A TWO-DAY SYMPOSIUM WILL BE HELD AT THE IFRC, GENEVA, ON THURSDAY AND FRIDAY 15-16 JUNE 2023.
Since 2019, members of the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Project “Resilient Humanitarianism” have been working on aspects of the history of the League of Red Cross Societies. This has been a collaboration of interdisciplinary academics from Australia, Britain, and France. As a finale of the project, we seek scholars of the Red Cross Movement and Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies to contribute to a 2-day symposium to share their current research on the League of Red Cross Societies, discuss and analyze the history and impact of this important international organization that has been under-historicized to date.
From its beginnings in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, through to 1991 when it became the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent (IFRC), we have sought to understand how the League of Red Cross Societies (LRCS), the world’s largest volunteer network, survived the turbulent interwar period and Second World War, and expanded through the decolonization and globalization era of the Cold War. Examining the history of this transnational humanitarianism organization offers new insights into how organizations respond to various geopolitical, cultural, and social shifts over time and place.
For this symposium, we seek contributions from scholars working on major platforms of the League of Red Cross Societies such as health and public health policy, disaster management, aid and relief, the Junior Red Cross, and the development of national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and League infrastructure, and international collaborations with other international bodies such as WHO and the United Nations. We are particularly interested in hearing from those working on the post-World War II period and the emergence of new national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies following national independence and how those new national Societies interacted with the League in Geneva.
Questions to consider include, but are not limited to:
How did the LRCS develop as an institution of its own? How did it navigate the period 1920-45? What programs did it support?
How did the LRCS interact with newly established national Red Cross/Red Crescent societies of recently independent countries in the Middle-East, Africa and Asia?
What programs did the LRCS establish in the post-WWII period, and were they successful on the ground? (eg. public health, disaster relief, first aid, etc.)
How did the LRCS navigate the Cold War and its relations with Soviet republics and their allies?
What role have gender, volunteering, and climate change played? How can we explain the League’s institutional resilience in the twentieth century?
We will be joined by Emeritus Professor David P. Forsythe (University of Nebraska-Lincoln). A welcome reception will be held on the evening of Wednesday 14 June at the IFRC.
Report from Two Years of Co-Creation of Knowledge, Policy, and Education Materials
by Helen Kennedy
August 12, 2022
Back on 6 April 2020, we announced the beginning of a Mitacs-funded research partnership between the Canadian Network on Humanitarian History, Carleton University, and five Canadian NGOs. At that time, we thought pandemic delays might extend our four-month project perhaps an additional two or three months. Now, over two years later, I am happy to announce that the project titled “Micro-Histories of Transnational Humanitarian Aid: Co-Creation of Knowledge, Policy, and Education Materials” has officially come to an end!
Having an opportunity to delve into the diverse histories and policies that shape the work of these disparate organizations has made the long pandemic days a little more interesting. The interviews and archival research I conducted covered a broad spectrum of transnational NGO work, from advocating for more inclusive election practices in Lebanon to contextualizing the work of Black leaders in Saskatchewan at the turn of the 20th century to challenges facing organizations opposed to conflict diamonds to the histories of refugee resettlement and anti-free trade advocacy.
Each organization had unique research challenges and the final reports will be used by the organizations to meet diverse needs.
As the Latin American Working Group grapples with how best to communicate to new researchers the relevancy of their work in the history of transnational solidarity and advocacy movements, we recovered four boxes of archival material and organized their transfer to the LAWG Library at York University. Interviews with former volunteers and the accompanying report sheds light on how anti-free trade solidarity includes more than simply a history of transnational labour history: the histories of refugees, human rights, environmental protection, and diplomacy are bound up in the history of LAWG and Common Frontiers.
As WUSC celebrated its 100th anniversary during the pandemic, we undertook a history of their involvement with Hungarian refugee student resettlement to shine a light on the interconnected nature of their history and their current programming. Today, WUSC hosts over 150 university students annually as part of its Student Refugee Program.
As a founding civil society member of the Kimberly Process, we worked with IMPACT to explore the history of civil society involvement in international diamond regulation. The work aims to support their ongoing advocacy work regarding resource extraction and artisanal mining.
The Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan has been doing incredible work surrounding anti-racism and educating the community on the benefits of cultural diversity since 1975. Our research project aimed to provide context for the life and achievements of Dr. Alfred Shadd, a Black educator, politician, doctor, entrepreneur, and civic leader at the turn of the 20th century.
The Disability Hub at the Centre for Lebanese Studies used our research into inclusive election best practices in North America and Europe as part of their lobbying campaign to improve inclusivity in the May 2022 elections in Lebanon.
It has been immensely varied and gratifying work and I am grateful that our stakeholders gave me their time, expertise, and advice as they navigated adapting their organizations’ work to the online space. I am looking forward to seeing the ways that all the organizations continue to explore their histories in order to shape their futures.
Helen Kennedy is a PhD candidate at Carleton University where she studies international intervention and humanitarian action in Bosnia (1992-1995).
Hunter Mcgill (retired CIDA Official), taught courses at Carleton and Ottawa U on Humanitarian Aid and Development ; part of the archival rescue team
Stephen Osei-Owusu, University of Ghana, teaches history – focused on the role of aid and development in Ghana’s development post-colonialism – now working on Environmental History
Simplice Ayanma Post Doc Banting Fellow Working with David Webster- at Bishops University The politics of Canada and the Franco-phone
Claire Lefort-Rieu : Ph.D. Anthropology in Forced Migration in Cameroon – Institute of Development and Paris University in French
Rhonda Gossen : Also worked at CIDA – works as a consultant for UNEP and UNHCR consultant – retired from CIDA – interested in the archival rescue project and in the women development projects in Pakistan
John Foster: Teaching at the University of Regina – rewriting 3rd year course on International Human Rights. Involved in MITACS between Dominique et al. Kevin O’Sullivan’s book- the
Lydia Wytenbroek : Assistant professor at UBC,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. *Interests in Nursing in Iran. Will be responsible to Tweets and coordinating events for CNHH.
Sonja De Laat : Degree in Anthropology, specializing in the History of Humanitarian Representation. Involved with Dominique |Humanitarian Health Ethics – palliative care.
Kevin Brushett : Head of History at the Royal Military College, interested in CIDA work- government and non-government actors brokered the relationship btw the two
Jill Campbell Miller: Currently at Fisheries Canada. Interested in working on projects examining relationships b/w India and Canada.
Dominique Marshall: Oxfam Canada|Gender design in Science Technology and Mathematics
Practicing archivist at the University of Windsor. History of The Canadian Red Cross; interested in collaborating
2. Updates on CNHH Projects:
CNHH Blog (Sarah):
The blog will continue to function as it has – a bit of a catchall. A great place to showcase ideas that are not big enough for an article- but you are looking to get it out there. Hoping to grow the list of Humanitarian Reads: “If you only read 4 things on topic x – these are the 4 that you should read”. Annotated bibliography.
E.g. Sonya – how to interpret visual histories
Rhonda Gossen offered the following in the chat: “I have a huge list of books written by humanitarians that has been compiled by the largest Facebook group of humanitarian workers called Fifty Shades of Aid”.
Bulletin: Dominique asked for feedback on how this has been working.
Report from ongoing NGO Collaborations (Anna, Helen, Elizabeth, & FRI):
MITACS project –
John- Latin American Working Group
Helen- Lebanese Reparations of the 1970s – helping authors with organizing the documents in the archives.
Farm Radio is hiring an RA to do 200 hours of work interviewing people in Africa to see how they benefited from Farm Radio funding
Archives (David, Dominique, Sarah) Library and Archives Canada – Hunter and Chris working on fishery data from local fisheries. Dominique and David are collaborating in this regard. David is thinking of going to Carleton to do more of this work.
Teaching: Recipro, upcoming courses, and other projects: History of the Spanish Civil War; Communist Aid; Environmental NGOs
Publications (Journal of Humanitarian Affairs) : Special issue of the Journal of Humanitarian Aid History
3. CHA Panels:
2022 update: (Stephen, Simplice, Robyn?)
Report on the panel from Wednesday May 18:
Jill – the panel for this year was organically formed as both Dominique and David had post docs attending. A CHA affiliated group can host a panel.| Enticing for emerging scholars/ current students in Ph.D. or MA programs| Pull the proposal together.
Simplice: A major 1968-1980s Cameroon to Canada diplomatic project – CIDA.
Stephen: spoke of an event in 1849 in Ghana. A christianized and indegnous African population. Beyond the normative implications of the clash- a christianized group invading a group that works with the indigenous population….Eurpoean Christianity and modality- often times the indigenous populations gets trumped out. Relevance during the pre-colonial| colonial | and post colonial periods.
Lydia – will be promoting these events on CNHH Twitter account.
Action Items: Dominique and Stephen will connect with Lydia for further action.
2023- Planning: (Nassisse, Jill?) Solicitation of ideas for a CHA Panel
a) Idea Number 1: Sarah- 2023 Panel on Archives- David Webster and Hunter McGill – a running theme is the presence or absence of archives and the crazy states in which they reach us. Jill suggested that the Round table Format might work best for this proposed discussion.
Jill – getting conference permission from the DFO is a long process. So start early if we are interested in getting CIDA or GAC involved in the panel.
b) Idea Number 2: Aid perspectives from the Middle East –
Lydia Wytenbroek: Area studies
c) Idea Number 3: Palliative Care| Aging – post-pandemic
*Cross-posting events – joint Congress Panel-
4. Book Launch (Lydia)
Great attendance- recording of events will be up soon.
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). »
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.
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
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.
The Management of Natural Resources and the Environment in Canada: Historical and Transnational Perspectives
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.
Convenor: Mr. 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.
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.” 
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.