A Voice for the Humanities and Social Sciences

2nd edition of The Humanities in Canada

May 1964 - Second edition of The Humanities in Canada

After twenty years have passed since the original project began, the Humanities Research Council of Canada publishes a second edition of The Humanities in Canada. The goal of the revision, as its editor F.E.L. Priestley wrote, is to gauge “how far the condition of the humanities in Canada improved since 1947, what problems are now urgent, and what are the prospects for the immediate future?” Again, scholars are surveyed, although the new surveys are less extensive than the originals, since some data can now be obtained from other sources.

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Expanding SSRCC membership

1964 - Social Science Research Council of Canada expands membership base

James Mallory of McGill works tirelessly to make the Social Science Research Council of Canada (SSRCC) more representative. Mallory is chairman of the SSRCC from 1965 to 1967 and he contests certain established procedures in the council. Mallory uses his role to democratize the council, promoting Québec scholars and having either a francophone President or Vice President. Mallory also expands the council’s base by incorporating representatives from learned societies, social science groups, the public service and universities. Out of his desire to increase university involvement, Mallory chooses members from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). Mallory further pushes the SSRCC's 1966 constitutional rewrite to strengthen the relationship between AUCC and the SSRCC.

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Evaluating the disciplines across the country

December, 1962 - The Ostry Report

In 1961, both councils hire Bernard Ostry as their Associate Secretary-Treasurer. One of his responsibilities is a sort of “travelling salesman” role, where he visits universities across the country and interviews scholars about their needs as researchers. He uses these interviews, along with a wealth of questionnaires, to publish a report on the state of the disciplines in Canada. The Ostry Report evaluates the state of university facilities and research support in Canada and finds it heavily lacking. To remedy this, the report implores the Canada Council to increase funding to keep up with the growth of Canadian graduate programs and calls on the federal government to establish a national centre for research in the humanities and social sciences, lest Canadian accomplishments in the fields lag behind the US and UK. 

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Discussing the humanities and government

Nov. 19 and 20, 1954 - Second national conference on the humanities

The theme of the conference is “the Humanities and Government.” Sixty-one delegates from the federal government and universities across the country join together in Ottawa to discuss issues surrounding education, the humanities’ relationship to other disciplines, and the question of the relevance of the humanities in the modern world. At a dinner, Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent delivers a speech praising the Humanities Research Council of Canada and emphasizes the importance of the humanities in creating a distinct and open Canadian culture. St. Laurent also stresses his government is pursuing the Massey Commission’s recommendation to create a Canada Council for the Arts and he is “hopeful that before too long we shall have something of a very positive nature to report.”

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The Massey Commission

1949 - Councils submit briefs to the Massey Commission

The Massey Commission has been struck to evaluate the state of Canadian culture. As a result, both research councils will present briefs for the commissioners to consider. The briefs explain the purpose and history of the councils to the Massey Commission, along with describing the work they have already accomplished in their short lives. They also clearly state that their funding from American foundations will not last forever and that a Canadian solution will need to be found. From the Humanities Research Council of Canada brief: “It is a significant commentary on the maturity of our culture that such an organization as the Humanities Research Council of Canada should have been financed almost entirely by grants from the United States. The irony of this situation has not been lost on the members of the council who have felt for some time that many of its enterprises...

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Surveying the humanities in Canada

1947 - The HRCC publishes The Humanities in Canada

As their first major project, the Humanities Research Council of Canada decides to do a survey of the humanities across Canada’s universities. Using a grant of $8,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation, the council mails questionnaires to university presidents, deans, department heads, librarians and individual scholars. The intention is to sketch out “the state of the humanities in Canada.” The final, 287-page report, edited by Watson Kirkconnell and A.S.P. Woodhouse is published in May 1947. The council publicizes its findings widely, sending out copies to newspapers, universities and organizations across the world. In its conclusion, the report's authors argue that “If we are to rank as a civilized nation, and not merely as an enormously wealthy and heavily industrialized Siberian hinterland to the civilized world, we shall need to come of age in our academic life as well...

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Threat to a humanities education

Fall 1942 - Threat to a humanities education

As Canada becomes further entrenched in the Second World War, the Canadian government feels the need to focus all efforts on victory. To this end, there is a proposal that university education be limited to only those fields essential to the war effort for its duration. Some corners praise the plan, but academics worry that a rigid interpretation of “essential” will short-sightedly hamper Canada’s cultural development and limit the intellectual horizons of its citizens. A committee of the Royal Society of Canada, chaired by Watson Kirkconnell, presents a memorandum to the government deploring this plan. The Canadian Social Science Research Council also advises the government that education in the humanities and social sciences is indeed essential. In January 1943, the proposal is abandoned.

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