Undiplomatic History: Rethinking Canada in the World

A Workshop in Canadian International History
The L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History, McMaster University
28-29 April 2017


Two trends have defined the historical study of Canada in the world over the past few decades. On the one hand, histories that range outside of Canada’s borders have abounded, including new transnational, imperial, and globally comparative approaches. On the other, international history, the sub-field that has traditionally considered Canada’s global relationships within a state-centric framework, experienced a period of relative neglect in the 1990s, due to the disciplinary infighting (or, ‘history wars’) that plagued Canadian history at the time, and, relatedly, to a reticence to move beyond the narrow, sclerotic boundaries of diplomatic history. Over the past decade, however, a new international history has emerged in Canada that includes new lenses of historical analysis, such as race, gender, political economy, identity, religion, Indigenous studies, and the environment; new geographical areas beyond Western Europe and the United States; and a new emphasis on the importance of non-state actors, including scientists, athletes, students, and activists. The aim of the proposed workshop is to consider this new international history in unison with developments in transnational, imperial, and comparative history. The study of Canada’s place in the world is proving to be a vibrant area of research, and the time has come to take stock of such changes and to consider what these new directions in Canadian international history mean for the study of Canada more generally.

In their papers, authors will focus on how their case studies push forward the boundaries of Canadian international history. Papers will address one or more of the following themes: non-state actors, human-environment relationships, Indigenous-Canadian state relations, imperial history and decolonization, modernization and neo-liberal development, cultural diplomacy, memory, and military and peace studies. At the symposium, authors will be divided into panels related to these themes, in which authors will present their work to symposium participants and the larger public, detailing the ways in which their paper relates to the overall goals of the symposium to broaden and enliven the scope of international history in Canada. Papers will be pre-circulated, so that a large portion of each panel will consist of a critical and intensive feedback session meant to assist each presenter in revising and strengthening their work. The face-to-face dialogue and discussion created by the symposium is thus an integral component in the development of the resulting edited collection; it will engender the thematic cohesiveness and analytical rigour that are necessary components for the success of such an important project.

In this way, Undiplomatic History: Rethinking Canada and the World will serve as a benchmark for the evolving state of international history in Canada, as well as the beginning of a larger conversation within a Canadian historical profession that has marginalized Canada’s foreign relations history.

For a full version of Asa McKercher and Phil Van Huizen’s vision, click on the following link: Undiplomatic History

Final Programme

Undiplomatic History: Rethinking Canada in the World

 L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History, McMaster University


Thursday, April 27, 2017

 Roundtable:  Rethinking Canada and the World, 7:00-9:00 PM

McMaster University Council Chambers, Gilmour Hall 111


  • Adele Perry (University of Manitoba)
  • David Meren (Université de Montréal)
  • Tarah Brookfield (Wilfrid Laurier University)
  • Timothy Andrews Sayle (University of Toronto)

Wine and Cheese Reception


Friday, April 28, 2017

Breakfast at Hotel

All Panels in McMaster University Council Chambers, Gilmour Hall 111

8:30 AM: Registration

8:45 AM: Panel 1 – Transnational Networks and Human Rights

  • Jennifer Tunnicliffe (University of Waterloo): Legislating Hate: Canada, the UN, and the Push to Ban Hate Speech, 1965 to 1982
  • Stephanie Bangarth (King’s University College): Canadian Corporate Social Irresponsibility: A History
  • Amanda Ricci (McMaster University): Making Global Citizens: Canadian Women at the 1975 World Conference of the International Women’s Year

10:15 AM – Break

 10:30 AM: Panel 2 – Diplomacy Reimagined

  • Sarah E.K. Smith (Carleton University): Exhibiting Diplomacy: Canadian Art and Canada’s Place in the Americas.
  • Kailey Hansson (University of British Columbia): “Showing Canada to the World and the World to Canada”: Expo 67 and the World Festival of Arts and Entertainment
  • Scott Johnston (McMaster University): Transnational Networks and the Establishment of Standard Time in Canada and Beyond, 1867-1905.

12:00 PM – Catered Lunch

1:00 PM: Panel 3 – Indigenous International History

  • Alexandre Michaud (University of Ottawa): A virtuous Royal Proclamation in 1763…? The 1750s Franco-British diplomacy over Native land rights
  • Whitney Lackenbauer (St-Jerome’s University): Rethinking Canada in the Circumpolar World: Bilateral, Multilateral, and Indigenous Relationships in the Arctic Region since the Second World War 

1:30 – Break

1:45 PM: Panel 4 – Canadian “Orientalisms” and the World

  • David Webster (Bishop’s University): Rethinking Religion’s Role in Canadian Transnational Relations
  • Graeme A. Thompson (University of Oxford): A Pacific Power? Dominion Nation-building, Western Expansion, and the Spectre of Asia in Ontario Liberal Thought, c. 1860s-1914
  • Maurice Jr. Labelle (University of Saskatchewan): Jameel’s Notes: James Peters, Anti-Orientalism, and Arab Decolonization in Canada

3:15 Break

3:30 PM: Panel 5 – Development, Modernization and the Third and Fourth Worlds

  • Will Langford (Queen’s University): International Development and the State in Question: Liberal Internationalism, the New Left, and Canadian University Service Overseas in Tanzania, 1963-1977
  • Robin Gendron (Nipissing University): Canada’s Mining Industry and Canadian Foreign Relations in the Late 20th Century
  • Ryan Touhey (St. Jerome’s University): Canada and Ghana during the Cold War World

5:00 Reception – L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History, Wilson Hall 2002


Saturday, April 28, 2017

Breakfast at Hotel

All Panels in McMaster University Council Chambers, Gilmour Hall 111

09:00 AM: Panel 6 – Environment, Health, Diplomacy

  • Daniel McFarlane (Western Michigan University): The Nature of the Relationship: Canadian-US Environmental Diplomacy in the Cold War
  • Petra Dolata (University of Calgary): Beyond Continental Energy Diplomacy: Canada’s Foreign Energy Relations since 1945 
  • Whitney Wood (Birkbeck, University of London): “Spreading the Gospel” of Natural Birth: Canadian Contributions to an International Medical Movement, 1945-1975

10:30 AM – Break

10:45 AM: Panel 7: Peace, War, and International Order

  • Susan Colbourn (University of Toronto): Cruise Control: Anti-Nuclear Protests, Anti-American Sentiment, and Pierre Trudeau’s Peace Mission
  • Francine McKenzie (Western University): Thinking about Peace in Wartime Canada, 1939-1945: Dreams and Plans for the Postwar World
  • Steven Lee (University of British Columbia): The Canadian Peace Congress and the Canadian Peace Movement, 1980-1987