A personal word about... Essential Counter Histories

What are "counter histories" and what makes them "essential"?  Well, neither term is perfect here.  Firstly because this site section isn't intended to call out any "them and other" relationship in particular, between versions of stories, between peoples, between those in power and those that aren't.  And secondly because it certainly doesn't claim that one version of history is more essential than another either.  

Actually the goal is much more simplistic and practical for students of history.  In Quebec we follow a specific History of Quebec and Canada program that basically outlines a version of history we know well, and that on the whole we can relate to, at least in so far as it describes a "national" story that (correctly I think) sets us apart from the larger Canadian or world experience.  But as with every program of study, things get left out, and so quite naturallly anyone who actively and critically engages in the study of history will (and should) notice these gaps, what is not mentioned, or perhaps the ways in which facts and events that are mentioned are done so insufficiently or are lacking in some way, or even skewed.  And no two individuals will notice these same gaps or in the same way, and in that way eacy researcher/critical student will supplement the program in different ways.

Over the last two years Matt Russell (WQSB) and I have been creating scenarios and document collection packages for the new History of Quebec and Canada program.  (Go to page)  As we worked to research the prescribed areas of historical knowledge, we couldn't help but go off on tangents, exploring interesting new facts, people, places and other perspectives that were not there on the surface but that we felt were essential to the way we came to understand the past.  And so inevitably these additions couldn't help but be personal choices on our part.  True, in some cases these were "counter" stories to a seemingly restrictive list of program content. But in most cases our "finds" came out of the natural experience of continuing to explore historical actors and witnesses, of considering the situation in place and in time, of identifying contexts, causes, and intentions, i.e. the experience of enacting the very competencies the program also so ephatically describes: to characterize periods in time, to interpret social phenomena!

As many of you will remember, in our Secondary 3 training session on the program content for the new programs, Matt and I (and many of you!) noticed many "opportunities" to broaden the essential knowledges list.  There are a few missing (ex. LGBT++, Marginalized, etc.) but here are a few we've already highlighted with these icons in our collections:

Local History

Very often some of the best sources for historical information you can find on the internet come from local historical societies, museums, individuals from the area who have a story to tell.  The program covers many regions, but sometimes it doesn't mention what is just next door.  Or sometimes it's perspective is a larger national or cultural one, and then you find another perspective to add!  Local history can also make learning about history more interesting!

Links to various examples in our collections... coming soon.

World History/Global Context

Some criticize provincial programs because they seem to follow a set narrative.  But the new program allows for an exploration of broader contexts, via the competencies, but also through specific examples.  Of course you might want to expand on a "fact" by including other historical/global contexts not mentioned. 

Links to various examples in our collections... coming soon.

Women's History

Of course any counter history in this list involves both men and women, and so each can benefit from a perspective the considers women and their roles.  In general too, women's history can offer a way to rethink all the required historical knowledge, and even the program itself.  Since women's history is basically always a counter history, we might use this icon to point out points both in the program and missed by the program.  

Links to various examples in our collections... coming soon.

Indigenous Peoples History(ies)

Yes, this one is definitely plural!  Of course there is no one indigenous history in Canada, though sometimes the programs we teach can make it seem like that.  Think: How different is one dialect than another?  What tribe or people lived over the water at the time?  Or even, were these the only Nations who used that territory for hunting, who might have travelled through there, who had some claim, now, or in the distant past?  Again, the program refers to various contributions of Indigenous peoples to our shared history, and so, of course seems to leave out others.  As we work researching and finding different sources, different perspectives, we try to note the way we veered from the program's proscribed knowledge by using this icon.  But, often I create variations of it, noting perhaps a Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) perspective, or an Innu (Montagnais) one, or perhaps as we note the presence and influence of other Nations whose territories were outside Quebec or Canadian present-day borders.  It's essential to know that there are and were differences of experience.  And again, often these narratives run counter to histories produced in this province.  But equally they can run counter to each other!  So, what we are buiding here is not one or several alternative Indigenous histories (that would be for each First Nation's experts and elders to do for themselves), but rather we are simply noting when we find Indigenous stories that interest us and go beyond what the programs specifically note.  As often as we can we invite Indigenous collaborators or draw from original sources.  In this way we hope to provide a model teachers can use too.

Links to various examples in our collections... coming soon.


Black History and/or Slavery experiences

From the earliest explorers, to slaves in New France, to migrations from the United States and elsewhere,  The threads of Black history in Canada are varied, often lost in the margins, too often mentioned but not uncovered in detail.  

Links to various examples in our collections... coming soon.

Forgotten Francophones

How could Francophones be forgotten by a Quebec history program?  Well, every narrative leaves out mention of certain players, and this one is no exception.  From French settlers in other parts of Canada, to unexpected businessmen under the British regime, to French-speakers fighting for Britain and its allies in World War One.  The stories are many, and worth telling as much as any other.

Links to various examples in our collections... coming soon.

English-speaking Quebecers

Not last, and certainly not least, because the list goes on and on.  And indeed this category of stories could be divided and subdivided many times over.  For now let's say there are many opportunities to explore the experiences of English-speaking Quebecers who are often left out.  Think, Irishmen who foughting alongside the Patriots, or English-speaking artists during the Quiet Revolution, or simply the notion that not all Englishmen were men of power during the British regime... Irishmen neither, the Jewish population who thrived, and those who did not.  Where are they, these pockets of English culture throughout Quebec?  Cultures that thrive in a very different province, to become someone very different from those on the other side of any of our borders....

Links to various examples in our collections... coming soon.