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National Post


  • Originally published 08/12/2013

    19th century manuscript sheds new light on ‘Champlain’s Astrolobe’ thought lost by French explorer

    An Ottawa historian’s discovery of a 19th-century manuscript previously unseen by scholars has shed new light on the 1867 unearthing of “Champlain’s Astrolabe,” the navigational instrument famously — though controversially — believed to have been lost by French explorer Samuel de Champlain during his pioneering journey up the Ottawa River exactly four centuries ago this year.The 13-centimetre-wide, 629-gram circle of brass, repatriated from a U.S. collection in 1989 for $250,000 by the Canadian Museum of Civilization, is widely considered one of country’s most important and evocative historical artifacts — though there is no direct proof it ever actually belonged to Champlain, the 17th-century founder of New France.And Carleton University historian Bruce Elliott’s discovery of an 1893 document penned by Capt. Daniel Cowley — an Ottawa Valley steamboat entrepreneur who had been a key part of the astrolabe saga when it was found 26 years earlier — appears to strengthen the case against Champlain’s ownership of the object....

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Margaret Thatcher warned of Pierre Trudeau’s ‘unsound personal views’ ahead of 1983 visit, secret files reveal

    British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was advised that Canadians’ sensitivity “is a fact of life” spurred on by the country’s “ham-fisted neighbour to the south,” in a set of confidential briefing notes prior to her Canadian visit in 1983.Government files from 30 years ago, released this week by the British National Archives, included two telegrams dated Sept. 1 and Sept. 19, 1983 to No. 10 Downing Street to prepare Thatcher for her visit to Ottawa, Toronto and Edmonton. In them, Canada is described as a country that is “dominated commercially and culturally by the United States, but is inclined to resent this.”...

  • Originally published 07/31/2013

    Critics accuse Canada's Conservative Party of ‘politicizing history’

    The release of the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s first research strategy — following a two-year process of reflection that was nearly derailed by the federal government’s decision last year to rename it the Museum of History and rewrite its mandate — has revived the age-old debate over the politicization of Canadian history.With Canada’s 150th birthday approaching in 2017, and the bicentennial of the War of 1812 just passed with unusual fanfare, the public’s appreciation of Canadian history is ripe for revision, and not just because some of the flagship national museum’s exhibits date to the 1990s, not long after it was renamed from the National Museum of Man. From the rewritten citizenship guide that undid years of Liberal ideological dominance, to the renaming of Canadian military units to honour the monarchy, history is increasingly the lens through which the country sees itself, and a ripe target for those who wish to change it.Now that the words “critical understanding” have been struck from the museum’s mandate, however, critics fear that history without criticism becomes propaganda....

  • Originally published 07/19/2013

    Richard III to get $1.5-million burial

    He was buried in an unmarked grave, but finally Richard III is to get a tomb fit for a king.British officials say they will spend US$1.5 million interring the 15th-century ruler, whose skeleton was found earlier this year beneath a parking lot in the central England city of Leicester.Officials at Leicester Cathedral said Thursday that Richard will be buried “with honor beneath a raised tomb within a specially created area in the cathedral.” The plans also include a new floor and a stained glass window....

  • Originally published 05/31/2013

    Perfectly preserved woolly mammoth discovered in Arctic

    MOSCOW — Russian researchers say they have discovered a perfectly preserved woolly mammoth carcass with liquid blood on a remote Arctic island, fueling hopes of cloning the Ice Age animal.They say the frozen remains of a female mammoth were so well-preserved that blood was found in ice cavities when they were broken up.Semyon Grigoryev, the head of the Mammoth Museum who led the expedition, said Thursday the carcass was preserved because its lower part was stuck in pure ice. He said the find could provide scientific material for cloning a mammoth....

  • Originally published 05/28/2013

    Canadian history on the block, cheap

    A huge cache of Canadian history, stored for 200 years in three wooden chests held at a British estate, is set to be auctioned next month in London — a possible test of whether the controversy-plagued, funding-challenged Library and Archives Canada is still in the business of acquiring newly available treasures of documentary heritage. An extensive and important collection of letters, maps and other original artifacts left to posterity by Sir John Coape Sherbrooke — the Nova Scotia governor who conquered Maine during the War of 1812 and later served as Canada’s governor general — is to be sold on June 19 as the showcase lot in a major Bonhams auction of rare books and manuscripts.A large, coloured and “exceptionally fine” map of the village of York and the Lake Ontario shoreline that was created for Sherbrooke in 1817 — showing the future Toronto in such minute detail that individual homes are depicted — is a highlight of the sale, appearing on the cover of the auction catalogue.