A year ago I made the public commitment to blog weekly about Canadian history. A year later, this is the 52nd post I’ve published. Here’s what I’ve learned, and what comes next.
By the numbers, I’ve published more than 40,000 words on this blog this year, the length (though not the cohesion) of a small book. 7,400 different people have visited the site 11,000 times.
Some things that surprised me were the subjects I ended up writing about, and the dominant theme that emerged. When I began, I saw Canadian history as a subset of world history, and I imagined writing about global events that partially played out in Canada. Instead, what I learned this year led me to primarily see Canada as a story of colonization, and to focus on that story as it has unfolded within Canada’s present borders.
I did not initially intend to write very much about Indigenous histories. I explained the two reasons why in Canada is 150 years old, which I published on Canada Day:
One, you don’t generally hear Indigenous people enthusiastically requesting that settlers tell Indigenous stories, because Indigenous people are perfectly capable of telling their own stories, and because settlers tend not to do a very good job of it. Two, from the perspective of many Indigenous people, their histories and identities are not part of Canada’s, except for the ways in which Canada has harmed them.
But apparently I found the topic of Indigenous peoples and the harm that the creation of Canada did to them to be too foundational to avoid. I wrote seventeen posts about that, including 3 about residential schools and 8 about the Wendat confederacy.
The biggest of those, A country called Wendake, a short history of the Wendats, was my most read post of the year, which is very encouraging since it’s also the one I worked the hardest on. The second most read post was Canada is not 150 years old, (not to be confused with its counterpoint, Canada is 150 years old) in which I wonder aloud about the somewhat arbitrary landmark of confederation.
Of my 3 posts about residential schools, the most popular was The report the government doesn’t want you to read, which makes the case that the fact that so few Canadians know so little about Indian residential schools is “by design.”
The next largest category of posts, which was also a surprise to me, were my 6 posts about World War II. Of those, the 2 most read (and probably most interesting) were Operation Fish: The secret plan to hide Britain’s gold in Canada, and my post about Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King meeting and admiring Adolf Hitler, which I sardonically titled Canadian Prime Minister looks forward to working with fascist.
The other thing that surprised me — and I should have realized this — was how much time it takes to write about history! Early in my research I read somewhere that history writing takes the most time of any kind of writing, and I believe it. I previously did a similar annual project, 52 song project, where, with a friend, I wrote and recorded a new original song every week for a year. As it turns out, on average, writing and recording a song is easier and takes less time than researching and writing a post about history.
Which brings me to what’s next. I’ve loved writing this blog, and I don’t want to stop. At the same time, I don’t think I can continue to do weekly posts in 2018. One reason is that I’d rather take the time to write fewer, more well-researched posts, like A country called Wendake, than the short hits I sometimes had to resort to to meet my quota. Another reason is that my wife and I are expecting our second child this year, so some of my blogging time is going to be converted to diaper time.
So, I think I will aim to still blog at least once a month, with anything more than that as a bonus. If you haven’t already, please let me know your email so I can let you know when this site is updated:
Thanks so much for reading, sharing, commenting, and sending me the occasional encouraging or informative note! It’s meant a lot. If you know anyone who might also enjoy this blog, please tell them to sign up for the newsletter.
Photo: My current view from a rented cottage, just slightly north of former Arendarhonon territory.