Recollecting 1975: The British-Canadian Symposium on Historical Geography in Kingston, Ontario

A view of Kingston from the Wolfe Island ferry. Photo courtesy of Thomas McIlwraith

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Historical geographers at the inaugural ICHG, Kingston 1975. Photo Courtesy of Thomas McIlwraith.
Historical geographers at the inaugural ICHG, Kingston 1975. Photo Courtesy of Thomas McIlwraith.

In the Autumn of 1975, Canada played a pivotal role in the fostering of international conversations amongst historical geographers.

The 1975 British-Canadian Symposium on Historical Geography held at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, was the first in a series of international conferences that led to the creation of the International Conference of Historical Geographers (ICHG). The 14th ICHG in 2009 was hosted in the city of Kyoto, the 15th and most recent ICHG took place in Prague in August 2012: the next meeting will be held in London in 2015. The theme of the three day 1975 Kingston Symposium was ‘The Settlement of Canada: Origins and Transfer’ and though it was aimed at fostering connections between Canadian and British geographers, a number of American geographers participated as well.

A recent NiCHE event, Water, Fish & Fowl: The Translocal Ecologies Mobile Workship—also held in Kingston—prompted reflections on the practices of historical geography and the 1975 meeting. Much has changed in the last forty years and yet we are still engaged with some of the concerns of that 1975 gathering. For instance, we find in the 1975 Proceedings the argument “that many of the significant questions facing Canadian historical geography transcend national boundaries and can best be approached in a continental or even a worldwide setting.” The abstract of the late Frank Innes states that “Geographers have increasingly, in these days of ecological crisis, become aware of the ethical and attitudinal underpinnings of societies.”

Transnational Ecologies has begun collecting images and memories concerning this historically significant event. Thomas McIlwraith, NiCHE member and professor emeritus of historical geography at the University of Toronto Mississauga attended the Symposium and has several remarkable images of the event in his slide collection. With his permission, we feature two of them here, a group photograph and a view of Kingston from the Wolfe Island ferry. Participants had the opportunity to take local fieldtrips, one involving the waterscape of Lake Ontario. We are grateful to Thomas McIlwraith and to Brian Osborne (organizer of the 1975 Symposium), Peter Goheen, David Wood, Robin Butlin, Alan Baker, Anne Mosher, Len Guelke, Jock Galloway and Richard Dennis for their kind assistance in identifying the Symposium members in the group photograph. If you can help identify the remaining few without names in the back rows, please send a note to Laura at or Kirsten

Laura Cameron is Associate Professor of Geography at Queen’s University, leader of the Transnational Ecologies Project, and part of the NiCHE executive.

Kirsten Greer is SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Warwick, U.K. and Coordinator of the Transnational Ecologies Project.

Group Photograph, 1975 British-Canadian Symposium on Historical Geography, Kingston ON.

Photographer: Thomas F. McIlwraith

Front row L-R

  1.  David Wood
  2.  Louis Gentilcore
  3.  Pat Thornton
  4. Graeme Whittington
  5. Heather Fuller
  6. Jim Lemon
  7. Peter Goheen
  8. Michael Conzen
  9. Frank Innes

Second row L-R

  1. Stuart Raby
  2. Hugh Prince
  3. Paul Koroscil
  4. Bruce Proudfoot
  5. Grant Head
  6. C.F.J. ‘Chuck’ Whebel
  7. Hans-George Schlichtmann

Third row L-R

  1. George Sitwell
  2. Ralph Vicero
  3. Aidan McQuillan
  4. Ian Adams
  5. Robin Butlin
  6. Tony Phillips

Fourth row L-R

  1. Ken Kelly
  2. Jock Galloway
  3. Robin Holmes
  4. John Radford
  5. R. Cole Harris
  6. David Knight
  7. Len Guelke
  8. Peter Ennals
  9. Derek Gregory
  10. Alan Baker
  11. Richard Dennis
  12. David Ward

Back row L-R

  1. Eric Ross
  2. Deryck Holdsworth
  3. Robert S. Dilley
  4. Peter Rees?
  5. Hugh Clout?
  6. Larry McCann
  7. Brian Osborne
  8. Victor Conrad
  9. Brian Harley
  10. Alan Brunger
  11. Paul Laxton
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Laura Jean Cameron is a Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at Queen’s University, Kingston, and coordinates the Sonic Arts of Place Lab. As a Canada Research Chair in Historical Geographies of Nature (2003-2012), her work has investigated a range of field sciences as place-based practices and as cultural encounters. Before arriving at Queen’s, she held a Junior Research Fellowship in Historical Geography at Churchill College, Cambridge (1999-2002). She is the author of Openings: A Meditation on History, Method and Sumas Lake, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997 and co-author with John Forrester of Freud in Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017. She also co-edited Emotion, Place and Culture, Ashgate, 2009 and Rethinking the Great White North: Race, Nature and the Historical Geographies of Whiteness, UBC Press, 2011. Currently she enjoys writing in various genres about fieldwork, emotions and nature, collaborating on sound installations, and hosting the Fireplace Series: Interdisciplinary Conversations, a podcast series you can listen to here:

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