Stephen Brooke, Sean Kheraj and Rachel Koopmans win SSHRC Insight Grants

The History Department congratulates most warmly three colleagues for winning SSHRC Insight or Insight Developments Grants in the 2012 competition: Stephen Brooke, Sean Kheraj and Rachel Koopmans.

The results have recently been made public. As you know, SSHRC granting programmes are very competitive, and it is testimony to their scholarly stature in their respective fields and the quality of the research projects that they have secured this important funding for their research.

Stephen Brooke was awarded a five-year SSHRC Insight Grant ($81,768) for his next project on “The Radical City: London Politics, 1981 to 1986”. This is a five-year study examining politics in the British capital, focusing on the metropolitan Greater London Council (GLC) and eight inner London boroughs, in order to explore the relationship between identity and politics in twentieth-century Britain and the relationship between urban space and politics.

Sean Kheraj was awarded a two-year SSHRC Insight Development Grant ($41,716) to support the start of a new research project titled, “Frontiers of Ecological Imperialism: A History of European Biological Expansion in Western Canada”. Sean’s was one of nine projects from York funded this year under this programme. He has kindly provided a detailed description of the project:

This project will explore the ecological consequences of resettlement and the introduction of invasive species in Western Canada through two nineteenth-century case studies, including the establishment of the first European settler colony in the Northwest at Red River and the resettlement of Vancouver Island. How do societies respond and adapt to the rapid spread of alien plants, animals and microbes? What are the social, economic, cultural, and ecological consequences of novel species introductions? In order to begin to answer these important questions and more thoroughly understand how human societies have adapted to such ecological changes in the past, this research project will look at the social and ecological consequences of the transfer of novel plant and animal species from the Old World to North America and the history of European colonization and biological expansion in Western Canada. European colonization of Western Canada was dependent upon the transfer and propagation of biota from the Old World. The plants and animals of the Old World accompanied European migrants and rapidly spread throughout the temperate zone of northern North America and were vital partners in the colonization of this region. Because Canada experienced multiple, disjointed points of colonization across a vast geography and at different periods of time, in order to best understand how European peoples came to resettle northern North America and displace Aboriginal peoples, historians must fully examine the shifting frontier of the biological expansion of Europe in Canada in both space and time. This project has the potential to expand our knowledge of how human societies have responded and adapted to swift, fundamental ecological changes related to the introduction of invasive alien species.

Rachel Koopmans was successful in securing a five-year SSHRC Insight Grant ($103,687) for her work on “The Miracle Windows of Canterbury Cathedral”. This will be the first major study of the early 13th-century stained glass picturing the miracles of Thomas Becket in the Trinity Chapel of Canterbury Cathedral. While most early Gothic glazing schemes in medieval French, German and English churches included windows devoted to saints’ lives, only at Canterbury does one find so much glass – originally some 180 figured panels across twelve windows – devoted to the stories of a single saint. The scale of the miracle windows’ design reflects the tremendous popularity of Becket’s cult. Becket’s relics drew pilgrims from all corners of medieval Christendom, and his sanctity was celebrated in all medieval artistic media and in many different regions of Europe, but there was never any more ambitious or more impressive artistic tribute to Becket’s cult than the stained glass that surrounded his shrine at Canterbury. With the loss of about half of the Trinity Chapel’s panels, we cannot now experience this glass the way medieval pilgrims once did. This research is intended, however, to help us come closer to that experience than we ever have before, and to appreciate this glass not just as the chief visual witness to Becket’s medieval cult, but as the greatest of all surviving medieval pictorial hagiographies in scale and public appeal.

It has been a very good year for the Department in a variety of SSHRC competitions.

You’ll recall that this past June it was officially announced that Sean Kheraj and Paul Lovejoy had each won SSHRC Public Outreach grants of $36,795 and  $132,442 for their projects on “Nature’s past: historical perspectives on Canadian environmental issues: audio podcast series” and “The African Canadian Experience of the War of 1812” respectively.

Slightly earlier, in May 2012, Carolyn Podruchny’s success as the lead applicant in a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant application was announced. It secured $200,000 for a project on “Mapping the contours of identity in the Trottier Brigade. Métis mentalities and materialities in northwestern North America, 1780-1880”.

Many congratulations to all these colleagues in History!