It’s the time of year again! The moment when we reveal the Wilson Book and Viv Nelles Essay Prize finalists. And like I say every year: “This year’s competition is as strong as ever.” Historians in Canada and abroad are producing some amazing, ground-breaking work, and limiting our shortlists to three was, as you will shortly see, as difficult as ever. Thank you all for your submissions and nominations!

We have come up with a shortlist of three books and three essays that we believe best fit our prize descriptions. We also included three honorable mentions for books that, on a different day, could have made our shortlist. This year, however, we will not reveal our winners at the CHA’s award ceremony. Instead, we will host a get together in London, Ontario during the CHA where we will announce both winners. Like last year, I will also publish a blog post revealing the winners shortly after for those of us not able to attend our event in London.

Wilson Book Prize

The Wilson fellows, Ian, and I have settled on a short list of three books that we believe best fit 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’s winner was Allan Greer’s Property and Dispossession: Natives, Empires, and Land in Early Modern North America. This year, the finalists are:

  1. M. Max Hamon, The Audacity of His Enterprise: Louis Riel and the Métis Nation That Canada Never Was, 1840–1875 (McGill-Queen’s University Press)

41R4ykLvHxL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgWritten by M. Max Hamon, The Audacity of His Enterprise reassesses Louis Riel and the Red River of 1869 and the Northwest Resistance of 1885. Not the rebel that is often portrayed in popular lore, Hamon argues that Riel and his allies played a major role in state-making. Hamon’s book “embraces a transnational approach,” seeking to understand the impact of the many worlds (American, British, Indigenous, etc.) that shaped Riel’s life and perspective. 

  1. Sheldon Krasowski, No Surrender: The Land Remains Indigenous (University of Regina Press)

In No Surrender: The Land Remains Indigenous, Sheldon Krasowski focuses on the manner the Government of Canada “negotiated” Treaties One through Seven betweenimages.jpeg 1869 and 1877. While some historians have argued that “cultural misunderstandings” influenced these negotiations and resulted in these treaties, Krasowski argues that this was not the case. The Canadian Government did not act in good faith. Its aim was to ensure that several promises made to Indigenous nations, oral promises, never made it into the written treaties. The treaties were thus a collection of exclusions and omissions, overlooking all of the promises made to Indigenous peoples.

  1. Bronwen McShea, Apostles of Empire: The Jesuits and New France (University of Nebraska Press)

9781496208903.jpgFinally, in Apostles of Empire: The Jesuits and New France, Bronwen McShea analyses some of the most famous characters in the history of New France: The Black Robe. McShea counters the narrative of the Black Robe as separate from politics and imperialism and whose sole mission was to spread Christianity to Indigenous peoples. Instead, McShea shows that they were key agents of the French Empire, “empire builders,” playing a major role in France’s imperial expansion and defense.

Honorable Mentions

There are three other books that although were not nominated deserve special acknowledgement: Laura Ishiguro, Nothing to Write Home About: British Family Correspondence and the Settle Colonial Experience in British Columbia (UBC Press), Asa McKercher, Canada and the World since 1867 (Bloomsbury Academic), and Wendy Wickwire, At the Bridge: James Teit and the Anthropology of Belonging (UBC Press). Each of these books perfectly fit the description of the Wilson book prize; they consider Canada in a transnational framework and push forward our knowledge of Canadian history in a very accessible way.

Viv Nelles Essay Prize

And finally, we have three nominees for the Viv Nelles Essay Prize, a prize awarded to the graduate student paper (loosely defined) that we believe best places Canada in a transnational framework. For 2018, the winner was Mack Penner, a PhD student at McMaster University, for a paper titled: “‘Towards Spontaneous Order’: Tom Flanagan, Friedrich Hayek, and Neo-Austrianism on the Canadian Prairies.”

Our three finalists this year are: 1. John Bird, a PhD Candidate in History at the University of Saskatchewan, for a paper titled, “Settler Salvation and Indigenous Survival: George Copway’s Reconciliatory Vision,” 2. Kenny Reilly, a Master’s student in History at the University of Western Ontario for a paper titled, ““A Hard Strain On Imperialism”: A Transnational Analysis of the British Honduras Scheme,” and 3. Kassandra Luciuk, a PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto for a paper titled, “More Dangerous Than Many a Pamphlet or Propaganda Book: The Ukrainian Left, Theatre, and Propaganda in the 1920s.” Focusing on Mississauga writer Kahgegagahbowh, aka George Copway, John Bird analyses Copway’s vision to safeguard Indigenous peoples in the United States, which includes the creation of an Indigenous territory known as Kahgega. Kenney Reilly’s paper provides a wonderful overview of the British Honduras Scheme, a scheme that sought to displace South Asian immigrants from Canada to British Honduras, and the varied response towards it. And finally, Kassandra Luciuk presents an in-depth analysis of how theatre became an important propaganda tool for the Canadian-Ukrainian left in the 1920s.

Please join us in London where we will announce the winners at a local watering hole!

– Maxime Dagenais