Recent Submissions

  • Re-imagining Niagara: A Spatial Study of Economic Development (1783-1812)

    Linzel, Jessica; Department of History
    The end of the American Revolution marked a turning point in the history of Niagara. In the span of three decades, this Upper Canadian district evolved as the territory of nomadic groups of Mississauga and Haudenosaunee nations into the post-war settlement of approximately 15,000 white, black, and British-allied Indigenous nations. Some arrived immediately as refugees of the late war, while other families came later in hopes of securing a brighter future. Historians generally discuss this period of Niagara’s history in terms of its socio-political developments, while economic histories of the “Loyalist Era” are most often assigned a broader lens focusing on trade and commerce in Upper Canada. To fill this historiographical gap, this paper investigates the economic developments within the Niagara region from 1783-1812, using geographic information systems (GIS) to analyze the role of geography alongside human agency in commodity production and the formation of local trade networks. This thesis includes an interactive webmap used to analyze a carefully compiled geospatial database of commodity sales gathered from primary sources. Historical GIS sets this project apart from others by bringing the investigations back to the land, showing how farmers and merchants responded to natural barriers like distance, wetlands, elevation and soil type, inciting individuals to adapt according to their personal circumstances. Ultimately, this project illustrates Niagara’s post-war transition from its role as a transshipment point in a larger transatlantic trade system into a productive agrarian economy by the early 19th century. The Niagara escarpment and the region’s many creeks and rivers were the economic hubs wherein diverse groups of people converged to participate in industries that formed society’s foundational economic structures. At the same time, participation in Niagara’s economy was limited by factors of race, gender, and class. Thus, it also discusses how individuals maneuvered through their subjective socio-political positions within society in their own unique way. The re-interpretation of primary sources using spatial tools presents Niagara as an important colonial region into which the British government poured significant funds for its strategic position and market potential. Exposing its commercial development provides a tangible contribution to this part of Canadian history.
  • The Un-Making of Difference: The Winding Road of Deinstitutionalization in Ontario, 1960-2018

    Fast, Carolyn; Department of History
    The institutionalization of people with an intellectual impairment lives in the shadows of Canadian history. In Ontario, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, social and medical ideas about human difference emerging from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries resulted in the massive push toward segregation and institutionalization of all kinds of “undesirable” types of people, including those with a physical and mental impairment. Although institutionalization itself, as a “solution” for people without an intellectual impairment came under early fire by medical experts and policy makers, these arguments were not applied to children or adults with an intellectual impairment. I will argue that the appeal of institutionalization, which persists despite decades of irrefutable evidence about its extraordinary harm, continues to exist because the beliefs and attitudes of those who made the decisions to institutionalize in the first place continue to circulate, and to dominate our thinking about what is “best” for people with an intellectual impairment. These attitudes fundamentally deny that people who have an impairment are “persons” in the same sense as those who do not have an impairment are. My thesis outlines the various elements which have shaped attitudes toward people with an intellectual impairment since the late nineteenth century, and the ways these attitudes (medical, social, and political) were built into the physical landscape of the province, in the shape of congregate institutions. Using oral history interviews with many of the survivors of these institutions, I argue that these attitudes about personhood are fundamentally wrong, and detail how the agency and activism of the intellectually impaired, themselves, was a crucial element in institutional closures and the crucial (yet unfinished) shift toward community living.
  • Down to Earth or Near to Heaven?: Religious Practice in the Abruzzi, 1154-1313

    Coia, Lucas; Department of History
    For decades, medievalists have been interested in the Christian religion, as it manifested among western Europe’s lay population. Specifically, they have considered the extent that institutional, Church norms were accepted on a local level. There have been a variety of answers to this question, ranging from the notion that popular practice largely aligned with official doctrine, to the theory that the majority of Europeans were not Christianized until the early modern era. This paper examines this question through the case study of Italy’s Abruzzi region, between the years 1154 and 1313. The Abruzzi was a mountainous and rural part of Europe with a complex history. To date, it has largely been overlooked in the English literature. However, most Italian historians have adopted a largely dichotomous view of religion in the area. Namely, they contend that the majority of people practiced a “superstitious” religion fundamentally different from that of the institutional Church, viewed as the locus of “true” Christianity. This paper uses a combination of hagiographic and canonization material, in the original Latin, to argue that no essential difference existed between clerical and popular religion in the Abruzzi, and that instead, there was a duality of religious sensibility, one that aligned with an urban-rural split. Theoretically, it employs a distinction between “material”- and “spiritual”-based faith that refers respectively, to “old” and “new” piety, as understood in the context of changing ecclesiastical norms. It argues that rural areas remained “material” in their Christian outlook, while in the city of Sulmona, an increasingly “spiritual” faith was emerging. This was partly due to the impact of St Peter of Morrone, whose popularity helped disseminate “new” piety among the locals. Additional consideration is given to the ways that the physical was intimately linked to the immaterial. Examples of everyday religious practice are provided throughout.
  • Niagara Falls 1901-1911: Immigration, Industrialization and the Creation of an Ethnically Diverse City

    Fast, Timothy Roger; Department of History
    At the turn of the twentieth century, hydroelectric power development along the Niagara River rapidly transformed the Town and Village of Niagara Falls, Ontario into an industrial city. The community changed demographically as well, with large numbers of foreign immigrants arriving to work both on the massive construction projects and in the factories which were drawn to the area due to the availability of inexpensive power. In 1891, the area later incorporated into the City of Niagara Falls was overwhelmingly composed of inhabitants of British origin, but by 1911 roughly 14% of the residents originated from Southern and Eastern Europe. This paper examines the demographic transformation of Niagara Falls during this time, constructing a profile of the immigrant population using census data from 1891, 1901 and 1911. The census data reveal where distinct ethnic communities were located, as well as their composition, providing a groundwork for further exploration of the integration process of this relatively large number of “foreigners” into the British-Canadian resident population. Some segregation was imposed, as in the case of single male construction labourers, other segregation was voluntary, such as Italian immigrants forming their own distinct neighbourhood. Many Southern and Eastern European immigrants faced racial discrimination in one form or another, from institutions such as the police department, local newspapers and employers, as well as from citizens’ groups such as The Lord’s Day Alliance. This study addresses the relative silence of the historiographical record regarding this influx of new Canadians to this area at the turn of the twentieth century, and the many challenges which they faced.
  • Tacitus' Germania and the Jesuit Relations: Intertextuality in the Transatlantic World of the Early Jesuits in New France.

    Girard, Renée; Department of History
    The first Europeans who wrote about the Indigenous people of the newly discovered Americas, not only used medieval, but also classical literature as a tool of reference to describe 'otherness.' As true humanists, the French Jesuits who arrived in the New World were deeply influenced by their classical education and, as claimed by Grafton, reverted to ancient ethnographic texts, like Tacitus' Germania, to support their analyse of the Indigenous people they encountered. Books talk to books. Inspired by Germania, the early French Jesuits managed to convey to their readers a subtle critique of their own civilization, enhancing, like Tacitus, the virtuous aspect of the so-called barbarians they described while illustrating the corruption of their respective civilized worlds. This thesis suggests that the essence of Tacitus' work is definitively present in Pierre Biard's letters and his Relation. His testimonies illustrate the connection the early French Jesuits had with the humanist thought of their time.