Shadow Red

2017 is the 100th anniversary of Tom Thomson’s death. Earlier this year, I talked with Gregory Klages about Thomson’s death and the many theories that have surrounded it for the past century. But that’s not all that’s been going on to mark the event. Last Thursday, a new art exhibition opened at Toronto’s ArteMbassy entitled Shadow Red. For the past three years, artist Martha Johnson has put together a series of works that pay homage to Thomson’s life and legacy.

In today’s episode of the History Slam, I talk with Martha Johnson about the exhibit. We chat about her personal connection to Tom Thomson, his legacy in Canada’s art community, and her artistic style. We also talk about the exhibit, using blankets as a canvas, what visitors can expect, and how nature has influenced Canadian art. The exhibit runs through October 1, so if you’re in the GTA, it’s definitely worth the trip. You can find the full post here.



Taxation and Democracy

In Wednesday’s episode of the History Slam, which is a special bonus episode as part of’s taxation week, I talk Shirley Tillotson of Dalhousie University. We chat about her new book Give and Take: The Citizen-Taxpayer and the Rise of Canadian Democracy, Elsbeth Heaman’s new book Tax, Order, and Good Government: A New Political History of Canada, 1867-1917, and the role of taxes in Canadian life. We also talk about how taxation has been written about by historians, the merits of a flat tax, and how people feel about government spending. You can find the full post here.

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Reviewing the New Canada Hall at the Canadian Museum of History

A special Tuesday edition of the History Slam podcast was posted at this morning. In this episode, podcast Hall of Famers Aaron Boyes and Madeleine Kloske join me as we walk through the new Canada Hall. We give our thoughts before we head into the exhibit, break down each of the sections as we walk through, and even play one of the new interactive games. We then sit down following the visit and give our thoughts on the exhibit as a whole, its strengths and weaknesses, and give our grades for the revamped Canada Hall. You can find the full post here.


Unwritten Histories

The History Slam is back from its summer hiatus with new episodes. In this episode, I talk with Andrea Eidinger about her incredibly successful blog Unwritten Histories. We chat about the blog’s origins, the process of curating her lists, and how she manages to produce so much original content. We also talk about the state of the field in 2017, how history can be improved in schools, and what the future may hold for history in Canada. You can find the full post here.

Looking Forward, Looking Back: CBC News and the Revamped National

Article originally posted on August 2 at

The new anchors of The National. L to R – Rosemary Barton, Andrew Chang, Adrienne Arsenault, Ian Hanomansing. Via

Since Peter Mansbridge announced last year that he was retiring from his post as anchor of The National, there has been plenty of speculation about how the show would use his departure as an opportunity to revamp. Criticisms of the show have ranged from political bias to being too centered around its anchor and many looked forward to a fresh start. As a result, yesterday’s announcement that the anchor position will be split among Rosemary Barton, Andrew Chang, Adrienne Arsenault, and Ian Hanomansing created quite a stir.

While The Beaverton may have won for the funniest story about the change, the announcement simultaneously harkens back to the CBC’s earliest days, when announcers were not expected to be household names, while also signalling a potentially dangerous shift in how the national broadcaster intends to deliver its news.

During the Moose River Mine Disaster in the spring of 1936, J. Frank Willis became a celebrity for his fiery and extravagant descriptions over Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission stations. When the CBC started later that fall, General Manager Gladstone Murray wanted to make sure that no personality was bigger than the Corporation, which contributed to his effort to standardize the accent and vocabulary heard on CBC programs.

Over time that policy was challenged by the likes of Matthew Halton, whose updates from Europe during the Second World War made him one of the best-known journalists of the period. Since then, the idea that journalists should remain largely anonymous has really virtually disappeared. One could argue that Knowlton Nash and Peter Mansbridge shattered that idea in Canada as both are inextricably linked with the CBC’s wider news service.

In an era where news outlets are routinely accused of partisan motives, returning to the days of less prominent individual journalists can help alleviate that problem. For the CBC, the news division will no longer be identified by a single person, whose personal beliefs can come to represent the entire organization. Additionally, four people, who have very different professional backgrounds, bring different perspectives and, with that, a layer of protection against claims of partisanship.

If the CBC had just announced the personnel change, that would have been fine. But the Corporation added something to its announcement that made yesterday feel like yet another step in the ever increasing shift towards American style news.