One Day Workshop on the History of Humanitarian Aid to Welcome Dr. Kevin O’Sullivan – July 9, 2014 at Carleton


Dr. Kevin O’Sullivan will be a visiting scholar at Carleton University from July 8 to August 4.  in Ottawa this coming July to research Canadian archives.  Kevin is the architect of the rich and the author of many studies of Irish humanitarianism.   He is researching countries of the Commonwealth.  (See a little more below)

We will start at 8:30 in the morning and finish at supper time.  There will probably be three distinct themes to be announced, in addition to a short presentation by Kevin on the state of affairs amongst his colleagues.

This will be an occasion to exchange concerns, findings, information about archives and documents, practices and projects, along a schedule that have yet to be determined depending on who will be able to come.

Will Tait and I will coordinate the day, and help you find the day, make sure that there is food for all during the day.  We do not have too much money, but do tell me if you would need assistance for your travel and accommodation.  We can also direct you to some hotels and Bed and breakfasts, and Will has offered to house two graduate students.

Exhibition of my students’ posters on the history of humanitarian aid, Carleton Library, Discovery Center, March 25 – April 15 2014


Poster presentations, First session out of three, 25 March 2014, Discovery Center.  

The 45 students of HIST 3111 have researched topics as varied as missionaries in colonial Latin America to humanitarian aid and LGBTQ rights, and the Kindertransport.  Their posters will be on a rotating exhibition in Carleton University McOdrum Library’s Discovery Center (fourth floor)  for the coming three weeks. Thanks to Ashleigh Fleicher of the Discovery Centre  and Ingrid Draayer, exhibition specialist at the Library, for their assistance.

display P1010960










Rolling poster exhibition, second week, April 1-8 2014  (photo Ingrid Draayer)

Next Friday event: Oxfam St John’s 1964-2014: remembering our history

Oxfam St John’s is closing this spring, following a debated reform of Oxfam Canada.  Its long time staff person, Bill Hynd, will host an event in a week.  This was the only regional office in Canada to own its own house, and one of the two regional offices left, of the dozen there once were at the peak of Oxfam Canada decentralization.  Over 40 years, the house became a centre of community life.  The NL Social Justice Cooperative will take over the role, from now on.

Bill Hynd in the offices of Oxfam St John's , 5 August 2013 when we visited.

Bill Hynd in the offices of Oxfam St John’s , 5 August 2013 when we visited.  Photo E. Marshall

Celebrations – On Friday March 28 2014, from 6 to 11 pm, at the Masonic Temple on Cathedral St.  Oxfam friends will be celebrating
Oxfam’s 40 Plus years of social justice Activism
Bill Hynd’s 30 years as an Oxfam staffperson
– the next 40 years with the NL Social Justice Cooperative

From 8 till 11pm We will have Music and dancing with:
The Salty Dolls and The moonshine men

Send your memories – Bill and I will use this website to collect memories and memorabilias.  So please send pictures, texts, scans, photos to us using this contact form.  If you need to send attachments, use my email address:

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I will exhibit your testimonies and pictures for all on a separate page of this website on Oxfam St John’s 1964-2014-A Virtual Archive unless you tell me to keep them private.  I will also copy these for the provincial archives who hold the fonds of Oxfam St Johns,.  I will use these documents for my own research, which you can follow on this website.

Comment on the items of the Oxfam St John’s 1964-2014-A Virtual Archive – Please help us identify the pictures already posted, using the same form: just refer to the name of the scrapbook/photo album/gallery, and the number of the item.

Give your old documents to the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and LabradorThe Provincial archives hosts the fonds of Oxfam St Johns’ which they are cataloguing at the moment.  If much was lost in the fire of August, an  earlier bundle of documents (13 boxes of them) had been given the the archives 20 years ago.  They are presently being catalogued and will be available to the public soon.  We can help put you in contact with them if you consider making a donation.

“Leave a comment” on the event – You may use the “Leave a comment” button just below, or Tweet using the hashtag #OxfamStJohns40.  I will be doing so from Ottawa as I won’t be able to join you.

The papers of Oxfam Canada’s longtime Chair, Meyer Brownstone, are now available

Archives and Research Collections, Carleton University, has just published a finding aid online of the collection our research project aquired in 2013.


Visit the ARC website.

For Paper Records
For Photographic Records

During the Winter, History Honours student Nathan Ince  catalogued the remaining audio, photo, slides  and video documents, thanks to an I-CUREUS grant.  Mr. Brownstone is actively involved in the project by writing  descriptions of the material, and comments on the old material.  This represents a precious collection for historians of humanitarian aid, philanthropy, public policy and advocacy.


Meyer Brownstone at home, in Toronto, speaking about his collection of papers concerning Oxfam Canada in Salvadorean refugee camps in Honduras in the mid 1980s, Fall 2012.

You can see a short video of his account of life in the refugee camps of Honduras. (by permission of the film  director) The papers concerning his stay in the socialist government of Saskatchewan of Tommy Douglas as an expert in agriculture are at the Provincial Archives of the province. Read his recollection of being in South Africa with Mandela, when he voted first.

The early papers of Oxfam Canada (from 1962 to the mid 1980s) are at Library and Archives Canada. Those of the closed regional office of Oxfam Calgary are at the Glenbow Archives. The papers of the regional office of Oxfam St John’s, due to close this Spring, are in part at the Provincial archives of Newfoundland, where they are awaiting cataloguing.

The archives of Oxfam UK were recently  given to the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, where they are currently being catalogued.  See the report of their progress, and  the BBC report of last year.

My Course on the history of humanitarian aid starts today


This course surveys the history of humanitarian agencies from their missionary and anti-slavery ancestors to the present times.  It teaches students the vocabulary useful for the understanding of humanitarianism. It introduces them to the historiography of the subject, the debates, approaches, explanations and interpretations of the major scholars, and the documents they use to write this history.  It presents the main events, the actors, ideas, institutions, and questions. It helps make sense of the current situation of humanitarian aid, which is complex and controversial, and which represents an increasingly large domain of social life and public action.

See outline

Documentary on the Federal Election of 1945

Watch my interview on the CPAC program aired last Sunday : The Gentle RevolutionThe campaigns jpeg

The Gentle Revolution – The Federal Election of 1945 By all accounts 1945 was a pivotal year in Canada’s history; it marked the end of six years of war, soldiers were returning home and Canadians were looking to create a fairer, brighter future. On June 11, 1945 Canadians headed to the polls for the country’s 20th general election. The majority voted for a new social order and with it came the birth of the welfare state. It transformed the lives of many Canadians and redefined the way our nation was run.

This week, my article on “children’s rights from below” published

tl copySee table of content.

in Taking Liberties

A History of Human Rights in Canada

David Goutor and Stephen Heathorn

“Universal human rights are considered to be a fundamental, inalienable aspect of Canadian legal culture, not to mention central to our international positioning. However the reality is that Canada was surprisingly slow to adopt the rights revolution that followed the Second World War, given concerns that existing norms and liberties could conflict with these new universal rights. Moreover, even when Canada did sign up, these rights were not all automatically put into practice. Nor, interestingly, did all groups embrace these rights.
Human rights, as we know, did become entrenched. There have been challenges to and changes in the legal framework of citizenship in Canada. But this has followed a long process of transformation, and many groups have faced tremendous struggle to get their rights claims recognized. This collection sheds new lights on the bumpy road toward universal human rights in our diverse and complex country. […] New research in the growing new field of human rights history explores the novelty of, the struggle for, and the limitations of, the new rights regime, and its uneven application across Canadian society.”

Come and see my presentation on the history of Oxfam in Canada, Friday 22 November at 11:30

On the occasion of International Education Week, Carleton’s Oxfam Club has a table in Carleton’s Galleria (University Centre).

I will show my slides and talk about Oxfam in Canada since 1962, from 11:30 to  12:30.

Oxfam insert in Readers Digest, Canada, 1964.  Archives of Oxfam UK, Bodleian Library(On the left, yhis is one of the first publicity of Oxfam in Canada, inserted in the Readers Digest of 1964 by Lynn Ten Kate, who visited Canada from Oxford in 1963-4 for 7 months, and whom I interviewed two years ago.)