2020 Wilson Prize Finalists!

Maxime Dagenais

It’s the time of year again! The moment when we, once again, reveal the Wilson Book Prize and Viv Nelles Essay Prize finalists. And like I say each year, like a broken record: “this year’s competition is as strong as ever.” (Max, 2017-20) Historians in Canada and abroad are producing some incredible and ground-breaking work. Thank you all for your submissions and nominations!

As a result of the pandemic and the extra work resulting from online teaching – and let’s be honest, having our kids in and out of school … and in and out again – we decided to change things up this year. Instead of a shortlist of three books, we came up with a shortlist of two that we believe best fit our prize’s description and three honorable mentions that, on a different day, could have made our shortlist. We also have a shortlist of three fantastic essays for the Viv Nelles Essay Prize. We will reveal the winners, on our blog, in early June 2021. Keep an eye on our social media!

Wilson Book Prize

The Wilson Book Prize is awarded to the book that, we believe, “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 M. Max Hamon’s The Audacity of His EnterpriseLouis Riel and the Métis Nation That Canada Never Was, 1840–1875, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press.

This year, the finalists are:

1. Heidi Bohaker, Doodem and Council Fire: Anishinaabe Governance through Alliance (University of Toronto Press) 

Original, path-breaking, innovative, deep: these are all words that have been used to describe our first finalist. Written by Heidi Bohaker, Doodem and Council Fire is an in-depth analysis of Anishinaabe society. Focusing on Doodem – the clan identification marks left on treaties by Anishinaabe – Bohaker reveals the complexities of Anishinaabe political authority and structures, law, alliance, and governance. Clearly, we cannot do justice to this book in a small paragraph. Doodem and Council Fire not only provides valuable insight into Anishinaabe society, but it also provides a valuable template for any historian working with Anishinaabe sources.

2. Robert Englebert and Andrew N. Wegmann, eds., French Connections: Cultural Mobility in North America and the Atlantic World, 1600-1875 (Louisiana State University Press) 

In French Connections, Robert Englebert and Andrew N. Wegmann offer a massive study of French-speaking North America and the Atlantic world. With contributions from some of the field’s leading scholars, including Mairi Cowan, Jay Gitlin, Brett Rushforth, Leslie Choquette, and Karen Marrero, this volume is rooted in transnational history. By analyzing a wide geographic scope – Québec, Illinois, Détroit, Haïti, Acadie, New England and France – French Connections not only shows how the movement of individuals, ideas, and practices played an important role in the growth of French colonial societies, but it also reveals an important level of local adaptability and variability. Edited volumes do not always get the recognition they deserve at annual award ceremonies, French Connections’ scope and historiographic impact make it a worthy contender for any award.

Honorable Mentions

There are three other books that although did not make our shortlist deserve special acknowledgement: 1. Will Langford, The Global Politics of Poverty in Canada: Development Programs and Democracy, 1964-1979 (McGill-Queen’s University Press), 2. Daniel Macfarlane, Fixing Niagara Falls: Environment, Energy, and Engineers at the World’s Most Famous Waterfall (UBC Press), and 3. Sasha Mullaly and David Wright, Foreign Practices: Immigrant Doctors and the History of Canadian Medicare (McGill-Queen’s University Press).

Viv Nelles Essay Prize

And finally, we have three nominees for the Viv Nelles Essay Prize, a prize awarded to the graduate student paper that we believe best places Canada in a transnational framework. For 2019, the winner was John Bird, a PhD Candidate at the University of Saskatchewan, for a paper titled: “Settler Salvation and Indigenous Survival: George Copway’s Reconciliatory Vision.”

Our three nominees this year are: 1. Kaitlin Findlay, Cornell University, “Adopting International Law for Domestic Purposes: A Preliminary Study of a Canadian Case.”  2. Thomas Fraser, Concordia University, “Canadian Pension Funds and Global Real Estate Investment.” 3. Geneviève Riou, Concordia University, “D’une île à l’autre: Transnational Activism, Memory, and Other Trajectories in Haitian-Montrealer Life Stories During the Duvalier Era.” Focusing on the dispossession and internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, Kaitlin Findlay demonstrates how the Canadian Government used the legitimacy provided by international law to implement a racist domestic program. Thomas Fraser’s paper provides an in-depth overview of Canadian pension funds in the context of global real estate investments, via an analysis of Oxford Properties – the real estate arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. And finally, Geneviève Riou presents an oral history of three Haitian activists and exiles who left Haïti for Montréal during the Duvalier regime. The author discussed their experiences with transnational activism, displacement, systemic racism, and life in Montréal.

Good luck everyone!

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