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Twelfth Bulletin of the CNHH, May 2022

Twelfth Bulletin of the CNHH, May 2022

The Twelfth Bulletin of the CNHH has now been sent out to the membership.  If you missed it, the complete PDF of the bulletin can be found here: Twelfth Bulletin PDF

It has been more than a year since the last bulletin of May 2021. We hope that you are all well and that you will continue to send news, posts and announcements.

I. PANEL AND ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

The annual CNHH sponsored panel on Legacies of Colonialism in Africa: Reconsidering Conquest, Capitalism, and Transnationalism in the 19th and 20th Centuries Héritages du colonialisme en Afrique : nouveau regard sur la conquête,
le capitalisme et le transnationalisme aux XIXe et XXe siècles  will take place on Wednesday the 18th of May, from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm Ottawa time.

We are looking forward to watching our colleagues:

  • Stephen Osei Owusu (PhD candidate, Carleton University), “The Mankessim Riots of 1849: a Case of Contested Ethno-forestry practices or Conflict between ‘Europeanized’ and Indigenous Africans.”
  • Simplice Ayangma Bonoho (Banting Fellow, Bishop’s University), « Le « Centre de Rééducation des handicapés de Yaoundé » (CRHY) : Un projet humanitaire
    d’envergure ? : Pour une relecture des relations diplomatiques canado-
    camerounaises (1968-1980). »

  • Chair | Président : Robin Gendron

The full program of the CHA virtual conference is here: https://cha-shc.ca/_uploads/626ac9b5a803e.pdf  Every participant must register for congress here: https://fhss.swoogo.com/22-registration-inscription. Please note that the CHA has waived the registration fee for the CHA Annual Meeting for graduate students, unemployed and precarious historians.

The Annual meeting of the CNHH will take place at lunch time on the same day, on Wednesday the 18th from 12:30 to 2:00 Ottawa time. The agenda will include research updates, plans for the future, website update, discussion of the website, sponsored panel for 2023, and appointment of future officers. Let us know if you would like to add other points. Here is where to register: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/annual-meeting-of-the-canadian-network-on-humanitarian-history-2022-tickets-333051896187

II. NEWS FROM MEMBERS

Jill Campbell-Miller presented her post-doctoral work on “Hydroelectric Dams and the Hinterlands in Canada and India, 1953-1958” at the Ottawa Historical Association on February 15. The recording will be posted shortly on the website of the OHA.

Sarah Glassford started a series of best reads in humanitarian history, last Fall, in the blog of the CNHH. Three have been published so far.

Dominique Marshall published two articles: “‘CIDA Gives You the World!’ Visual Media and Development Education in Canadian Schools: 1980-2000” & “Ethical Traditions in Humanitarian Photography and the Challenges of the Digital Age  – Four Conversations with Canadian Communications Officers”, in theJournal of Humanitarian Affairs, Special issue on “Humanitarian Action in the Age of Visual Media: The Past and Present of Humanitarian Communication” Fall 2021, which came from a CNHH panel at the Canadian Historical Association two years previously.

Stephen Osei-Owusu is convening the Shannon Lecture Series in History – Spring 2022, on the regulation of natural resource extraction in Canada and Africa. Many NGOs are involved.

III. WELCOME TO NEW MEMBERS

William Plowright, Lecturer – Peace and Conflict Studies, School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University, who recently authored Armed Groups and International Legitimacy: Child Soldiers in Intra-State Conflict. (Routledge, 2021)

Robert Anthony Ventresca, Academic Dean (Interim), King’s University College at Western University.

IV. ARCHIVES NEWS

In collaboration with Carleton University’s Archives and Special Collections we helped the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters (CCPFH) to prepare a successful application to deposit its archives at Library and Archives Canada, which was successful.

The recordings of the twelve group conversations of the “Oxfam Canada between 1964 and 1990: A collaborative memory project” coordinated by Oxfam veterans Marc Allain, Susan Johnson and Lawrence Cummings, with the support of Dominique Marshall, will be deposited at Carleton University Archives and Special Collections later in 2022.

V. COMMON INITIATIVES FROM MEMBERS

At an informal meeting held in January 2022, the CNHH adopted a small Steering Committee. Here are the responsibilities.

Blog and website: Sarah Glassford

Bulletin: Helen Kennedy and Dominique Marshall

Twitter: Lydia Wytenbroek

CHA work

  • Regular updates: Helen Kennedy
    • Annual meetings: Nassisse Solomon
    • Panel at Congress: Jill Campbell-Miller 2022 Nassisse Solomon & David Webster afterwards
    • Community links: Dominique Marshall

Events: Lydia Wytenbroek                                       

Grants, joint research projects: Dominique Marshall

On March 30, Lydia Wytenbroek organised the CNHH sponsored Book Launch for The NGO Moment: The Globalisation of Compassion from Biafra to Live Aid, written by CNHH long-time partner in Ireland, Kevin O-Sullivan, with guest speakers Ruth Compton Brouwer, John W. Foster, Laura Madokoro, and Ian Smillie.

VI. WORK WITH NGOS

Carleton fourth-year student Cailtin Arbour has started an internship with Farm radio International to produce oral histories of the impact of FRI on local communities on Africa, under the supervision of Sylvie Harrison.

VII. TEACHING

Fourth-year students of D. Marshall’s STEM in the History of Canadian Society and Policy course worked in collaboration with the master seminar of Soenke Kunkle on Science and Technology in Transnational Relations at the JFK Institute of North American Studies. The products of the nine transnational teams are posted on the teaching website Recipro: eight timelines of case studies Science and international humanitarianism. The German-based humanitarian transport drone company Wingcopter and the Canadian based NGO Farm Radio International accompanied the making of the projects.

VIII. BLOGS & TALKS PUBLISHED BY THE CNHH SINCE THE LAST BULLETIN

Preserving the Legacy of Influential Canadian Humanitarian Lewis Perinbam (1925-2007), April 25, 2022, by Sarah Glassford.

Nursing, Empire, & Mobility: Lydia Wytenbroek on American Mission Nurses in Iran & Iranian Nurses in the U.S., 1907-1979, Webinar Report. March 2022, by Maia Luger.

Lost and Fonds. Declassification of Government Records in Canada., January 2022, by Isabel Campbell.

CNHH Presents: Essential Reads in the History of Humanitarianism, September 2021, by Sarah Glassford.

Was it really “different back then?” Reflecting on current global health ethics with a NFB film about CUSO, 1965, September 2021, by Sonya de Laat.

If you haven’t followed the CNHH on Twitter, please do so! Feel free to tag us in your announcements, and we will retweet! @AidHistoryCan

Copyright © 2022 Canadian Network on Humanitarian History, all rights reserved.

Shannon Lecture Series, Spring 2022 – Carleton University

The Management of Natural Resources and the Environment in Canada: Historical and Transnational Perspectives

Series Introduction

Relations between humans and non-human inhabitants of the environment are old of several millennia. The history of these relations involves regulations of all sorts about use and preservation, contested or collaborative. In the making of these regulations, users, activists, government agencies and civil society organizations alike have shared contrasting traditions and perspectives on the ecology of natural resources. As recent global climatic trends suggest ominous cataclysmic environmental implications for both the environment and its users, the issue of natural resources and the efficient management of the environment to guarantee the continuous sustainable consumption of the environment and its natural resources has appeared in sharp focus.

This lecture series is intended at sharing different, yet syncretized global environmental experiences and the epistemic outlooks they generate, all within the framework of historically researched multi-disciplinary narratives. The lecture-series involve a predominantly Canada-oriented range of environmental experiences, and feature corresponding transnational perspectives, in conversations with African environmental/resource management experiences/practices from Ghana. Proceedings are aimed at generating historical knowledge of our collective transnational experience of the environment and its resources, which, hopefully, should add to existing knowledge in history, government policy formulation, environmental protection efforts, legal frameworks on the environment, resource management, among others.

ConvenorMr. Stephen Osei-Owusu (a Graduate Research Assistant & Ph.D. Candidate, History Department, Carleton), with support by Prof Dominique Marshall, Chair, the Shannon Endowment Committee, Department of History, Carleton University.

Please see the Shannon Series website for more information.

Format of the Series and Dates:

Format: Fridays, lunchtime 12:00 -1:00; 5 minutes introduction; 30 minutes talk; 20 minutes Q&A; Virtual; recorded and posted on the website.

This session will be recorded and uploaded to the Shannon Lectures’ website after the series is complete.

Questions and feedback from the audience, once a session is underway, will be collected in the chat box and read to the presenters.

1st Presentation: Friday, 27th May, 2022.

Orcas, Pipelines, and the Politics of Science on the West Coast with Prof. Jason Colby.

2nd Presentation: Friday, 10th June, 2022.

Small Scale Fisheries in Ghana: Historical and Transnational with Prof. Joseph Aggrey-Fynn.

3rd Presentation: Friday, 24th June, 2022.

Grass in the Cracks: Gender, Social Reproduction, and Climate Justice in the Xolobeni Struggle with Prof. Shireen Hassim.

4th Presentation: Friday, 8th July, 2022.

What is Nature?: The Rise and Fall of Moncton’s Petitcodiac Causeway with Prof. Ronald Rudin.

For more information on individual papers including abstracts and speaker bios, please visit the Shannon Lectures website.

Preserving the Legacy of Influential Canadian Humanitarian Lewis Perinbam (1925-2007)

by Sarah Glassford

April 25, 2022

Over the last two years, the CNHH has worked with the Lewis Perinbam Innovation and Impact Awards to preserve and share the memory and legacy of one of the most influential humanitarians in Canadian history: the late Lewis Perinbam.

The Malysian-born, Scottish-educated Perinbam spent most of his career in the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and “anyone who worked in the international development field in Canada during the 1970s and 1980s would be familiar” with his name. Although Perinbam’s work is well-documented in archival collections and discussed in scholarly publications, those who knew and worked with him wished to make his impact more accessible and widely known to the general public.  As one writer summed up his remarkable career: “Lewis was instrumental in fostering partnerships between Canada and the Global South, in making education more accessible to all and in creating opportunities for young people to become more involved in making our world a better place.” [1]

Thanks to a grant from the MITACS agency, Carleton University doctoral candidate in History Anna Kozlova was able to conduct a series of interviews with friends, relatives, supervisors, mentees, and co-workers of Lewis Perinbam, exploring his significant role shaping humanitarian work and humanitarian workers in both governmental (CIDA) and non-governmental organizations of the later 20th c. The result is a fascinating composite portrait of a pivotal player in the Canadian and international development scene.

Kozlova’s thoughtful interviews, as well as a selection of archival documents not previously available to the public, a podcast, and a timeline of Perinbam’s life can be found in a curated Lewis Perinbam web portal hosted on the World University Service Canada (WUSC) website. Information about the Lewis Perinbam Award (for exceptional volunteers in the field of development work) is also available through the portal.

As ever, the CNHH is proud to support efforts like this one which work to preserve and share the history of humanitarian aid and development work in Canada and beyond.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Anna Kozlova is a doctoral candidate in History at Carleton University and CNHH member interested in migration, diaspora, oral history and transnationalism. She was the lead researcher on a MITACS-funded project “Two case studies in the public history of international development policies in Canada: the Lebanese Special Measures Program (1975-1990) and The Life of Lewis Perinbam (1925-2008).”

Sarah Glassford is the current editor of the CNHH blog, archivist in the University of Windsor’s Leddy Library Archives & Special Collections, and a social historian of 20th c. Canada.


[1] WUSC, Lewis Perinbam web portal homepage, https://lewisperinbam.wusc.ca/ (accessed 21 April 2022).

Nursing, Empire, & Mobility: Lydia Wytenbroek on American Mission Nurses in Iran & Iranian Nurses in the U.S., 1907-1979

Webinar Report by Maia Luger

March 15, 2022

This blog is cross-posted with DevHistory.

The Tuan Luu Webinar Series continued its 2021-2022 season with Lydia Wytenbroek, an Assistant Professor at the University of British Colombia School of Nursing, who spoke with Dr. David Webster, an Associate Professor in the History department at Bishop’s University. She spoke about the key argument of her current book project, titled American (Inter)Nationalism in Iran, which examines American Presbyterian mission nurses in Iran and their efforts to establish and cultivate international nursing standards in the country.

The American nursing mission in Iran started in 1834, and started an emphasis on nursing in Iran. By the start of the early 20th century, the mission established seven hospitals across Iran, with a prestigious reputation for surgery. Although these hospitals were affiliated with Presbyterian missionary work, many nurses who participated in the program weren’t necessarily focused on religious aspects, instead relating more to the sense of adventure provided by the program and the opportunity to create a professionalized agenda for nursing. They acted as ambassadors of the American model of nursing; the program boasted high admission requirements, a standardized nursing curriculum, nursing exams, certifications, and eventually led to the establishment of professional organizations, such as the Iranian Nurses Association in 1953. Through this program, nationalist concerns were articulated through a medicalized discourse, with the Iranian government using imagery of Iran as a sick mother in need of care. An anonymous nurse who participated in the program referred to nursing as a “means of regenerating an unhealthy Iranian nation”, and nursing was framed as a sisterhood, using American imagery of Florence Nightingale to represent nurses as leaders serving the Iranian nation, not just working in mission hospitals.

Dr. Wytenbroek presented the main argument of her book, that nurses occupied a prominent place in Iranian iconography based on 20th century American mission nurses. Nursing was used as a pathway for imperialism and professionalism, as well as a pathway for women’s mobility in terms of financial, social, geographical, and professional avenues. These women who graduated from these programs became supervisors and instructors, earning opportunities that may have otherwise not been accessible for them. Nurses were also able to use their knowledge and education for personal safety during World War I, with Wytenbroek using the example of Grace Sayad, a trained nurse who fled Iran and emigrated to the United States and was able to work as a nurse and financially support her family to join her in safety. (See this blog post to learn more about Grace Sayad’s story: https://nursingclio.org/2017/09/05/mission-nursing-migration-and-mobility-in-twentieth-century-iran/)

Dr. Wytenbroek also fielded questions from students and webinar attendees, discussing the dominant role of midwives prior to the establishment of the American nursing missions due to the high maternal and infant mortality rate in the early- to mid-1900s. She also discussed the sources consulted throughout her research, primarily naming mission records – and the constraints involved in the dominance of mission resources – as her main source of information. Additionally, she conducted oral interviews with Iranian nurses now residing in the U.S., as well as Iranian women’s journals written in Persian.

The webinar served as an opportunity to hear first-hand from Wytenbroek, a nurse and historian, on her experience and research on the American medical missions in Iran and the role of nursing in Iranian national identity. You can learn more about her work here: https://read.dukeupress.edu/jmews/article-abstract/18/1/36/294387/Nursing-Inter-nationalism-in-Iran-1916-1947  The next webinar will be hosted via Zoom on Wednesday, March 23th, with Jill Campbell-Miller, titled A Mission for Modernity: Canadian Women in Medical and Nursing Education in India.


Maia Lugar is currently completing a Master’s degree in Political Management at Carleton University. She is researching the topic of Indigenous territoriality and federalism, and her research interests include Indigenous structures of governance and Canadian federalism as a vehicle for colonialism.

Dr. Lydia Wytenbroek is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia, and a social historian of twentieth-century health care, with a particular interest in understanding and interpreting the historical forces that have shaped the nursing profession and practice. Her current book project, American (Inter)Nationalism in Iran, examines American mission nurses in Iran and their efforts to cultivate international nursing standards in the country.

The Tuan Luu Webinar Series is presented by the Department of History at Bishop’s University. Its Winter 2022 program features webinars by emerging scholars on Global Health and History. Talks are held online via Zoom. Register at https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUvf-GqqT8tGdyMjPDJW6jsUib0VTpwRKNx, … Visit https://devhistory.wordpress.com/ for details, or go directly to https://zoom.us/j/91288274738.

CNHH-Sponsored Book Launch for The NGO Moment: The Globalisation of Compassion from Biafra to Live Aid

You are invited to celebrate the CNHH-sponsored launch of Dr. Kevin O’Sullivan’s book The NGO Moment: The Globalisation of Compassion from Biafra to Live Aid. Join us on zoom on March 30 at 4 p.m. EST! Guest Speakers include: Dr. Ruth Compton Brouwer, Dr. John W. Foster, Dr. Laura Madokoro, and Dr. Ian Smillie. Register for the zoom link here: https://ubc.zoom.us/meeting/register/u5Erde2tqT0vHNUNofQ-G-cm1TUEztwvS5MF

Breaking Barriers, Shaping Worlds: Reflections on Finding the Women Missing from Diplomatic History

The histories of humanitarian aid and diplomacy are closely entwined. In honour of International Women’s Day 2022, historian and CNHH member Jill Campbell-Miller reflects on the importance of expanding our understandings of diplomacy to include the women whose often unsung contributions have shaped the global order alongside men’s better known diplomatic exploits.


by Jill Campbell-Miller

8 March 2022

If one were to choose a single picture that encapsulates our collective understanding of twentieth-century diplomatic history, a few options easily spring to mind. Perhaps Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin at the Yalta conference of 1945 – or the photo of Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George, and Georges Clemenceau that graces the cover of Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919. Both photos tell stories of larger-than-life men leading their countries through war and toward peace. These images also carry other notions about diplomacy, such as oak tables surrounded by men smoking tobacco, hammering out the world’s business in an exercise of intellect over force. They arrive in our minds imbued with masculinity, informed by what historians and the media have taught us to see as diplomacy.

Women are largely absent from these famous images and are certainly absent from our shared imagination around what constitutes “diplomacy” in the twentieth-century context. In recent years, however, historians have begun to broaden their outlook on diplomatic history. Indeed, in Canada, the trend has been a shift from a narrower focus on the North Atlantic Triangle and the oak tables of previous iterations of diplomatic history (necessary though that work has been) toward a more expansive version of international history that is willing to look beyond the conference room as the site of diplomacy. This change has allowed women to move to the forefront as historical actors on the international stage.

The new collection Breaking Barriers, Shaping Worlds: Canadian Women and the Search for Global Order, which I co-edited with Greg Donaghy and Stacey Barker, brings together nine chapters that profile the work of Canadian women abroad. Organized around three themes – women in missions, aid, and development; women in international resistance; and women in diplomacy – it examines the work of activists, missionaries, diplomatic spouses, and diplomats. In doing so, it emphasizes one important, overlooked, truth: while these women’s work may have been rendered invisible or simply been undervalued by the societies in which they lived, women were present, and they made an impact.

Breaking Barriers, Shaping Worlds: Canadian Women and the Search for Global Order, edited by Jill Campbell-Miller, Greg Donaghy, and Stacey Barker, UBC Press 2021.

Take, for example, Kim Girouard’s chapter on Dr. Jessie MacBean, a Canadian missionary who worked for decades in South China educating women and men in obstetric specialities. As a missionary, MacBean participated in a network of imperialism, with all the problematic and sometimes destructive qualities that this entailed. Yet her work developing clinics and medical education in South China not only provided quality health care, it helped to train the next generation of Chinese obstetric specialists, including women. Girouard draws our attention to this forgotten story and legacy.

Even when it has not been forgotten, women’s work has sometimes been undermined by gendered stereotyping. Jean Casselman Wadds is well remembered as the high commissioner to the United Kingdom who helped to guide the patriation of the Canadian constitution. But as Steve Marti and Francine McKenzie write in their chapter on Casselman, the tense negotiations that led up to the final agreement have been characterized as a “dinner party war,” thereby undermining the serious diplomatic skills it took to hold many contradictory opinions around the same table. The dining hall of Canada’s high commission in London served as the trench network in this war and Casselman Wadds was not only adept at the domestic art of holding a dinner party, she was also a savvy politician. It was her expertise in both domains that smoothed the way for the patriation. Although traditionally feminine attributes are frequently characterized as weak or silly, they bring an emotional intellect often necessary for tense diplomatic situations.

These chapters and others in Breaking Barriers, Shaping Worlds demonstrate the importance of finding women in the historical record, some of whom may be hiding in plain sight. By omitting women’s history – as well as the histories of Indigenous, Black, LGBTQ2S+, and other marginalized groups – we miss out on a fuller understanding of historical events, even those we think we understand well. That is why events like International Women’s Day serve as important reminders. As historians, we do not seek to make or glorify heroes, but we do want to know what happened. Without understanding women’s roles in history, we will only ever have an incomplete picture of a rich and complex past.

To purchase Jill Campbell-Miller, Greg Donaghy, and Stacey Barker, eds., Breaking Barriers, Shaping Worlds: Canadian Women and the Search for Global Order (UBC Press, 2021), visit: https://www.ubcpress.ca/breaking-barriers-shaping-worlds


Dr. Jill Campbell-Miller is a historian who specializes in twentieth-century Canadian foreign policy and international history, with a focus on the history of foreign aid, international development, natural resources, humanitarianism (especially health education), women and gender. Her PhD dissertation, which she is currently revising to become a manuscript, examined the history of Canadian foreign aid in India during the 1950s. She recently completed an AMS postdoctoral fellowship at the Gorsebrook Research Institute at Saint Mary’s University, and a SSHRC doctoral fellowship in the Department of History at Carleton University.

Hydroelectric Dams and the Hinterlands in Canada and India, 1953-1958

Developing the North: Hydroelectric Dams and the Hinterlands in Canada and India, 1953-1958, by Jill Campbell-Miller

Tues, February 15, 2022 – 7:00-8:30pm

Meghalaya. Photo by Jill Campbell-Miller

About the Event

“Electricity, now-a-days, almost symbolises Civilisation.” This quotation, taken from a c. 1951 report by the Central Waterpower Irrigation and Navigation Commission of the Government of India, states plainly the objective of waterpower development in the “hinterlands” of states during this era. Disconnected from the administrative state, often largely populated by Indigenous or other minority ethnic groups, yet rich in potential for natural resource development, the hinterlands of modern states posed challenges and opportunities for governments in the mid-twentieth century, and to a great extent, still do. Hydroelectric power offered governments a technical solution to perceived political and economic problems. During this period Canada saw a growth in the international potential of its consulting engineer sector. As the federal government in Canada sought to develop its own hinterlands, partly by providing hydroelectric power to these regions, they also supported the growth of Canada’s consulting engineering sector abroad, by promoting their businesses through the foreign aid program. This talk will examine two hydroelectric projects built during the same era, the mid-1950s, one in Canada in the Yukon Territory, and one in India in the state of Assam (present-day Meghalaya), and both funded by the Canadian state. Both projects involved the Montreal Engineering Company, a politically-well connected consulting engineering firm. Though such projects achieved the goal of providing cheaper electricity to these hinterland regions, they had major consequence for the Indigenous peoples that lived in the areas where the dams were constructed, a consequence of little concern to those in power at that time.

Dr Jill Campbell-Miller is Adjunct Professor of History, Saint Mary’s University

A link to the virtual event will be sent to registrants on Sunday evening, 13 February.

Registration for the event can be found on Eventbrite.

Yukon Territory. Photo by Jill Campbell-Miller

Call for Papers and Thematic Special Issues

The Canadian Foreign Policy Journal (CFPJ) is seeking
submissions for its 28th and 29th volume, to be published in 2022/23. CFPJ
is a fully peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal published by the
Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) at Carleton
University, Canada. Readers include government officials, academics,
students of international affairs, journalists, NGOs, and the private
sector. Established in 1992, CFPJ is now Canada’s leading journal of
international affairs.

Full articles: 6000-7000 words;

Policy Commentaries: short policy briefings engaging key topics in international policy, 1500- 2000 words;

Book reviews: 1000 word maximum for single reviews, 2500 for multi-book review.

To begin the submission process: https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/rcfp –

For Author Guidelines : http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rcfp20/current

To submit a proposal for a guest edited thematic issue:
https://www.tandf.co.uk//journals/cfp/rcfpcfpguide.pdf

Please email inquiries to David Carment, Editor (david.carment@carleton.ca) with the subject heading: “CFPJ – Call for submissions.”

Teaching with Humanitarian Archives: Three Lessons from Collaborations between Carleton University Archives and Special Collections and the Canadian Network of Humanitarian History

In December 2022, CNHH member Dominique Marshall participated in a workshop showcasing learning by doing with library resources. In the six minutes that follow, she speaks about the fit between Archives and Special Collections‘ fonds of humanitarian archives and ‘experiential learning’ at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
She thanks her three partners in the ongoing Humanitarian Archival Rescue Project, Chris Trainor and Lloyd Keane of ASC, as well as Hunter McGill, veteran of Canadian International Development Agency; Nina Dore of Carleton’s Teaching and Learning Services, organized the event and kindly produced the clip.

Spotlight on Experiential Learning: Instructor Panel with the Library (Maps, Archives, Rare Books, and Ottawa Resource Room) – Dominique Marshall presentation

The “Creative Crusade”: Settler Colonial Antinomies and Books for Development in the Age of Three Worlds

In November of this year, Jody Mason gave a lecture for the Canadian Literature Centre at the University of Alberta with this same title. What follows is a brief adaptation of one of the central points of the talk about the history of development aid.


“You Can Help,” Vol. 95, file 22, “Overseas Book Centre to: 1973, 1967-1973,” R14041, International Council for Adult Education fonds, LAC.

We might probe the complex and shifting settler colonial identifications of the decades between 1950 and the end of the 1970s period by looking at the history of development assistance, which brought books—key elements of the cultures of new left and sovereigntist nationalisms—together with “development” in actions that framed Canada as a successful model of modernization and decolonization. An important case for such a study is the Overseas Book Centre / Centre du livre pour outre-mer (OBC / CLO), a non-governmental book development program established in Toronto in 1959 by liberal internationalist and adult educator James Robbins (“Roby”) Kidd, Harry Campbell (then Chief Librarian for the Toronto Public Library), Canadian Association for Adult Education member Marion McFarland, and Kurt Swinton (then President of Encyclopedia Britannica Canada).

The OBC had Canadian precedents in non-governmental undertakings like the Canadian Council for Reconstruction Through UNESCO and other book-donation campaigns that responded in the wake of the Second World War to the call of reconstruction. However, in using books as instruments to support international education and what was coming to be called “development” the OBC would not, like the CCRU, aim at Europe; they set their sights instead on the nations of what was coming to be known as the “developing world.”[i] The OBC was committed to the idea that wealthy nations like Canada could, as one organizational history puts it, “help education in the Third World through presentation of books.” The OBC flagship program, “Books for Developing Countries,” had, according to Harry Campbell, a second purpose: to provide a use for surplus books from Toronto libraries and Britannica that would otherwise have been “burned or shredded” (though the OBC also received donated books from publishers, schools, colleges, professional groups, and individuals). Initially the OBC operated from space supplied by Kurt Swinton in an Encyclopedia Britannica warehouse in Toronto where volunteers collected and packed books for shipment; today, the NGO is known as the Canadian Organization for Development Through Education, and it is located in Ottawa.[ii]

As scholars such as Gilbert Rist have demonstrated, the development concept of the postwar years was deeply embedded in older histories of colonialism, though the terminology shifted.[iii] This genesis is important to the OBC / CLO, but here the specific context of settler colonialism must also be accounted for. In speeches such as Roby Kidd’s “I Am What a Librarian Made Me” (1961) or in texts such as Kidd’s An International Development Plan for Canada (1961), Kidd emphasizes that Canada was poised to lead the new “creative crusade.” The nation’s technological and scientific capacities are key to Kidd’s argument, but more important is his attention to the nation’s political status. Canada, he argues, is not “perceived as a threat”:

Other people can accept aid from us without feeling demeaned or becoming fearful that this is the beginning of a new imperialism. Moreover, we ourselves have recently passed out of colonialism and are even now going through rapid industrialization. We seem to be nearer in our own development to what others want to do.[iv]

Kidd’s framing of Canada as having “recently passed out of colonialism” rests on a denial of the internal colonization that structured 1960s Canada. At the same time, his view acknowledges the possibility of continuity between the old imperialism and the new development, while explicitly avoiding Canadian implication in that continuity: this could not be the new colonialism because a former colony was one of its key players. In Kidd’s version of this history, a former colony had caught up to its more “developed” counterparts. It had accomplished what Rist calls the “impossible” feat at the heart of the development paradigm, which holds to both an evolutionist idea of history and an asymptotic representation of growth: “Since time measured by the calendar passes at the same rate for everyone, it is by definition impossible for countries at the bottom to ‘catch up’ those at the top; the gap can only go on widening.” Kidd’s example of Canada seems to affirm this myth rather than disprove it; however, this is more revealing of the particular situation of the settler colony than of any observable truth about development.[v]

A second set of contradictions underwrote the work of the OBC through the 1960s and 70s. While Kidd was using his roles in the new international institutions––he was conference president of the 1960 UNESCO World Conference on Adult Education and chair of UNESCO’s Experimental World Literacy Programme from 1967-1973, for instance––to call for locally relevant and locally produced literacy materials, he was at the same time promoting the book donation model of the OBC. This is despite the fact that an increasing body of research produced at UNESCO through the 1970s was demonstrating that this model was irrelevant at best and neocolonial at worst: studies such as Ronald Barker and Richard Escarpit’s The Book Hunger (1973), for instance, offer a frank assessment of the fact that book donations from the world’s book “producing” nations could not solve acute book shortages in Africa because the greatest need was for books in languages not published in the producing nations; Philip Altbach and Eva Maria Rathgeber’s Publishing in the Third World (1980) critiques the tendency of book donation schemes to undermine fragile local publishing industries by flooding markets with subsidized books.[vi] These arguments are particularly germane to the work of the OBC: between 1960 and 1975, the OBC shipped nearly twenty million books to fifty countries, and almost four hundred tonnes of books (and equipment) were shipped overseas in 1976-77 alone.[vii]


Jody Mason is a member of the Department of English Language and Literature, where she researches the history of literacy and citizenship.


[i] Canada, “Canadian Council for Reconstruction Through UNESCO: Submission to Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, 1949-1951,” 1-3, Library and Archives Canada, 27 Jan. 2001, collectionscanada.ca/massey/h5-318-e.html. Accessed 10 Feb. 2020.

[ii] Tony Richards, “From Giving to Helping: The Evolution of a Development Agency,” Logos 4,

 no. 1 (January 1993): 26-27. Campbell’s words come from a 1984 correspondence with W.A.

 Teager. W.A. Teager, “Cultural and Humanitarian Activities Leading to an International Role and

 Focus,” in J.R. Kidd: An International Legacy of Learning, edited by Nancy J. Cochrane,

 Vancouver: Centre for Continuing Education, University of BritishColumbia, 1986,” 122-3.

[iii] Gilbert Rist, The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith (London: Zed Books, 2014), 47-79.

[iv] J.R. Kidd, “I Am What A Librarian Made Me,” in Education for Perspective (New Delhi: Indian Adult Education Association, 1969), 89-91; J.R. Kidd, “An International Development Program for Canada,” Feb. 1961, p. 2, 15, Vol. 43, file 15, “JRK – 1950s and 1960s (Cultural Background), 1950-61,”R14041, International Council for Adult Education fonds (ICAE), LAC.

[v] Rist, The History of Development, 45.

[vi] S. Kapoor, J.R. Kidd, and C. Touchette, Functional Literacy and International Development: A Study of Canadian Capability to Assist with the World Campaign to Eradicate Illiteracy (Ottawa: Canadian National Commission for UNESCO, 1968), 23, 27; Ronald Barker and Richard Escarpit, The Book Hunger (Paris: UNESCO, 1973), 24-7; Philip Altbach and Marie-Eve Rathgeber, Publishing in the Third World: Trend Report and Bibliography (New York: Praeger, 1980).

[vii]J.R. Kidd, Roby Kidd: Adult Educator, 1915-1982 (Toronto: OISE Press, 1995),105; “OBC Annual Report, 1976-77,” Vol. 108, file 13, “ICAE (International Council for Adult Education) General Files 1976-80 International Organizations – Society for International Development 1976-80 Overseas Book Centre, 1976-80,” R14041, ICAE-LAC.

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