Three Department Members Receive Tenure and are Promoted

29 April - Orillia and Thunder Bay

The Department is pleased to announce that Pallavi Das, Valerie Hebert, and Michael Stevenson have all been awarded tenure and been promoted to Associate Professors of History. Congratulations to them on this significant achievement and for all their hard work and efforts in the field of history and on behalf of the department!


Department Graduate Award Recipients

2 April 2014 - Thunder Bay

The Department of History is pleased to announce the recipients of this year's graduate awards. We would like to express our gratitude to all of the donors who have made these awards possible and extend our congratulations to our award winning students. Support for our students helps them to achieve their educational goals and contributes to the stability and success of our programs.

The C.J. Saunders Graduate Award in History - Stephen Margarit
Awarded to three (3) high-ranking students who are entering into English, History, or Mathematics programs at the graduate level. Students must have attained a minimum average of 78% in their major.

Dr. Min-Sun Chen Research Award in History - Amanda Oliveira
Established by Dr. Min-sun Chen, a Lakehead University faculty member since 1966 and former Department of History Chair, this award assists a student with the expenses related to his or her master’s research and corresponding thesis.

Dr. Ernest Zimmermann Graduate Award in History - Stephen Margarit
Friends and family of the late Dr. Zimmermann funded this award to provide financial assistance to the highest-ranking History student at the graduate level.

Marilyn Zaitseff Commemorative Award - Kimberly Shirley
Family and friends created this award for history graduate students in 2000 in loving memory of Marilyn (nee Kaiwan) Zaitzeff.

Royal Bank of Canada Graduate Bursary - John Zuback
This bursary is awarded to two full-time graduate students entering into any graduate program.

Special Entrance Awards - Wenxin (Vincent) Li and Joseph Machalik
These awards provides students with the opportunity to receive one of Lakehead University’s many general graduate level scholarships. These general scholarships are available to any full-time student entering a graduate program.

Faculty Member Elected to Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society Board of Directors

26 March 2014 - Thunder Bay

Dr. Steven Jobbitt has been elected to the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society’s Board of Directors. Established in 1908, the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society is one of the oldest historical societies in Canada. For over 100 years, its mandate has been to preserve and interpret the history of Northwestern Ontario through lectures, publications, the erection of monuments and plaques, and the preservation of documents.

Steven joins Department Chair Dr. Michel S. Beaulieu and Professional Associate Sara Janes on the board.

For more on the Thunder Bay Historical Society, click here or go to

Faculty Member's Research Published in Russell: The Journal of the Bertrand Russell Studies

26 March 2014 - Orillia

A new article by Michael Stevenson appears in the most recent issue of Russell: The Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies. “’In Solitude I Brood on War’: Bertrand Russell’s 1939 American Lecture Tour” analyzes Russell’s evolving attitude about pacifism in the face of the growing Nazi threat and provides an annotated transcription of letters Russell wrote during his three week speaking tour of the United States in April 1939.  

Russell’s correspondence at this time, most of which has never been seen before because of a recently-ended embargo on the letters to his wife Patricia, reveals that he experienced increasing doubts about the absolute pacifism he had embraced after the 1936 publication of Which Way to Peace?, his influential pacifist manifesto.  These doubts initially expressed in the aftermath of the collapse of the Munich Agreement eventually caused him to publicly renounce pacifism in May 1940 and fully support the Allied cause against Hitler.

Published by McMaster University's Bertrand Russell Research Centre, Russell is devoted to the study of all aspects of Bertrand Russell's thought as well as his life, times and influence. In addition to original peer-reviewed research and reviews of new books, Russell publishes new texts and textual studies, discussions, bibliographies, indexes, and archival lists.

To find out more, click here or go to

History On the Front Line: Bridging Experience and the Classroom

19 March 2014 - Thunder Bay

When not engaged in teaching courses on Canadian military history, Canadian Arctic sovereignty and the north for Lakehead University, history and northern studies professor David Ratz is a Major in the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, part of the Canadian Army Reserve. For over a decade, he has incorporated his own practical experience and knowledge into his courses, continually demonstrating the important role history plays in understanding the events of today.Lakehead alumni Major David Ratz, Captain James Meredith and Lieutenant Colonel Geoff Abthorpe in the Kugaaruk airport, also formerly known as Pelly

While many students and faculty were studying or visiting more southerly regions of the continent during the February Break, Ratz’s nearly 30 years of military experience and historical expertise resulted in what he describes as “a once in a lifetime opportunity” when he assumed the position of the Officer Commanding the Arctic Response Company Group formed out of 38 Canadian Brigade Group in Exercise Arctic Ram near the hamlet of Kugaaruk, Nunavut Territory.

Lakehead University, and the Department of History in particular, have a long association with the Canadian military.

Image: Lakehead alumni Major David Ratz, Captain James Meredith and Lieutenant Colonel Geoff Abthorpe in the Kugaaruk airport, also formerly known as Pelly Bay. Source: David Ratz

Orillia history specialization student project connects historical research to real-life experience

March 3, 2014 – Orillia, ON
Lakehead Media Relations

Holly Wiggins’ great-grandfather, a butcher from a small town in England, joined the armed forces during the Second World War, leaving behind his young wife and two children under the age of five. His family would not hear from him again, until he was on a ship sailing back to Liverpool following his liberation from a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

Wiggins’ great-grandfather was held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese in the Pacific theatre from 1942 to 1945. He is now the focus of a research project Wiggins is completing as part of the requirements for her fourth-year “Inquiry” course at Lakehead.

Wiggins, of Orillia, who is enrolled in the Honours Bachelor of Arts & Science/Bachelor of Education program, said she was worried about going into the fourth-year course. “I would hear older students talking about their major projects for Inquiry and how much work it was. But what I was fearing at the beginning of the year has turned out to be an amazing experience.”

The Inquiry course is the cornerstone of the inquiry-based, multidisciplinary learning approach of the Arts & Science program at Lakehead’s Orillia campus. The fourth-year course requires the completion of a major research project on a topic chosen by the student.

“It’s really a bit overwhelming – to be told you can propose any topic you wish,” said Wiggins. “Once I realized that this could be an opportunity to combine my interest in history with my curiosity about my great grandfather’s experience in the war, I was encouraged and my research has turned out to be fascinating.”

After an introduction into ethics, research methods, and presentations, Wiggins’ first research task was to find out what her grandmother, who was just an infant when her father went off to war in 1941, knew about her great-grandfather’s experience. She discovered that her grandmother did not know of many details, herself, however both her grandparents shared her curiosity and helped her pull together what turned out to be crucial pieces to the puzzle.

Luckily, Wiggins’ grandmother had some important documents – such as her father’s attestation papers, official notification that he had gone missing, the one letter that he was eventually able to send home, along with a few photographs, including a picture of his two children that he kept with him for the duration of his imprisonment.

“The letter home was especially insightful because it touched on quite a few points that tied into the secondary scholarly research that I did,” said Wiggins. “In the letter, my great-grandfather talked about how ‘things haven’t been too good out here,’ that he ‘nearly gave up [when he] was very bad with malaria,’ and that he never wanted to do any cooking again – ‘I am fed up after three and a half years of playing with rice and trying to make pastry out of it…,’ as well as references to missing home.”

Wiggins discovered many references to documents and facts that are reflected in her great-grandfather’s experience during the extensive scholarly research she conducted for her project.

“When you read historical articles, you are somewhat detached, but when I realized that I actually had some of the documents being described right in front of me – that is exciting,” Wiggins said. “The connection between what I’ve been reading and a real life experience is fascinating! I’m also excited to be able to pass on a more detailed story about what happened to my great-grandfather, or what possibly happened.”

Wiggins will be sharing her research at Lakehead University’s upcoming Undergraduate Research Day on March 5, as part of the annual Research & Innovation Week activities.

“Our entire class will be presenting research posters and we will also be there to discuss our projects,” explained Wiggins.  The projects range from other history topics, such as Hitler propaganda and genocide through photographs, to social media and city planning, and even some with a local focus. One student will be presenting a project on the history of the Champlain monument.

Research & Innovation Week activities at the Orillia campus take place from March 3 to 7 and are all open to the public and free of charge. For a detailed list of events, visit

Holly Wiggins, a fourth-year student at Lakehead Orillia, will present her research project on her great-grandfather’s World War II experience during the University’s Research & Innovation Week, March 3 – 7. 

Holly Wiggins, a fourth-year student at Lakehead Orillia will present her research project on her great-grandfather’s World War II experience during the University’s Research & Innovation Week, March 3 – 7.

Celebrate International Women's Day with the Department of History.

March 8 is International Women’s Day and to mark the occasion the Department of History is pleased to welcome faculty, students and staff to enjoy a showcase of the documentary work by our own Kelly Saxberg. Kelly specializes in historical documentaries and many of her projects focus on the stories of women in Northwestern Ontario. Kelly is currently teaching a course on the history of Gender and Revolution.

Dorothea Mitchell: A Reel Pioneer is the story of the woman who wrote and starred in Canada’s first independent feature-length film. The film she wrote is called “A Race for Ties,” it was made in 1929, and Dorothea Mitchell went on to make two other films. Mitchell, who was known as the “Lady Lumberjack,” was also the first woman in Ontario to secure a homestead and she was an accomplished writer.
Click here to view Click here to view Dorothea Mitchell: A Reel Pioneer

Rosies of the North is a National Film Board of Canada documentary that tells the story of the thousands of women who built airplanes in Thunder Bay during World War Two and it introduces audiences to the remarkable career of Elsie MacGill, the "Queen of the Hurricanes." MacGill was the first woman to receive an electrical engineering degree in Canada and the first female aircraft designer in the world. During World War II she oversaw the design and production of Hawker Hurricane airplanes at Canadian Car and Foundry, now the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay.
Click here to view Click here to view Rosies of the North

The Voice of Women is a documentary film about women and international development. It is part of a series called Citizens of the World that focuses on Canada’s International Development Research Centre. The film looks at some of the challenges faced today by women in Senegal, Morocco, Guatemala and Palestine.
Click here to view Click here to view The Voice of Women

Black History Month Events in Canada, the United States, and France Features History Professor's Film

Dr. Ronald Harpelle’s recent documentary about the incarceration of an innocent man has been touring New York City, Toronto, Montreal and Paris. Hard Time is a film about Robert King, who spent 29 years in solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit, and about the Angola3. More information about the film and King's story can be found in feature articles in La Presse, Le Devoir, the Montreal Gazette, Radio Canada's Tour le Monde, and GlobalTV (see the the right hand side).

As part of Black History Month, Hard Time has already been screened at the Toronto Black Film Festival on Sunday, Feb. 16 with King and Harpelle participating in a question and answer session afterward.

On Friday, Feb. 21, Hard Time will screen in Montreal as part of Fade to Black/Fondu au Noir, a month-long cultural celebration. This is also part of Black History Month celebrations and King will be in attendance there as well.

The inaugural Ethnografilm Festival will be held at Cine 13 in Paris on Sunday, April 20 and Hard Time will be screened.

Ethnografilm is a forum for academic documentary filmmakers. Follow the links below for more information about these events and for details about the Hard Time screenings. 

Anyone interested in following the path that Harpelle took to meet King can watch In Security, a film about the history of barbed wire, by clicking here.

New Department Website Launched

The Department of History is pleased to announce the launch of its new website ( ). A special thanks to Tove, Alexandra, and everyone else in Web Development Services!

We also invite you to explore a bit of the history of our online presence since the university went online in the late1990s. Go back into time with the Wayback Machine, which will put you on the old “Internet superhighway” to take you all the way back to the department in 1997.

You can explore five old versions of the Department of History’s website and see our online evolution all the way up to our new look. Find out what we were up to then and compare that to what we are up to today. Time travel is always fun and you can go back into time to visit old websites you once knew.

New Environmental Impact Resource

The Department of History invites the Lakehead community to explore a new resource for people interested in the environmental impact of extractive industries in Canada.

Dr. Ronald Harpelle, along with colleagues at Memorial University and community partners in Yellowknife, is involved in an SSHRC funded project on the legacy of the Giant Gold Mine.

The research team and community partners have released their first newsletter, introducing the project and outlining their activities. In addition to the newsletter, they also welcome visitors to their website, their Twitter feed, and their Facebook page.

As part of their knowledge mobilization efforts, the team has produced an award-winning short video explaining one of the biggest challenges facing the Yellowknives Dene First Nation that live near the mine: How do you let people living in the distant future know about the danger beneath their feet?

The video was produced as an introduction to the documentary film portion of the project. Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic (ReSDA) provided support to this project.

Click below to watch the Guardians of Eternity video in English or French.

English Version

French Version