culture in 19th-Century Women’s Travel Literature.” 2. Magdalene Klassen, a student at McGill University, for a paper titled “Kanigitomekardlunga, or, wenn jemand eine Reise tut: ‘Authentic’ Inuit-German Encounters in Labrador and Germany.” 3. Catherine Timms, a student (former?) at York University, for a paper titled “T.B. Macaulay: One Man’s Devotion to Agricultural Improvement, 1920-1939.”
Focusing on Impressions of a Tenderfoot during a journey in search of sport in the Far West, the travel journal of Susan McKinnon St. Maur, a British traveller that visited Canada in 1888, Kristina Molin Cherneski forces us to rethink the complex relationship between gender and colonialism in the 19thcentury British World. Magdalene Klassen’s essay examines the experiences of a group of Labrador Inuit, specifically a Moravian called Abraham Ulrikab, that were sent to Germany and put on display in “anthropozoological exhibitions.” Klassen places their experiences in the context of 19th century “authentic experiences” and the many ways Ulrikab challenged them. Finally, Catherine Timms’ analysis of TB Macauley, the once president of Sunlife, places his experience as an amateur agronomist in the context of transnational agricultural research networks, networks that were quickly professionalizing and increasingly dominated by “university-trained experts.”
Please join us at this year’s CHA in Regina where we will announce the winners of both prizes!
Maxime Dagenais is the coordinator at the Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University and was a SSHRC post-doctoral fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (2014-2016). He received a PhD from the University of Ottawa (2011). He has published in several academic journals, including Canadian Military History, Bulletin d’histoire politique, Quebec Studies, and American Review of Canadian Studies, and co-authored a book titled The Land in Between: The Upper St. John Valley, Prehistory to World War One. He is currently co-editing a collection on the attempted Canadian Revolution and Jacksonian democracy – Revolutions Across Borders: The Canadian Rebellion and Jacksonian America – which is currently under review with McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Cover Image: Selma Lagerlöf, the first woman to have won the Nobel Prize, receives her award. Illustration by Svenska Dagbladet, 11 December 1909. Wikimedia Commons.