Today Coll Thrush speaks with The Junto about his most recent book, Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire, which examines that city’s history through the experiences of Indigenous travelers—willing or otherwise—from territories that became the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. A graduate of Fairhaven College at Western Washington University and the University of Washington, Coll Thrush is Professor of History at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in unceded Coast Salish territories, and affiliate faculty at UBC’s Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies. He is the author of Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place, which won the 2007 Washington State Book Award for History/Biography, and was re-released as a tenth-anniversary second edition in early 2017. He is also co-editor with Colleen Boyd of Phantom Past, Indigenous Presence: Native Ghosts in North American History & Culture. His article “City of the Changers: Indigenous People and the Transformation of Seattle’s Watersheds” was named Best Article of 2006 by the Urban History Association, and his article “Vancouver the Cannibal: Cuisine, Encounter, and the Dilemma of Difference on the Northwest Coast, 1774-1808” won the Robert F. Heizer prize for best article of 2011 from the American Society for Ethnohistory. During the 2013-2014 academic year, he was a visiting fellow at the Institute for Historical Research of the University of London and an Eccles Centre Fellow in North American Studies at the British Library. After the completion of Indigenous London, Coll will return to writing about the Northwest Coast of North America with a book project entitled SlaughterTown, a history-memoir examining trauma, memory, silence, and landscape in Coast Salish territories and his hometown of Auburn, Washington—formerly known as Slaughter. Continue reading
When I consider the non-early-American history books that have had the greatest impact on the way I think, two stand out in particular. One is Ross McKibbin’s The Evolution of the Labour Party, 1910-1924; the other, CLR James’s Beyond A Boundary. The former is the most obviously “academic” of the two; the opportunity to write a Junto post primarily concerned with cricket, however, means that today I’ll focus on the latter.
Both books influenced me for their creativity in approaching politics and society. McKibbin’s insight that “political action is the result of social and cultural attitudes which are not primarily political” has remained with me ever since; a useful reminder that in writing political history, we have to try and find ways of recovering political mindsets not only by looking at what political actors say, but also the many and varied ways they actually do things. James, too, calls for an approach to studying the past that looks beyond a narrow scope of inquiry, in his famous question ‘What do they know of cricket, who only cricket know?’ Continue reading