Musings of a Canadian Slacker

Monday, December 13, 2004
Lately I've been thinking a bit about the process of history, partly because I have to write an essay over the next month for my class at Carleton, partly because I'd been reading this. Plus, of course, there is the recent death of Pierre Berton.
Anyways, a phrase came to my mind that one would not normally associate with history. It was from Training Day, a rather brutal film about police corruption in Los Angeles. It's not what you know, Jake, it's what you can prove! That is fundamentally what historians have to deal with: not what the historian knows, but what the historian can prove.
On a sidenote, I've had a couple of people I know in the real world ask me what history might have to say about the Iraq War, down the road. I usually don't say much..though I usually would like to quote General John Burgoyne: History, Sir, will lie!

Sunday, December 12, 2004
I'm usually a fan of Paul Wells', but on this particular instance, I have to raise a minor point of order: It doesn't really constitute 'paradiplomacy' when the regional leader is also the leader of half the federal Opposition. Edmund Stoiber {German Link} is the Minister-President of Bavaria, but he is also leader of the CSU, which is half of the conservative coalition which opposed current Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schoeder in the last election. Indeed, Stoiber was the CDU-CSU candidate for Bundeskanzler. The argument may hold true about paradiplomacy, but in this case, the proper analogue would be a foreign leader meeting Stephen Harper, which we've seen as recently as this past month, when President Bush dropped by for a visit.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004
On Pierre Berton.

Pierre Berton was a writer whose work helped to define what we think about our nation and its past. 'Professional' historians often deride his work as too accessible and not properly sourced. But, for all that, far more Canadians have bought and read his work than will have ever even heard the names of those Ph.D bearing scoffers. As a person who has spent some time studying history, I am of two minds about Berton: I would have liked him to have spent more time sourcing his material. On the other hand, I loved several of his books, particular favorites being the War of 1812/ Flames across the Border series, and I like how they draw people into the 'story' of this country. The very best historians would be those who could combine Berton's skill for narrative with a professional ability to deal with sources and the other detail work of history. Pierre Berton produced some 47 books over his 84 years, and died today at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.

Hat tip: Damian.