Douglas Hunter wins Vanier and Taylor prizes

The Department of History is delighted to announce that doctoral student, Douglas Hunter, has won two of the most prestigious awards offered to students by the federal government. The first is the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, awarded to candidates with exceptional academic and leadership skills, and the SSHRC William E. Taylor Fellowship, awarded each year to the most outstanding SSHRC doctoral award recipient. (Mr. Hunter also won a SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarship and an Ontario Graduate Studies Scholarship, but declined them in favour of the Vanier.) Doug Hunter is supervised by Professor Carolyn Podruchny.

Doug Hunter’s doctoral dissertation will explore a long history of connections between public and academic history in the field of the “cryptohistory” of European exploration of the New World. While academic historians have regularly criticized the findings of what they call amateur cryptohistorians, they have failed to see how the theories of pre-Columbian European arrivals in North America have been rooted in mainstream historiography. Like more conventional histories, crytohistorical ideas have bolstered the celebration of the racial and cultural superiority of European colonists and later immigrant communities.

Hunter will explore in particular how cryptohistorians have appropriated indigenous records, particularly in rock art, oral traditions, and archaeological material, to support claims of pre-Columbian European visitors. Cryptohistorians have thus put indigenous records in the service of nationalist and racialist subordination of indigenous peoples. This work is crucial to academic historians because it will help illuminate the means by which scholarly histories have been influenced by public prejudices. It will show public historians how the subjects of their studies can have far-reaching political consequences. And most important, Hunter’s proposed work will reveal how both academic and public historians have misused indigenous cultural resources and reinforced colonial subordination in the service of promoting their own self-interests.  Hunter’s work will be of great interest to ethnohistorians of indigenous and European contact; anthropologists interested in ethical engagements with indigenous communities; and historians tracing the development of nationalism and racism in 19th- and 20th-century North America. His work will reach beyond the academy and engage with the very public historians who will fall under scrutiny.

Doug has had a remarkable career as a public historian, journalist, cartographer, and artist. Author of six history books on topics as divergent as hockey, Canadian business, and North American exploration, as well as significant articles on historians and historical artefacts, Mr. Hunter’s work has been widely recognized and cited. In 2002 he won the National Business Book Award for his book The Bubble and the Bear: How Nortel Burst the Canadian Dream (Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2002) and his book God’s Mercies: Rivalry, Betrayal, and the Dream of Discovery (Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2007) was
short-listed for both the Governor General’s Literary Awards- Non Fiction 2008 and the Nereus Writers’ Trust Non Fiction Prize 2007. Three of his books, including God’s Mercies (on Henry Hudson and Samuel de Champlain), Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009) and The Race to the New World: Christopher Columbus, John Cabot and the Lost History of Discovery (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, September 2011 and Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, March 2012), provide impressive background for his doctoral project on cryptohistory in North American exploration historiography. He will also publish Double Double, an exploration of the business and cultural phenomenon of Tim Hortons, with Harper Collins Canada this fall.

Praise for his books notes his passion, extensive research and able use of evidence, insight, elegant writing, and accomplished storytelling abilities. During the course of his research and writing, he has developed collegial relationships with a wide range of both academic and public historians and writers. His insights into the relationship between Samuel de Champlain’s published ideas on exploration and colonization and the theories of Englishman Edward Hayes are the subject of a dedicated appendix in the Champlain before 1604, by Conrad E. Heidenreich and K. Janet Ritch (McGill-Queen’s University
Press, 2010).

To learn more about Doug, visit his website.

Congrats Doug!