what’s doing

Why I’m doing history:

We do not ‘repeat the past’ (that is impossible, the past is done, gone, cannot be repeated; nor does history ‘repeat itself’). However, human beings do tend to repeat patterns of behavior (as a species we seem to have a limited imagination when it comes to ‘trial and error’ approaches).

Consequently, learning about past impetus (circumstances/ conditions/ environment/ context) and response (agency) allows one to discern patterns of human behavior (as a species we are programmed to ‘see’ patterns).

Aside from being an interesting thing to do, studying past behaviors allows guesses about why people are doing what they are doing in the present to be ‘educated guesses,’ and even allows for the making of educated guesses about what will happen in the future (as an outcome of what people are doing now).

Thus, doing history shows the past to be relevant to the present and future. Hence the tenet illustrated immediately below:



N. Hall, meme-spoof, “History is always Relevant: tenet underlying my study of Canadian history,” (1 December 2013)

smiley unaltered


To me, metaphysically speaking. doing history means actively constructing an intellectual context in which to situate one’s perspective, on which to base one’s opinions, and out of which one can make informed choices. I am of the opinion that the past cannot inform the present otherwise. When it comes to engaging with historiography, I like to think that the metaphysical has a practical application.

canadianhistory n.0 is a virtual archive of various materials — texts — that I have found or generated in the course of studying Canadian history and  developing a context for understanding Canada today: as a state-defined and geographically delimited country, and as a complex collectivity of human beings attempting to live with a multitude of ever varying conceptions of what living in Canada ought to be like. Some of the texts date back to my graduate studies, others are more recent. This archive is virtual not only because it is electronic and web dependent, but because the material stored here is subject to change — web utilities do not hold onto posts indefinitely, neither do web addresses remain constant, nor links active.


I structured this blog as though it were a website, but I constructed the website as though it were a wiki, meaning that uploaded text was always in the process of being edited (corrected and enlarged). The content therefore is not entirely stable (though changes to a page are usually incremental not drastic). I’m mildly dyslexic, so when it comes to spelling and dates mistakes can creep in and sit there for quite awhile before noticed.


8 Responses to what’s doing

  1. Ken Cozens says:

    Came across your blog and very impressed with its historical content. Derek Morris and I are two London historians who are interested in riverside parishes which have connections with 18th century merchants and the Hudson Bay Company etc, etc. We are currently researching a new book on Shadwell and would like to communicate with you. Can you please send your e-mail address so that I can tell you more? Thanks! In the meantime please take a look at these two links which will tell you a little more:



    Kind regards

    Ken Cozens, Greenwich Maritime Institute Associate

  2. Kenneth Cozens says:

    Dear Norma,
    Just to let you and your followers know Derek Morris and I have now published a new book entitled LONDON’S SAILORTOWN, 1600 – 1800. A SOCIAL HISTORY OF SHADWELL AND RATCLIFF AN EARLY-MODERN LONDON RIVERSIDE SUBURB, publishes by the East London History Society. The book is the first of its kind covering the history of Shadwell and Ratcliff. Here is a link;


    Keep up the good work!

    Kind regards

    Ken Cozens

  3. hello, i found your blog when searching maps and pictures of HBC ships crossing from the orkney to canada. My purpose is to illustrate an interview I made in yellowknife of a “bays’boy” , as part of a documentary film . I found difficulties to get these archives online (I am leaving in France), and the ideal for me would be to get the map you use in slide 9 and 17 of you lecture “ocean crossing”. I am also looking for a picture of the HBC ships in the years 1950. I appologize for my crazy enquiries, but I truly beleave you are the right person to help me in my researches.
    You can visit our web site to see my film project The Fur Country (le pays des fourrures) Many thanks for your answer

    • hallnjean says:

      Hi Dominique, the base map I used (the coloured routes were added on top) was a screenshot of a map by John Pinkerton, “(Composite of) The World on Mercator’s projection. Drawn under the direction of Mr. Pinkerton by L. Hebert. Neele sculpt. 352 Strand. London: published … 1812, by Cadell & Davies, Strand & Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown, Paternoster Row.” I found the map in the David Rumsey historical map layer in Google Earth http://www.davidrumsey.com/view/google-earth.

      Hope that helps and thanks for the info on your project,

  4. Warren James says:

    Hi Norma, I was wondering if you could get in touch with me at the Prairie History Room, Regina Public Library; our Writer-in-Residence is very interested in your work.

  5. Brett Ewald says:

    Dear Norma,
    I am researching fur trade buttons for a Master’s Thesis in Cultural Resource Management. Please may I use the information covering HBC and NWC shipping that you have so brilliantly gathered here? If so, let me know how best to cite the information. Please respond when you can. Thank you for your time.
    Very Respectfully,


  6. J says:

    While doing what I thought would be very unrelated research on family members in central Georgia and north Florida, I came upon a story that could only be described as “Big Fishian.” (US, 2003) The person who recounted it, a 20 year U S Army careerist who served in Vietnam, was equally incredulous, but said his father never backed down from the story. The story is: on a trip to Savannah c 1920, the boy Mack is shanghaied and taken aboard a ship as a cabin boy. He serves as they travel the seas but gets so ill that the sailors put him out at a “Hudson Bay sailors’ hospital” where he stayed to recover “18 months!” !! Quite an adventure for middle Georgia farmers, many of whom *may* have ventured to Atlanta, pre WW1. *I* am still wondering what business took them to Savannah. MAIN QUESTION- **Is there any was to explore what the most likely hospitals would be that would treat indigent sailors?** Only the rapid changes in documentation in the wake of the Spanish Influenza pandemic would lead me to even attempt to follow this rabbit trail, although the family is fascinating and full of these fascinating stories. I did see that the Nascopie had visited Savannah in 1920, but that ship was surely too modern to shanghai cabin boys? Also, from the short histories I saw on it, it was an icebreaker, not a China trader. Is there anything online like a shipping news that would list vessels coming in? I would presumably try to find a vessel coming into Savannah, that matched one coming in later to – again, who knows where? Hudson Bay looks pretty big to my St Andrews Bay eye! Anyway, your research is interesting, and I appreciate your documentation and passion for your subject! Jeannie Weller Cooper, PC, FL

    • hallnjean says:

      Hi Jennie,
      I’m afraid I know nothing about ship lists for the Port of Savannah. As to hospitals, I can only hazard guesses. First, it might be that the ‘Hudson Bay sailors’ referred to were whalers that ventured in the general direction of Hudson Bay (many operating out of New Bedford, but also Scotland). But, by the 1920s there also could have been fishing and sealing vessels as well as supply vessels making voyages that included ports of call ranging from Savannah to Hudson Bay and Greenland, or even to Iceland and Norway.

      A quick google indicates there were perhaps a few hospitals geared to whalers on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and a few more in England and Scotland. Otherwise, I wonder if one of the Seamen’s Friend Societies (either American of British) might have useful records or helpful information?

      Best of luck filling in the gaps of this intriguing story,

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