Winter has long been a defining feature of Canada. For much of the year, people living in this part of the world contend with snow and ice, frigid temperatures, and prolonged periods of darkness. Over countless generations, Indigenous peoples developed cultural practices, socio-economic strategies, and innovative technologies that allowed them to not only survive but thrive during the winter. Some of these techniques were subsequently adopted by early European settlers, who found winter in northern North America remarkable for its severity and duration. By the late nineteenth century, settler Canadians had constructed national identities rooted in that season and in the country’s northerliness. Today, winter remains a common(place) symbol of Canada, both at home and abroad.
Yet despite its prominence in this country’s collective consciousness, winter has gone largely overlooked by its historians. Canadian historiography is filled with “summer stories,” to borrow a phrase from Emilie Cameron. Environmental historians have similarly insulated themselves from winter: as Tina Adcock observed in 2016, in Canada the field was “overwhelmingly clement.” While the rise of climate history and growing concern for the global climate crisis have led more historians to attend to that particular season, the flurry of winter-based histories predicted by some – what Thomas Wickman in 2015 saw as a possible “light-blue turn” in early American historiography – has been slow to gather momentum in this country.
Figure 1: View of house at 2532 Columbia Street at 10th Avenue, covered in snow, Major Matthews Collection, AM54-S4-: SGN 423, Box: 256-C-15, City of Vancouver Archives.
This series seeks to bring winter to the forefront of Canadian environmental historiography. Indeed, we believe that environmental historians are well positioned to untangle the complex and nuanced relationships that humans have had with winter in this part of the world and to show how this season has shaped human life and culture in turn. This country has a richness of winter-based histories waiting to be told.
We invite articles (max. 1200 words) that focus on the history of winter – or on any of its associated elements such as snow, ice, or cold – in what is today Canada. (Trans-national and comparative studies that involve Canada will also be considered.) Possible topics and themes include, but are not limited to:
- art, fashion, architecture
- intentional removal (or retention) of snow and ice
- settler colonialism and winter
- escaping or embracing winter
- science and technology
- Indigenous history
- animal history
- agriculture and energy (production, consumption, conservation, etc.)
- labour, work, and class
- recreation and leisure
- the business of winter
- national, regional, and local identities
- diverse and uneven experiences of winter, shaped by factors such as race, gender, sexuality, and disability
Please email Blake Butler (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a brief description of your proposed submission by 15 November 2023. Authors will be notified of their acceptance by 1 December. The first articles in this series will be published on the NiCHE website in early January 2024 and continue throughout the winter. If you have any questions, please contact Blake (email@example.com) or Ben Bradley (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Feature image: Winter in P.E.I. Courtesy of Ben Bradley.
 Cameron used the term in reference to how Canada’s North, “this prototypically wintry place,” had largely been written about, conceptualized, and experienced by white settlers within a summer context. See Emilie Cameron, Far off Metal River: Inuit Lands, Settler Stories, and the Making of the Contemporary Arctic (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2016), 11. Scholars of northern Canada have been pointing out this pattern of neglect for decades. See for example Ken S. Coates and William R. Morrison, “Winter and the Shaping of Northern History: Reflections from the Canadian North,” in Margaret Conrad and Alvin Finkel (eds.), Foundations: Readings in Pre-Confederation Canadian History, Vol. 1 (Toronto: Pearson-Longman, 2004).
 Tina Adcock, “A Cold Kingdom,” Network in Canadian History and Environment, 17 March 2016.
 Thomas Wickman, “Light Blue Books: Reading about Winter Ecology and Climate History,” Uncommon Sense: The Blog,4 February 2015.
M. Blake Butler
Latest posts by M. Blake Butler (see all)
- Call for Papers – Winter’s Coming, EH: A Winter in Canada Series - October 16, 2023
- Public Lecture – Canada’s Evergreen Playground: A History of Snow in Vancouver - April 12, 2023
- CHESS 2023: Call for Participants - January 13, 2023
- The New Scholars Community: A Recap and the Year Ahead - August 29, 2022
- Web Scraping for Environmental History Research Re-Cap - May 26, 2022
- CFP: Web Scraping for Environmental History Research - April 11, 2022
- Meet the NiCHE New Scholars Committee! - January 24, 2022
- Public Lecture: “Nature’s Principal Reservoir: The Importance of Snow and Snow Surveys in Twentieth Century British Columbia” - March 29, 2021
- Unearthed: M. Blake Butler - April 6, 2020
- CHESS 2020: Call for Participants ~ Deadline Jan 10 - January 3, 2020