E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC 2003) interviewed Dr. Jane Errington, who is retiring as the Dean of Arts at the Royal Military College of Canada.
e-veritas: After earning a B.A. (Hons) (Trent University) and B.Ed., (University of Toronto), you taught at the high school level.
Jane Errington: I taught History, English and World Religions in High School in north western Ontario.
e-veritas: You returned to school and completed both your MA and Ph.D. at Queen’s University.
Jane Errington: My graduate studies focused on the history of colonial societies in North America, and particularly on the intellectual, political and social development of Upper Canada.
e-veritas: As the Dean of Arts at the Royal Military College of Canada, what is your vision for students?
Jane Errington: Our distinguished faculty, made up of both civilians and CF members, from eclectic educational backgrounds work closely with their students, who include RMC officer cadets and Canadian Forces members from across Canada. The members of the faculty of Arts strive for excellence on the national and international level in their teaching and research. All degree programmes are available in both English and French and we offer a wide variety of programmes at both the undergraduate and graduate levels both on site through traditional studies and by distance learning through the Division of Continuing Studies.
• In Humanities (Majors in English, History, or French
• In Social Science (Major in Politics and Economics)
• In Business Administration
• In Military and Strategic Studies programme
• In Military Psychology and Leadership
e-veritas: You are a member of the Department of History at the Royal Military College of Canada, where you teach Canadian, social, and women’s and gender history.
Jane Errington: I teach the History of Colonial North America. Over the years I have taught a wide range of courses at RMC including – Women, War and Society (RMC) at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
e-veritas: You are also a member of the Department of History at Queen’s University, where you teach history.
Jane Errington: I teach a graduate course at Queen’s History 843 Comparative North American Colonial Societies. My own work explores issues of identity and the creation and development of colonial settler societies. http://www.queensu.ca/history/people/facultyinstructorsalpha/errington.html
e-veritas: You have published a number of books and numerous articles that examine the social and intellectual history of Upper Canada in the first half of the 19th century. What are your current research interests?
Jane Errington: My research interests continue to centre on life in early Upper Canada, various aspects of which have been the subject of four books and numerous articles. My current research is on the role of women in colonial society – as workers (as explored in Wives and Mothers, School Mistresses and Scullery Maids), as emigrants, and in relation to the law; and on life of apprentices and indentured servants in the colony in the first half of the nineteenth century. I am also engaged in a major project examining the early formation of RMC – “Imperial Masculinity & the Making of RMC.”
e-veritas: Your first book described early attempts to establish a unique Upper Canadian identity: The Lion, the Eagle and Upper Canada: A Developing Colonial Ideology (1985), Kingston: McGill Queen’s University Press, l987; reprint, 1995.
Jane Errington: It has generally been assumed that the political and social ideas of early Upper Canadians rested firmly on veneration of eighteenth-century British conservative values and unequivocal rejection of all things American. My examination of the attitudes and beliefs of the Upper Canadian elite between 1784 and 1828, as seen through their private papers, public records, and the newspapers of the time, suggests that this view is far too simplistic. I argue that in order to appreciate the evolution of Upper Canadian beliefs, particularly the development of political ideology, it is necessary to understand the various and changing perceptions of the United States and of Great Britain held by different groups of colonial leaders.
e-veritas: Your next book evaluated the contribution of working women in Upper Canadian society within the social and historical context: Wives and Mothers, School Mistresses and Scullery Maids: Working Women in Upper Canada, (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995)
Jane Errington: The work done by Upper Canadian women in the overall economy of the early colonial period, particularly as wives and mothers, played a significant role in the development of the colony. The complexity of colonial society cannot be understood unless the roles and work of women in Upper Canada are taken into account. Most of them not only experienced the uncertainties of marriage and the potential dangers of childbirth but also took part in making sure that the needs of their families were met. How women actually fulfilled their numerous responsibilities differed, however. Age, location, marital status, class, and society’s changing expectations of women all had a direct impact on what was expected of them, what they did, and how they did it.
e-veritas: You next book explored the personal side of Migration History. Emigrant Worlds and Transatlantic Communities: Migration to Upper Canada in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century: (Kingston & Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007) won the Joseph Brant Award Ontario Historical Society (2008).
Jane Errington: I wanted to do a study of `leaving home` and the experiences of British and Irish migrants as they made their way to Upper Canada. Emigrant Worlds and Transatlantic Communities gives voice to the Irish, Scottish, English, and Welsh women and men who negotiated the complex and often dangerous world of emigration between 1815 and 1845. Using “information wanted” notices that appeared in colonial newspapers as well as emigrants’ own accounts, I found that emigration was a family affair. Individuals made their decisions within a matrix of kin and community – their experiences shaped by their identities as husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings and cousins. The Atlantic crossing divided families, but it was also the means of reuniting kin and rebuilding old communities. Emigration created its own unique world – a world whose inhabitants remained well aware of the transatlantic community that provided them with a continuing sense of identity, home, and family. One ongoing project explores Imperial Masculinity and the Making of RMC. A second examines voluntary societies, benevolence and identity in nineteenth century British America.
e-veritas: You were awarded The Colonel The Honourable John Matheson Award for Leadership at RMC.
Jane Errington: The award, established by The Colonel The Honourable John Ross Matheson, is presented every year to honour Leadership. I was very fortunate to be the first recipient.
e-veritas: You were awarded the John Scott Cowan Prize for Research Excellence on 24 February 2009, which is RMC’s premier award for scholarly achievement.
Jane Errington: The award, established by Principal Emeritus, Doctor John Cowan in 2000, is presented every year to honour RMC’s top research professor. Winners of the award are chosen by a panel of their peers as well as by external scholars in their field according to the quality, originality, and impact and of their scholarly work. I also received the RMC Teaching Award.