My four week fellowship was a revelation, says Steve Hewitt, recipient of a 2015 Eccles Centre Fellowship. The British Library’s sources on Fenianism and political violence in Canada have been invaluable for my forthcoming monograph.
First, I would like to thank the Eccles Centre and Eccles Centre staff, Phil Davies, Cara Rodway, and Phil Hatfield, for the tremendous opportunity that this fellowship has represented. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my time at the British Library and also the opportunity that was provided to give a talk about my project which is a history of terrorism and counterterrorism in Canada. In particular,
the questions posed to me in response the talk have raised important issues that I intend to incorporate directly into my research and final monograph.
This entire 4 weeks has been a revelation. I had never previously conducted research at the British Library before the fellowship. Now, I cannot imagine not working there every day as I have been for the past few weeks. My time spent has been extremely useful in relation to me beginning to frame the key aspects of what is a rather large research project. Specifically, I had the opportunity to read and think, something that is rarely available over such a sustained period of time.
During my time at the British Library, I read numerous books as starting points for what will be different chapters in my eventual monograph. Especially useful was the sustained period of time reading about and thinking about Fenianism and Fenians and what they represented in terms of political violence directed at Canada in the 19th century. In addition to useful secondary sources, I accessed a number of microfiche containing rare 19th century reports and other documents related to Fenianism and the assassination of Canadian parliamentarian, Thomas D’Arcy McGee. It was through this work that I envisioned how I will begin my book as I discovered that the first killing through political violence in Canadian history occurred just over 100 metres from where the most recent killing through political violence, the October 2014 attack in Ottawa, took place.
In addition to the work on Fenianism, I spent days reading and thinking about two other major incidents of political violence in Canadian history, the attacks of the Front de Liberation de Quebec across the 1960s and culminating in the 1970 October Crisis kidnappings, and the Air India bombing in 1985 in which 329 people were killed by a bomb planted by Sikh nationalists. The British Library had several key texts, in particular the English translation of Louis Fournier’s comprehensive history of the FLQ, which are not available at my home university. This detailed reading has allowed me to think in depth about these incidents and what they represent in terms of both Canadian history and the history of international terrorism.
Steve Hewitt is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Birmingham. He is the author of a number of books and articles related to security and intelligence in the past and present in a US, Canada, and UK context. Currently, he is working on a history of terrorism and counter-terrorism in Canada.