Previewing HISTORY 1EE3: Historical Roots of Contemporary Issues

A suite of short videos introducing the parameters of HIST 1EE3, The Historical Roots of Contemporary Issues, on offer at McMaster University during the Fall 2014 semester. The course will focus on the toxic century and examine the nature of hazardous chemicals in our environment. At the same time, it will introduce students to historical study and analysis, while promoting digital research and literacy skills. Feel free to contact me directly for further questions (egan (at)


On teaching & research:

On history’s relevance:

About the course:

Course topics & themes:

Course objectives:

Wrestling with Mercury at Grassy Narrows

I’m rushing to not miss a deadline (by too much) on mercury pollution and subaltern environmentalism in northwestern Ontario in the 1970s. My account weaves together narratives of government inaction, the poor communication of health and environmental hazards, and the general neglect of the Ojibway living on the Grassy Narrows and White Dog reservations along the English and Wabigoon river systems. My conclusion is this: Of the countries afflicted with major mercury scares in the post-World War II period, only Iraq was less effective in addressing the hazard, and even the Ba’athist party reacted more quickly. Happy Canada Day.

Also, a somewhat related thought: Over the past several years, I have spent an inordinate amount of time researching, reading, and reworking this material (deserving of a more extended post). I still feel as though I am a long way from finishing this portion of the mercury book. It has less to do with my comprehension of the complexities inherent in the case study, and more to do with the psychic and emotional exhaustion associated with reading through these materials. I keep having to put this down. I dismiss the idea that historians can be disinterested chroniclers, but I’m sometimes stunned by the emotional investment required by the work.