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Call for participants: Canadian History & Environment Summer School (CHESS) 2023

Deadline: February 1, 2023

We’re back! After a 3-year hiatus, we are pleased to announce that the Canadian History & Environment Summer School (CHESS) is returning in 2023.

CHESS is an in-person event that brings together graduate students, faculty, and other scholars in the fields of environmental history, historical geography, and the environmental humanities for a weekend of workshops, field trips, public lectures, networking, and more. CHESS 2023 will be held at Western University in London, Ontario from Friday, 26 May to Sunday, 28 May – the weekend immediately preceding the Canadian Historical Association’s annual meeting at York University in Toronto.

CHESS 2023 is a revival of CHESS 2020, which was canceled because of COVID. The theme will once again be energy history, seen through the lens of the 19th century oil industry in southwestern Ontario & nearby Pennsylvania. Both places had their own “Petrolia,” and both were their nation’s – in fact, the world’s – leading oil-producing regions at the time. Petrolia, Ontario and nearby Oil Springs are no longer the centre of Canada’s oil industry, but they do continue to produce oil – with some of the very same 19th century technology.

Arriving on Friday 26 May, participants will attend a keynote address from Brian Black of the University of Pennsylvania Altoona and an expert on the 19th century Pennsylvania oil industry. His talk will explore themes of continuity and change in that state’s oil industry over the past nearly 200 years.

On Saturday 27 May, we head out on a full-day field trip to Oil Springs and Petrolia. Charlie Fairbank – the fourth-generation owner of Fairbank Oil – will guide us on a tour of his property, where crude oil has been extracted since 1861. We will also visit the Oil Museum of Canada to learn more about the region’s oil history.

On Sunday 28 May, Jim Clifford (University of Saskatchewan) will host a workshop on “Why We Count,” looking at the resurgence of quantitative methods in history and leading some hands-on work as well. Clifford will be joined by Colin Coates (York University), Andrew Watson (University of Saskatchewan), and Ruth Sandwell (University of Toronto) who will also give a keynote address exploring the important place of Canada’s early oil industry in the social and environmental history of energy.

Thanks to the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Department of History at Western University, there is no charge for participation in CHESS 2023 – in fact, we will provide some travel funding to students who attend. But space is limited. To apply, please complete the online form at the link below by 1 February 2023; all applications will be notified as to acceptance by 15 February.

If you have any questions, please contact your CHESS 2023 organizers, Blake Butler and Alan MacEachern (mbutle32 [@] / amaceach [@]