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.


6 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,


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