A Bit More Detail

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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • Centauri Dreams describes a new type of planet, the molten hot rubble cloud “synestia”.
  • Far Outliers describes the Polish rebels exiled to Siberia in the 19th century.
  • Language Hat looks at words for porridge in Bantuphone Africa.
  • Language Log examines whistling as a precursor to human language.
  • The LRB considers the new normal of the terrorist state of emergency.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the weakness of the Indian labour market.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer tries to explain to Uruguayans how Donald Trump made his mistake on the budget.
  • Savage Minds remembers the late anthropologist of Polynesia and space colonization, Ben Finney.
  • Towleroad examines the rather depressing idea of a porn-dominated sexuality.
  • Understanding Society examines Hindu/Muslim tensions in India.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on the weakness of Belarus’ opposition.
  • Arnold Zwicky talks about Arthur Laurents.

[URBAN NOTE] Five links about Toronto neighbourhoods, past and present and future

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  • Metro Toronto‘s David Hains reports on a new interactive map of Trinity-Bellwoods Park designed to help users find other people in that large complex space.
  • You’ll never have to spend 20 minutes trying to find your friend in Trinity-Bellwoods Park again.

    New York-based cartographer (and former Toronto Star employee) William Davis loves Toronto, and so he knows this is one of the city’s great summer frustrations. It’s because of the geographically complicated, but very popular park, that he and Tom Weatherburn made an interactive map for Torontonians to share their location.

    All users need to do is drag and drop a “here” pin on a map of the park. It can be accessed for free at the MapTO website, a personal project with Weatherburn that features quirky and interesting maps on a variety of city subjects.

    The Trinity-Bellwoods map is overlaid with easy-to-read icons, including a dog at the dog bowl, a baseball at the baseball diamond, and beer mugs where people like to hang out.

  • The Toronto Star‘s Jennifer Pagliaro describes the catastrophic state of repair of far too many of the houses of Toronto Community Housing.
  • Half of Toronto Community Housing developments will be in “critical” condition in the next five years without additional funding for repairs, according to an internal database provided to the Star.

    Already, the data shows more than 30 social-housing properties are in serious disrepair. Of 364 developments — which include houses and groupings of low-rise buildings and towers — 222 developments are ranked in “poor” condition, with dozens edging on critical condition, based on a standard ranking used by the housing corporation.

    Those critical sites are homes for more than 3,000 individuals and families.

    The data shows a pervasive problem at a time when the city is grappling with how to keep thousands of units open with a $1.73-billion funding gap.

    Of the 364 developments, more than 100 were offloaded onto the city by the province more than a decade and a half ago without money needed to cover the repairs. Of the buildings in the critical and poor categories, more than a third were downloaded by the province.

  • Back in August, Yasmine Laarsroui wrote for Torontoist about the potential for the housing co-op model to help solve the Toronto housing crisis.
  • Those affected by the lack of rent controls left young professionals, like reporter Shannon Martin, with no option but to turn to more extreme alternatives, such as couch-surfing.

    Young people seeking more reliable housing options are turning to co-op housing—at least, those lucky enough to get a unit.

    Toronto renter Donald Robert moved into Cabbagetown’s Diane Frankling Co-operative Homes in September 2016 and speaks highly of his experience.

    Robert pays $1,300 for a large two-bedroom unit with access to an underground parking and a small gym, almost $500 cheaper than the average one-bedroom unit in Toronto. Robert explains that, “the best part though has been the community here. Everybody says ‘hi.’”

  • Also back in April, John Lorinc wrote in Spacing about the oft-overlooked musicality of the lost neighbourhood of The Ward.
  • If you try to imagine your way back into the early 20th century streets and laneways of The Ward — the dense immigrant enclave razed to make way for Toronto’s City Hall — you might pick up the sounds of newsies and peddlers hawking their wares, the clanging of the area’s junk and lumber yards, and shrieking children playing on the Elizabeth Street playground north of Dundas.

    Those streets would also reverberate day and night with a jumble of languages — Italian, Yiddish, Chinese. The dialects and accents of these newcomers were considered to be not only “foreign,” but also proof (to the keepers of Toronto’s Anglo-Saxon morality) of the area’s worrisome social and physical failings.

    But despite the fact that many mainstream Torontonians saw The Ward as an impoverished blight on the face of the city, the neighbourhood resonated with energy and culture and music — evidence of the resilience of the stigmatized newcomers who settled there in waves from the late 19th century onward.

    Photographers recorded fiddle players and organ grinders with their hurdy gurdies, playing as mesmerized children listened. After their shifts ended, one 1914 account noted, labourers whiled away their free times playing mandolins or concertinas as they sang rags and the Neapolitan songs so popular at the time.

    “When sleep in crowded rooms seems all but impossible,” journalist Emily Weaver observed in The Globe and Mail in 1910, “the people of ‘The Ward’ are astir till all hours, and the Italians amuse themselves by singing in their rich sweet voices the songs of their far-away homelands or dancing their native dances to the music of a mandolin or guitar in the open roadway beneath the stars.”

  • The Toronto Star‘s Azzura Lalani describes how the rapid growth of young families in Leslieville threatens to overload local schools. What will the Downtown Relief Line do?
  • As the mother of a 16-month-old boy, Michelle Usprech is looking to leave the Financial District where it’s just “suits and suits and suits,” for a more family friendly vibe, and she’s got her eye on Leslieville.

    But one of Toronto’s most family-friendly neighbourhoods may be a victim of its own success as signs from the Toronto District School Board have cropped up, warning parents in Leslieville their children may not be able to attend their local school because of possible overcrowding, school board spokesperson Ryan Bird confirmed.

    Those signs warn that “due to residential growth, sufficient accommodation may not be available for all students,” despite the school board making “every effort to accommodate students at local schools.”

    [. . .]

    It’s a concern for some parents, including Kerry Sharpe, who lives in Leslieville and has a four-month-old daughter named Eisla.

    “It’s still early days for me,” she said, but, “it is a concern. Even daycare, that’s hard to get into, so I don’t see it getting any better.”

    [BLOG] Some Thursday links

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    • blogTO notes the recent municipal vote clearing the way for the construction of the Downtown Relief Line.
    • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly wonders, in the context of growing inequality and poverty, how workers in the United States can be free.
    • Centauri Dreams examines exoplanet TRAPPIST-1h.
    • Joe. My. God. notes the upset of Taiwanese homophobes with the idea of marriage equality and reports on the possibility of a million people dying on account of Trump cuts to HIV/AIDS programs internationally.
    • Language Log considers the use of the emoji in the Sinosphere.
    • The LRB Blog looks at terrorism and the ways it interacts malignly with the news cycle.
    • The NYRB Daily examines the anonymous “Berlin Painter” of ancient Athens.
    • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer argues that the particular structure of health care locks it into certain plausible paths for reform.
    • Torontoist argues that indigenous writers’ concerns about inclusion need to be addressed.
    • Towleroad looks at how some parents of gay children were pushed out of Shanghai’s “marriage market”.
    • Window on Eurasia looks at the relative strengths of Ukraine’s two churches and looks at Russia’s trade with North Korea.
    • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell examines the post-war economic structures of the United Kingdom in the context of struggles between multilateralists and unilateralists.

    [BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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    • Beyond the Beyond notes an image of a wooden model of Babbage’s difference engine.
    • James Bow talks about the soundtrack he has made for his new book.
    • Centauri Dreams considers ways astronomers can detect photosynthesis on exoplanets and shares images of Fomalhaut’s debris disk.
    • Crooked Timber looks at fidget spinners in the context of discrimination against people with disabilities.
    • D-Brief notes that Boyajian’s Star began dimming over the weekend.
    • Far Outliers reports on a 1917 trip by zeppelin to German East Africa.
    • Lawyers, Guns and Money argues that there is good reason to be concerned about health issues for older presidential candidates.
    • The NYRB Daily reports on Hungary’s official war against Central European University.
    • The Russian Demographics Blog notes the origins of modern immigration to Russia in internal Soviet migration.
    • Savage Minds shares an ethnographer’s account of what it is like to look to see her people (the Sherpas of Nepal) described.
    • Strange Maps shares a map speculating as to what the world will look like when it is 4 degrees warmer.
    • The Volokh Conspiracy argues that the US Congress does not have authority over immigration.
    • Window on Eurasia suggests Russia’s population will be concentrated around Moscow, compares Chechnya’s position vis-à-vis Russia to Puerto Rico’s versus the United States, and looks at new Ukrainian legislation against Russian churches and Russian social networks.
    • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes how Evelyn Waugh’s writings on the Horn of Africa anticipate the “Friedman unit”, the “a measurement of time defined as how long it will take until things are OK in Iraq”.

    [BLOG] Some Thursday links

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    • The Big Picture shares photos of the South Sudanese refugee exodus into Uganda.
    • blogTO shares an ad for a condo rental on Dovercourt Road near me, only $1800 a month.
    • Centauri Dreams reports on the idea of using waste heat to detect extraterrestrial civilizations.
    • Crooked Timber uses the paradigm of Jane Jacobs’ challenge to expert in the context of Brexit.
    • The LRB Blog reports on the fishers of Senegal and their involvement in that country’s history of emigration.
    • The Planetary Society Blog shares an image comparing Saturn’s smaller moons.
    • The Volokh Conspiracy comes out in support of taking down Confederate monuments.
    • Window on Eurasia suggests Chechens are coming out ahead of Daghestanis in the North Caucasus’ religious hierarchies, and argues that Putin cannot risk letting Ukraine become a model for Russia.
    • Arnold Zwicky looks at various bowdlerizations of Philip Larkin’s famous quote about what parents do to their children.

    [BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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    • blogTO looks at eleven recent Toronto-themed books, from fiction to children’s literature.
    • Centauri Dreams considers the idea of using waste heat to detect extraterrestrial civilizations.
    • Far Outliers reports on how German East Africa substituted for foreign imports during the blockade of the First World War.
    • Marginal Revolution suggests that the fall of Rome may have been due to the failure to reconquer North Africa.
    • The NYRB Daily looks at the exuberant art of Jazz Age Florence Stettheimer.
    • The Planetary Society Blog shares a stunning portrait of Jupiter from the New Horizons probe.
    • Window on Eurasia considers the idea of containment in the post-Cold War world.
    • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell looks at the British election.

    [AH] What if French Canada survived past 1763?

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    Detail, The Death of General Wolfe (1770)

    Early in January, before my trip to Montréal, I went to the Royal Ontario Museum where I saw–among other things–the museum’s copy of Benjamin Wolfe’s painting The Death of General Wolfe. This famous tableau’s depiction of the death of James Wolfe, the commander of the victorious British forces in 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham that saw the fall of French Canada and the end of New France but who barely lived to see the end of the battle himself, is literally iconic. This moment marks the end of one empire and the expansion of another.

    Was the end of New France inevitable? Quite a few fans of alternate history suggest that it was. In perhaps the classic few, the value of France to colonize its North American territories nearly as thoroughly as England (and later the United Kingdom) did theirs ensured that, ultimately, New France would be overwhelmed by the colonists. Some even go so far as to argue that New France was a failing colony, that the failure to expand French colonization much beyond the Saint Lawrence valley demonstrates a fundamental lack of French interest. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was irrelevant.

    I’m not sure that I buy this. Conceivably there could have been more French settlement in New France, perhaps with a bigger push under Louis XIV, but it isn’t clear to me that France in America was a failure. New France’s economy was built substantially on trade with indigenous peoples and not on (for instance) the plantation colony of many British colonies, making increased French settlement irrelevant at best and potentially harmful at worst. As it was, French Canada was actually a dynamic society, the St. Lawrence valley becoming home of a colonial offshoot of France with outposts stretching far west into the basin of the Great Lakes and, not incidentally, managing to hold off conquest by the British for nearly a century and a half. New France was not nearly as populous as the Thirteen Colonies, but that no more proves that New France was a failure than (say) the fact that Spain’s Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata was less populous than Portuguese Brazil means that the Spanish colony was a failure. At most, there was underexploited potential. If French Canada has since largely contracted to the frontiers of modern Québec, it is because successive British administrations have taken care to hem it in.

    Had the Battle of the Plains of Abraham gone even slightly differently, there could have been a French victory. The end of the Seven Years War could have seen the French flag continue to fly in Canada. Even if Canada had fallen, that it would be kept by Britain was by no means preordained: Had Britain preferred to keep the valuable French sugar island of Guadeloupe, or had the French government different priorities, Canada might have been restored to France in the peace.

    What would this surviving French Canada have been like?

    It’s certainly possible that a continued French presence in Canada would have helped discourage the Thirteen Colonies from rebelling against the British Empire, especially if it was perceived as a threat. It’s not clear to me that this would automatically be the case, especially if New France had been weakened in the conflict, demilitarized and/or territorially diminished. Perhaps, in this timeline, the Americans might revolt against Britain in anger that their interests were neglected in the settlement of the final peace. We might not see a conflict like the War of American Independence, but then again we might. If this war, or another great power Anglo-French war does come about, then France will face the same cascade of dysfunctional public financies than in our history triggered the revolution.

    What will become of Canada in all this? I can imagine that it might, or might not, receive more attention from France. I suppose that, if history runs along the lines we are familiar with up to the French Revolution, Canada might be in an interesting position versus the metropole. (A French kingdom in exile?) It is imaginable that a populous French Canada might stay French, especially if the Americans are allies and Britain has interest elsewhere. The case can be made that French Canada could survive, within borders not wildly different from that of modern Canada, into the 19th century.

    Here, I’m stymied. It is not easy to imagine the development of French Canada as a French territory for the simple reason that France had no colonies of settlement like (for instance) Britain had Canada. French Algeria eventually became a destination for European immigration, but most of these immigrants came from elsewhere in the western Mediterranean (Spain and Italy particularly) and they arrived in a territory that never stopped being overwhelmingly Arab-Berber and Muslim in nature. New Caledonia, in the South Pacific, also received substantial numbers of settlers relative to the native population, but the absolute numbers were low. There is no close parallel, not in the second French colonial empire, to a colony like Canada, a vast semi-continent with a substantial population mostly descended from French colonists.

    I do think France could certainly colonize Canada as thoroughly as Britain later did, especially if France enjoys stability and peace. Franco-Canadian relations were broken by the Conquest and only began to pick up again a century later, as the French became dimly aware that the Canadiens survived. In a timeline where the relationship between France and Canada was never disrupted, Franco-Canadian relations would be far more intense. Trade and investment flows aside, we might see well see substantial amounts of French immigration to a prosperous Canada, and more immigrants coming from outside France, just as in the case of Algeria. The details depend critically on the borders of this Canada and its relationship to its neighbours, but I see no reason why French Canada could not be successful.

    Even if–a big if–French history remains largely unchanged up to the mid-19th century, the existence of a large, populous, and growing French Canada will eventually change the French polity rapidly. How will the millions of Canadiens be represented in French political life? A populous American branch of the French empire will have very substantial consequences.

    What do you think?

    Written by Randy McDonald

    May 16, 2017 at 11:59 pm