The history blog for this month is Active History. The website is a rich source for teachers and some senior students who want to learn about the work of historians and connections between the past and current events. The site’s About page defines active history “as history that listens and is responsive; history that will make a tangible difference in people’s lives…” A strong claim but I believe it lives up to it.
The posts are written in accessible non-academic language. The range of topics is broad. Recent ones include a study of Chinese workers in children’s history books, climate change and historians, and the histories of infertility, adoption, and abortion.
There are also two on-going projects: History Slam and the First World War.
High School History Trips, Fake History, the Many Deaths of Tom Thompson, Project of the Heart, Fake Cadavers – these are a few of the 99 History Slam podcasts to date. Whether talking with a historian about a new book or a high school teacher about a project on residential schools, the podcasts are conversations about the stories of the past, their influence today, and their role in shaping our culture.
The second project is a series of posts on the history, memory, and legacy of the First World War. Again the topics are diverse including the war’s political impact, life on the home front, and commemoration today.
For example, “National Disunity and the Meaning of Vimy Ridge” explores the division between French and English Canadians that was a consequence of Vimy. Another post on “Motherhood, Propaganda, and the Great War” compares the powerful icon of the sacrificing mother in small-town Canada newspapers during WW I to its similar role in religion and the propaganda of al-Sham (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. Still another is on the Trapp family of New Westminster. “Four Trapp sons went off to the First World War and only one returned. Such terrible loss speaks to us when we look back at the war, but … in some cases comfort could be found.” For the Trapp family it came from Raymond Collishaw, one of the great aces over the Western Front, and a Trapp daughter.
Few are the opportunities for teachers to inform themselves about new work in history and the essential debates about the role of the past in today’s Canada. Active History is one of those few. I highly recommend it.