HEAR is a research sub-cluster of the Network in Canadian History and the Environment (NICHE). Our mandate is to promote research exchanges and the dissemination of knowledge among environmental historians working on or within the Atlantic Region. An equally important goal is to facilitate the public dissemination and mobilization of knowledge related to the environmental history of the Atlantic Region.
Why the Atlantic Region?
Canada’s Atlantic Provinces offer environmental historians a wealth of opportunities for research and intellectual exchange. Not only is there a history of Aboriginal occupation dating back thousands of years in the region, but contact with Europeans dates back to over five hundred years ago. The Atlantic region has also sustained rich and varied types of human interactions with the natural environment. The distinct ecologies of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have encouraged fisheries of global importance, important early sites for forestry, and a wide array of agricultural activities.
Yet the history of the Atlantic region encompasses much more than early colonial resource exploitation. The mainland Maritime Provinces were early industrial leaders in late nineteenth century Canada, with activities ranging from coal mining and steel production to ship-building and textiles. The subsequent de-industrialization and underdevelopment of the region have been major themes in the existing historical literature. The region also hosts a network of small cities whose histories share themes with urban environmental history literature such as the devastating impact of fire, the advent of urban renewal schemes, urban watercourses as pollution sinks, and the environmental impacts of urban growth and suburbanization.
On a practical level, Canada’s Atlantic region offers environmental historians with interests as diverse fisheries, forestry, transatlantic shipping trade, urban disasters, and the North Atlantic world a rich tapestry of archives, museum collections, research centres and libraries as possible sources for research projects.
HEAR will help facilitate the following activities dedicated to the exchange and dissemination of knowledge related to the environmental history of Canada:
The W.F. Ganong Rotating Workshop Series
We plan to hold a small annual workshop on environmental history that will migrate to various universities within the region. The workshops will offer opportunities for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and historians in the public realm an opportunity to present works in progress, discuss relevant readings, and discuss future directions in the field. Our first workshop was held in February 2008 at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Regional Summer Schools and Small Conferences
Both HEAR and NiCHE will periodically sponsor larger regional events that encourage the widest possible participation of scholars within Atlantic Canada. Our present plan is to hold regionally themed workshops when NiCHE’s annual summer school travels to Atlantic Canada. The summer schools are normally held during the Congress of Social Sciences and Humanities Conference.
Thanks to the generous support of the History Department, the Geography Department, and the Faculty of Graduate Studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland, we have two graduate students (see bios below) who are working on an inventory of archival resources related to environmental history in Atlantic Canada. This pilot project is presently focused on Newfoundland and Labrador, but we hope to expand our reach to the other Atlantic Provinces in the near future.
Meet Our Research Assistants
Allan Byrne was born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland where he currently lives. He is currently completing a Master’s Degree in History at Memorial University. His research interests include perceptions of the Newfoundland interior wilderness, and popular imagery and depictions of the Beothuk Indian.
Sarah Chan is an MSc Candidate in Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her thesis, titled “Investigations of climatic variability in Northern Labrador,” looks at past, present and future climate scenarios in Torngat Mountains National Park. Sarah is interested in alpine and tundra ecosystems and their vulnerability in a warming climate, and the implications of climate change for northern communities.
We will be hosting speakers from inside and outside the region at several Atlantic Canadian Universities. Our first tentative event is a public lecture on the history of the Newfoundland Rangers in the spring, an event organized in partnership with the Newfoundland Historical Society.
Directory of Researchers
We are creating an electronic directory of individuals with an interest in furthering the development of environmental history in the Atlantic Region. Add your name to the directory.
Feature image: The French-Acadian settlement of Grand-Pré, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Kings County, Nova Scotia. Photo by Eric Van Lochem on Wikimedia Commons.
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