Tag Archives: higher education

  • Death in the Peaceable Kingdom: Sample Course Outline

    A concern often heard from instructors of Canadian history is that students are not engaged. While the landscape of course materials relating to post-Confederation Canada is characterized by sound teaching and research, the overwhelmingly standard approach to key events and themes leaves many students under the impression that Canadian history is dry and uninspiring.

    This couldn’t be further from the truth….

    Death in the Peaceable KingdomWe at the Higher Education Division of the University of Toronto Press present a means of breaking through this key barrier to learning. Death in the Peaceable Kingdom: Canadian History since 1867 through Murder, Execution, Assassination, and Suicide by Dimitry Anastakis offers an original, inviting approach to post-Confederation Canadian history. By highlighting a series of dramatic episodes, Death in the Peaceable Kingdom engages students in many of the political, social, economic, and cultural changes experienced by Canadians in the last century and a half. Students will gain insight into the transformation of Canada since Confederation, and how these changes explain and contextualize many aspects of present-day Canada.

    Though based on Anastakis’s own post-Confederation course, this unconventional approach may be viewed with skepticism by instructors accustomed to more standard texts; some might feel that incorporating Death in the Peaceable Kingdom as the key text in a course would result in a massive rewriting of their syllabus. We are happy to show how these fears are unwarranted.

    As shown in this sample course outline, Death in the Peaceable Kingdom can be seamlessly introduced as an effective teaching tool for post-Confederation courses. Across twenty-one chapters featuring notable murders, executions, assassinations, and suicides, this book introduces key themes and events which complement more detailed treatments in lecture, ranging from the process of Confederation to the evolving nature of Canadian identity. “Active History” sections at the end of each chapter present ready-made exercises for seminars or group discussions, inviting students to further engage with the course material while building their skill in analyzing and interpreting primary sources. In using this book, students will understand that nation-building, even in a Canadian context, is a tumultuous process that continues to shape how we live, work, and perceive ourselves as Canadians.

    Download the sample syllabus here.

    Can this approach reach students in a way that other texts cannot? According to both instructor and student feedback, it certainly can!

    In the words of Sean Kheraj of York University:

    “Anastakis breathes new life into Canadian history in this innovative volume. Tragedy, conflict, and death lurk throughout Canada's past in ways that may surprise readers. Through captivating narratives of political assassinations, murders, and suicides, Anastakis finds exciting new ways to think about Canada and its history. This highly readable history will draw students into the dark corners of the past and make connections to primary themes of the development of Canada in the years after Confederation.”

    And in the words of Dimitry Anastakis’s own students at the end of this semester:

    “I took this course initially as a requirement for my degree, but it really stimulated my interest in Canadian history.”

    “Overall, this was a fantastic and interesting class as the content was fresh and new.”

    “I've been trying to take this class forever, and it was totally worth the wait. I think this is a very interesting lens to view Canadian history, and it works well to make Canadian history really interesting.”

    “Overall, this was a great class!”

  • Louis Riel Does It Again

    In honour of the publication (this week!) of Death in the Peaceable Kingdom: Canadian History since 1867 through Murder, Execution, Assassination, and Suicide, the author, Dimitry Anastakis, provides some background on how the textbook came into existence. It all starts with Louis Riel....

    Death in the Peaceable KingdomLouis Riel has to be one of the most fascinating figures in history—and I mean anybody’s history—within the last two centuries. Charismatic, erudite, and a poet, the messianic Manitoba Métis leader led two uprisings against the Canadian state (one of them successful), shaped half a continent, and was one of nineteenth-century Canada’s most polarizing and controversial figures before and after his 1885 execution. Riel, as I like to tell my students, still reaches from the grave to profoundly shake Canadians’ complacency about their history: astonishingly, a pivotal 2014 Supreme Court of Canada ruling about Métis land rights was a direct consequence of Riel’s Manitoba negotiations with the Canadian government, more than a century after his hanging.

    I mention Riel because he was, in part, the inspiration for the textbook (and Trent University course upon which the book is based) Death in the Peaceable Kingdom: Canadian History since 1867 through Murder, Execution, Assassination, and Suicide. A few years ago I started thinking about re-working my second-year post-Confederation history course; I had already decided that one of the books I would use was Chester Brown’s famous and captivating Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography (Drawn and Quarterly, 2003). At the same time, I had also been teaching a module on the assassination of Pierre Laporte during the 1970 FLQ crisis in Trent’s first-year history survey, “10 Days that Shook the World: Terror” which had been well-received by students.

    I had always thought it would be cool to create a sort of “10 Days of Canadian Terror” course, and it came to me that there were quite a few episodes like Riel’s—incidents of murders, or executions, or assassinations, or suicides, and that such a gruesome and dramatic litany of events really belied the notion that Canadian history was staid. In fact, as I thought about what could go into such a course, I realized that there were so many instances of captivating violence and tragedy that could be used to teach the history of the Canadian experience that I could fill a full-year course. As I began to develop the course, it became clear that virtually every significant development in Canadian history since (and including 1867) was tied to an episode of violence, and the course effectively wrote itself. When Natalie Fingerhut of UTP’s Higher Education Division approached me to consider turning the course into a book, I was delighted, since I thought it would make a great addition to, and a bit of a departure from, the existing Canadian history textbooks on the market.

    Death in the Peaceable Kingdom is not just about violence in Canadian history. It simply uses episodes and incidents to get at the major developments, themes, people, events, and issues that make up the story of the Canadian peoples and their nation state since 1867. So, it is a useful way to interest students in Canadian history, another approach that takes the traditional narrative and adds a unique element to it. The book takes a few liberties by including incidents that are not actual deaths (for example, the demise of streetcars, or the “killing” of the National Policy) to provide a broad scope for the book. Also included are short vignettes, called “Tragic Tales” and “Murderous Moments,” that could rightly be chapters on their own; each one illustrates a particular point or simply tells a less well-known story about Canadian history. One great example is the little-known 1966 bombing of the House of Commons by a mentally ill man who wanted to kill Lester Pearson and John Diefenbaker but who only succeeded in blowing himself up.

    Murderous Moment_ExampleAs a teaching tool, the book provides “Suggestions for Further Reading” as well as “Active History” exercises for students, both located at the end of each chapter. The “Active History” features include a wide range of activities, from primary document analyses, online exercises from a host of educational and other websites, explanations about certain aspects of history and historiography, and traditional questions to consider based on readings. My students particularly enjoyed examining the online Cabinet Minutes and exploring the decisions around capital cases from the 1940s to the early 1960s. Another favourite student activity is the debate around the cause of Tom Thomson’s death as it is presented on the Canadian Mysteries website.

    Death in the Peaceable Kingdom provides instructors with great flexibility, since the book can be assigned as a replacement for traditional textbooks, used as the basis for tutorial instruction or additional assignments, or simply assigned as an additional reader. Thus, instructors can add this book to their current courses, or even go so far as to redesign their course around the “hook” of murders, executions, assassinations, and suicides. I have used most of the “Active History” assignments in my course in the last couple of terms as I worked on the book, and I can say with confidence that the material and exercises in the book have been very effective in engaging students in Canadian history.

    In fact, over the last few years, as I have taught the course in this manner, quite a few students have remarked that they never realized Canadian history was so interesting. Hopefully, the textbook version of Death in the Peaceable Kingdom can convince even more students, as the course has, that Canadian history is compelling, dramatic, and yes, sometimes bloody.

    Reaching from his grave, Louis Riel does it again.

    -Dimitry Anastakis, Trent University

  • "A Moor and a Christian Playing Chess in a Tent"

    Muslim and Christian Contact in the Middle AgesIt’s been said that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but the history behind the image on the cover of Jarbel Rodriguez’s Muslim and Christian Contact in the Middle Ages: A Reader may have you thinking otherwise. The cover image depicts two men, a Muslim and a Christian, playing chess in a tent. During the medieval period, chess was associated with war and contest as well as love and seduction. The antonyms of war and love embodied in the game of chess mirror the relationship between medieval Muslims and Christians. As Rodriguez states in his introduction to this newest instalment in our popular Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures Series:

    “To study the interactions between Christians and Muslims in the medieval period is to study a history of conflict and coexistence. It is a history of warfare, piracy, and raiding, typically along religious lines, but also a history of commerce, intellectual exchanges, and personal relationships that transcended religious differences.”

    The image that appears on the cover of this reader comes from a thirteenth-century illustrated manuscript, Libros de ajedrez, dados y tablas (Book of Games, Chess, Dice and Boards), which was created for Alfonso X of Castile. In her article, “Chess and Courtly Culture in Medieval Castile: The Libro de ajedrez of Alfonso X, el Sabio,” Olivia Remie Constable discusses this image and the possible identities of the men playing chess. Although Ricardo Calvo proposes that the two men were Alfonso VI of Castile and a Muslim ambassador from the court of al-Mutamid of Seville, Remie Constable gives three reasons why this is unlikely. First, the Christian in the illustration is not wearing any of the Castilian and Leonese royal insignia which would be expected of a king and is seen in images of Alfonso X in the same manuscript. Second, the Christian is unarmed while the Muslim has a sword and spear which demonstrates the latter was most likely a warrior and not an ambassador. And lastly, the Christian loses the game of chess which would have made the image an odd inclusion in a manuscript that celebrated Alfonso X’s wisdom and courtly virtues. Remie Constable proposes that the two men could also be a Christian lord, Fajardo, and a Muslim King, or a Christian prisoner of war and a Muslim warrior, but ultimately, the identities of the men and their story remain unknown. Whoever the two men were and whatever their story may have been, the cover image demonstrates the book’s overall themes of conflict and coexistence.

    Muslim and Christian Contact in the Middle Ages was designed for the classroom and is intended to give twenty-first-century students a glimpse into the past so they can understand the world’s current political and religious tensions. The book introduces students to the history of Muslim-Christian relations, beginning with the rise of Islam, before exploring politics, war, diplomacy, economic interactions, intellectual and religious exchanges, and personal relations. The readings are geographically and chronologically diverse and were compiled from well-known sources as well as lesser-known sources, many of which have never before been published and/or translated into English. As a teaching tool, Rodriguez selected multiple sources on the same event or topic. An example of this can be seen in reading 23 which tells the story of El Cid, a contemporary of Alfonso VI, who was seen as an iconic hero in the Castilian (Christian) sources and as a tyrannical ruler in the Muslim sources.

    Download and read this source here: Two Views of El Cid

  • From Management Consulting to Medieval History: How I Became a History Editor at University of Toronto Press

    By Natalie Fingerhut

    I didn't see this career coming. It wasn't on my radar after completing my MA in History at the University of Toronto. It wasn't on my radar after I left the PhD program in Genocide Studies at Concordia University either. From there, I took all of my sharply-honed reading and writing skills and set off on a totally different career path. First, I became what was then called a Technical Writer. I wrote computer manuals to help people use complicated software programs. My background in communicating complicated events in Cambodian history to a less-knowledgeable audience was surprisingly helpful. From there, I moved into the area of Business Analysis where the interviewing skills I had learned during my MA evaluating settlement programs for newcomers to Toronto came in handy. Business analysts interview people on what they need to do their job and then communicate those needs to computer programmers who try to create useful tools to help these people. (It’s not so different from what I do now as an editor in Higher Education where I ask people what they need for their courses and then work with others to deliver useful materials.) From Business Analysis, I moved into Management Consulting where I helped senior-level professionals strategize on how to improve their hospitals, government ministries, and insurance companies. Here, I used my toolkit of reading, writing, and analysis: skills that I had learned through studying history. In this position, I improved my people skills, taught others how to give effective presentations, and learned how to project manage—all of which are necessary in my current position.

    But something was missing. I felt like I wasn’t contributing. I wasn’t making the world a better place. Jews have a phrase for this: Tikkun Olam—the improvement of our world. As a Jewish child, the obligation of Tikkun Olam was central to my religious education. And here I was in my mid-30s not fulfilling my mandate.

    After I had my first child, I decided that I needed to revisit that mandate. I went to a career counsellor who assessed my skills. I had originally considered teaching, public relations for not-for-profits, or human rights law. After three sessions, the counsellor wrote in big red letters on my file: Editor!

    I went back to school to take courses in publishing. Not since graduate school had I been so focused and so engaged. I was privileged to be offered an internship at Random House Canada where I learned the ropes. I enjoyed trade publishing and became known as the intern who would read all the non-fiction manuscripts. Soon after, a dream job appeared: History Editor at Broadview Press, which later became the Higher Education Division at University of Toronto Press. The rest, as they say, is history. My job is the perfect marriage of my history background, my business skills, and my fulfillment of Tikkun Olam.

    History BooksMy first ever author meeting was with the late Jill N. Claster at NYU. We were discussing her upcoming book with us: Sacred Violence: The European Crusades to the Middle East, 1095-1396. Jill impressed upon me my obligation to create materials that help undergraduates understand the past to create a better present. History is a teacher, she told me. And like all teachers, it isn’t perfect. But that doesn’t mean you don’t listen to it. Those words from a decade ago are a daily reminder to me of my obligation as a history editor.

    Our recently published political history, The Assassination of Europe, 1918-1942 by Howard M. Sachar, shows students how the voice of extremism can silence those of moderation. Our upcoming reader, Muslim and Christian Contact in the Middle Ages edited by Jarbel Rodriguez, illustrates a history of conflict but also—and this may surprise students—a history of co-existence. I recently received a timely proposal for a microhistory about a businessman caught in the crosshairs of religious violence in France. Not last week, but in the sixteenth century. We need to read these books, learn the lessons that are contained in their pages, and communicate them to future generations. As educators, this is not just our job, but our responsibility.

    Every morning, I look up at all the books I have published over the years (Jill Claster’s book sits front and centre) and I think about their dedicated authors, who are a constant source of inspiration. I also think about my colleagues, whose dedication, competence, and mutual love for our books transform “work” into “pleasure” and allow a moment of gratitude to pass before I open my inbox.

  • Learning from Latin America

    To mark the recent publication of Lessons from Latin America: Innovations in Politics, Culture, and Development, authors Felipe Arocena and Kirk Bowman provide an overview of what inspired them to write the book, and Kirk Bowman discusses the benefits of using it in his Latin American politics course.

    lessons from latin americaWe were inspired to write Lessons from Latin America largely by one of our students on a study abroad more than a decade ago. We visited the United States embassies in Montevideo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina with twenty undergraduate students. At each embassy, a series of government officials would spend about thirty minutes explaining their job and some of their impressions. When each speaker was finished, one determined and perspicacious student would always ask the same question: What lessons could the United States learn from Uruguay (or Argentina)? The response was invariably a look of disbelief and some statement that the question was ridiculous or not serious. How could it be that the United States could learn anything from Latin America? The United States is the model to learn from. Latin America is the failure to avoid.

    We reflected regularly on that experience as our paths crossed in Montreal, Atlanta, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Montevideo. As researchers, we wanted to write a book that included original scholarship, where each chapter would be self-contained and article-length, and include an introduction of some important literature and original scholarly analysis. As teachers, we wanted to produce a book that was accessible to undergraduate students and that would cause students to think about the lessons of Latin America in politics, culture, and development and to challenge the conventional wisdom that Latin America is beneath the United States and Canada and a region of negatives—corruption, violence, hyperinflation, coups, and laziness. We also wanted a book that would explain the past, but also inform the events of today and perhaps even help students and readers make predictions about the future.

    After using the final book in a Latin American politics class for the first time this semester at Georgia Tech, this unique format is surpassing my expectations. There are a number of positive benefits of using this book. Some were not anticipated.

    • The readings lead to excellent classroom discussions. The book is explicitly comparative with many cases from Latin America in most chapters. The book is also comparative with the advanced industrial democracies. For example, Chapter 3 presents the lessons from Latin America in aggregating preferences and holding elections, and it is clear that the United States has much to learn from places like Brazil and Costa Rica. This flows into a conversation about power and why the United States maintains an electoral system with clear weaknesses. The questions at the end of each chapter are very useful for class discussion.
    • The book allows students to better understand current events in the region and to make informed predictions about future outcomes. After learning about the Conditional Cash Transfer programs in Brazil, the reduction in income inequality, the substantial increases in the minimum wage, and the lifting of 40 million people out of poverty, students could predict not only the Dilma electoral victory in October 2014, but could identify the Brazilian states that would likely vote overwhelmingly for the Workers Party (PT).
    • The cases highlight not only the well-known and large countries, but also introduce the readers to the innovative policies of many of the ignored cases such as Panama and Uruguay.
    • One of my greatest joys in using this book in class is the effect on the Latin American and minority students in the class. A typical Latin American politics class focuses too heavily on the challenges in the region: the economic lost decade, military regimes, machismo, massive human rights abuses and the like. This book elevates, without cheerleading, the extensive attempts at innovation, many of which are pioneering and now being copied around the world. Latino and Latin American students in the class are uniquely positioned to benefit from these chapters, and to understand and emphasize the heterogeneity in the region.

    Finally, the attitude of students towards Latin America experiences a profound shift, and they are quick to pick out new examples of policy innovations in the regions. Just this past week, the international media covered a new policy in Chile, where the government is providing land to a private company to produce medical marijuana products. The private-public partnership is novel and interesting. The continued experience of Latin America in developing and modifying policies in politics, culture, and development will make some of the students lifetime learners and maybe even lead to a second edition of the book.

    Kirk Bowman is Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His most recent book is Peddling Paradise: The Politics of Tourism in Latin America (2013).

    Felipe Arocena is Professor of Sociology at the Universidad de la República, Uruguay. He has published or edited 10 books, including 2 in the United States: William Henry Hudson: Life, Literature, and Science (2003) and Entrevistas Cubanas: Historias de una Nación Dividida (2004). He has been Visiting Professor at several universities in Europe, Latin America, and North America, including Dartmouth College, Université du Québec à Montréal, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Catholic University of America.

    Note: If you are an instructor and would like to consider adding Lesson from Latin America to the required reading list for an upcoming course, please email requests@utphighereducation.com to request an examination copy.

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