Pick a Province.

Part of the comps process is preparing doctoral students to teach; something I managed to overlook for far too many months of comps prep. With this reality recently brought to my attention, the reading and preparation process of list #3 – Modern Canada – has taken a different form than lists #1 and 2. Instead of thinking strictly about how the readings relate to broad historiographical trends I have taken to thinking about how I would teach each section. This week, the theme is Modern Alberta because well that is the province I am in. So here is a dry run at the history of Alberta, for an imaginary undergraduate class. There would be a good amount of multimedia since it is available and sadly necessary in the age of constant digital sensory overstimulation…

Pre-History and the Fur Trade
Stage one of the economic and cultural development of Alberta. What was an entertaining event in August 2010 would have been a common occurrence across the province. Bison were a staple of the later period of the fur trade and unfortunately the demands of the robe trade led to the near extinction of a species and contributed to the complete transformation of the way of life for the First Nations groups in what is now Alberta.

Cattle Ranching
YAHOO!!! Before the Calgary Stampede made all things cowboy kitsch, commercial, and a romanticized misrepresentation of what ranching life is, raising livestock was the basis of the economy in the semi-arid southern portion of the province. By the time Guy Weadick and co put on the first Calgary Exhibition and Stampede in 1912 the cowboy was an endangered species – like the bison – and sprawling ranches were quickly being replaced by the quilt of quarter section homesteads.

National Policy and Railway (and tourism)
The National Policy promoted peopling the West, and the construction of a railway to facilitate that. Plus the importance of the railway to the establishment of the first national park is an excellent chance to talk about the part of Alberta that often gets overlooked in its classification as a “Prairie Province.”

Quarter Sections for all! Block settlements rule and the agrarian dream is king – just like King Wheat. More to come in the Depression section…

The First World War, The Depression and The Second World War
They go hand-in-hand. Internment Camps! Bennett Buggies! Bible Bill! Language issues in schools! So much happening in so little time. There are race/ethnicity issues in with internment camps from both wars. The Depression is an excellent opertunity to talk about climate and environment (and to play a little Mumford and Sons). Aberhart, however, will have to wait for the politicians section…

Modern Alberta
In short: Leduc, NEP, multiculturalism, Boom and Bust, King Ralph, Populist Politics. Tones of great multimedia options here. Too many to pick just one right now.

And to finish it off…Politics.
Rutherford and the university. UFA; the first socialist government in Canada. William “Bible Bill” Aberhart. Manning. Lougheed. Ralph.

What is great about focusing on one province to give a case study of Canadian history is it can be tailored to the province you are teaching in – though regardless of where you are a case study of Quebec is necessary since no other province has influenced the national story like Quebec has.


About Lauren Wheeler

A reformed history phd student working as a public historian and looking for connections between museums and environmental history from the often freezing reaches of Canada (aka Edmonton).
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