In Memoriam, Prof. David Higgs (1939-2014)

The PCHP is saddened to learn of the death of David Higgs, who passed away peacefully at Mount Sinai Hospital on October 20, 2014. We had the pleasure of meeting Prof. Higgs; some of us as undergraduate students at the University of Toronto, and others during PCHP business. Together with Grace M. Anderson, Higgs authored A Future to Inherit (1976), the first comprehensive study of Portuguese migration to Canada, which remains a central source of information for anyone interested in that topic. In 2010, we invited Prof. Higgs to donate his research notes and other archival records related to the Portuguese communities in Canada, and facilitated their transfer to the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, York University Libraries, where they are available for consultation – see finding aid. In 2011, we were also honoured to have him speak at the launch of our online exhibits (pictured above).

The members of the PCHP – Gilberto Fernandes, Emanuel da Silva, Raphael Costa and Susana Miranda – express our condolences to David Higgs’ family and loved ones, along with our deep appreciation for his valuable contribution towards advancing Portuguese scholarship in Canada. In this moment of retrospection, we are glad to have helped preserve an important part of Prof. Higgs’ work and memory.

Below is the letter circulated by Prof. Nicholas Tepstra, Chair of the History Department at the University of Toronto, summarizing David Higgs’ life and scholarly career.

“David Higgs passed away peacefully at Mount Sinai hospital on October 20, 2014.   A long-time member of the Department of History of the University of Toronto, where he once served as graduate coordinator, David was also a fellow of University College and a founding member of the Sexual Diversity Studies programme.

David’s interests were remarkably wide-ranging.  He wrote scholarly articles in English, French and Portuguese. He penned important studies in social history, political history, religious history, queer studies, cultural history, covering an equally breathtaking geographic scope: France, Portugal, Brazil, and Canada.

David was born in Rugby, Britain in 1939.  His family moved to British Columbia when he was young.  He earned his BA jointly in French and History at UBC in 1959.  He obtained an MA in History from Northwestern University in 1960, and went on to complete his PhD under the direction of famed French historian Alfred Cobban at the University of London in 1964.  He later transformed the thesis into an excellent first book, published with Johns Hopkins University Press in 1973:  Ultraroyalism in Toulouse: From its Origins to the Revolution of 1830.

This was 1960-70s history at its best: one discerns the imprint of the Annales, careful, painstaking local research, the unmistakable influence of Cobban on the legacy of the Revolution.   The book examines the founding moment of French ultraconservatism, by investigating the networks and social universe of counterrevolutionaries.  These were not just conservatives in the classic sense of the term: they actively sought to turn back the clock—as David contends, much like Vichy or the OAS would later aspire.  He shows how an idealized return to the past proved impossible even after the royalists returned to power in 1815, their paternalist, ultra-traditionalist values having proven difficult to re-instill in a France marked by the legacy of 1789.

David would take up some of these themes again in his remarkable study: Nobles in nineteenth century France: the Pracitice of Inegalitarianism (Johns Hopkins, 1987), in which he delved into the kinship bonds of the nobility, examining everything from milieu, to property, and transmission of socio-cultural capital.  The book was translated into French, as always to consistently outstanding reviews (Nobles, titrés, aristocrates après la Révolution, 1800-1870).

In between these two connected books, David had turned to other interests, indeed other fields, whose stakes and contours he mastered in record time. In 1976, he produced a book on the Portuguese communities in Canada—translated into French three years later, and co-edited an important comparative volume Church and Society in Catholic Europe of the eighteenth century, with Bill Callahan, published with Cambridge University press in 1979.
David subsequently edited two wide-ranging volumes: Portuguese migration in Global perspective  (Multicultural History Society of Ontario, 1990), another, Queer Sites: Gay Urban Histories since 1600 (Routledge, 1999), in which he authored chapters on Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro.  Here David turned his attention not only to sexual diversity studies, a field on which he taught a path-breaking seminar for the University of Toronto’s History Department starting in 1998, but also to urban spaces: looking at gay sites of leisure, socialization, and sociability.

David retired from the University of Toronto in 2004, but remained an active member of several academic communities, in Portuguese studies and French history, most notably.  His research notes and findings on the Portuguese community in Canada are housed in a special collection at the York University archives.

Until recently, David was still working on several projects. One was tentatively titled: “A Tropical Inquisition: Brazil in the late eighteenth century.”  Another dealt with Enlightenment, Inquisition and the Lisbon Tribunal, and a third was provisionally entitled: “Three Portuguese Portraits from the late eighteenth century.”  He also evoked a sequel to his book on the French nobility, which in his more whimsical moments he would refer to as “Nobs II.”

David’s colleagues, graduate students and friends will remember him for his kindness, good-humour, wit, collegiality and guidance.  He is survived by his partner Kaoru Kamimura. He will be dearly missed.”

New archival donation from Toronto’s oral poet Abílio Cipriano Marques

The PCHP is happy to announce that we have received an archival donation from the Toronto poet Abílio Cipriano Marques and his editor Ilda Januário. It consists of a copy of Marques’ third and latest book, Poemas e Aventuras do Loiro da Ribeira (Poems and Adventures of the Blond of Ribeira), published in 2013; cassette tapes of him composing his oral poetry and reciting it to friends at community cafés; and Januário’s annotated transcripts. This donation adds an important literary and artistic layer to the growing Portuguese-Canadian collection at Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, an institution that has long invested in preserving works of literature. The items donated still need to be processed before they can be made available to the public sometime in the new year.

First as an undocumented sojourner in the 1950s, then as an immigrant since the ’60s, Marques worked in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia; laying railway tracks, picking tobacco, working in factories, in construction, and many other manual jobs. Despite a lifetime of toil in demanding social circumstances, Marques carried within him a lyrical spirit; one that he first explored in Lisbon’s bohemian waterfront district of Ribeira, where he arrived alone at age 14 after leaving his northern home town of Pampilhosa da Serra. Growing up in the Portuguese countryside and in a working class urban neighbourhood during Salazar’s dictatorship, Marques was denied the opportunity to go to school and never had the chance to develop his literacy skills. That did not stop him from publishing three poetry books reflecting on his rich experiences and musings, and becoming an esteemed popular intellectual of the likes of António Aleixo. Marques’ Canadian experience as a manual labourer; an immigrant who spoke none of the dominant languages; and a man with little formal education, is similar to that of so many of his generation’s peers. His lyrical insight into the country that he and his fellow Portuguese migrants adopted, and into the one they left behind, is of tremendous historical value. Marques’ documented voice is especially relevant in the sense that archives, by their very function, tend to be biased towards the written word and thus literate historical actors. The PCHP once again thanks Abílio C. Marques and Ilda Januário for their donation, and for having the foresight to preserve these records and making them available for future generations.

New archival donations: Luso Learning Centre and Senso Magazine

The PCHP | PHLC has facilitated the transfer of two new collections of records to the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, York University Libraries. Our team met with Ana Fernandes-Iria, the director of the Luso Learning Centre, and the director and editor of Senso Magazine, and has initiated the process of donation.

The Luso Learning Centre is a private, non-profit, educational organization, located in the west downtown of Toronto since 2011. The Centre offers Portuguese language classes, public lectures, a library, and a number of cultural activities for all ages, with a focus on the lusophone communities.

Senso Magazine is a trimonthly Portuguese-language publication produced in Toronto that is freely distributed in Ontario and other parts of Canada where there are Portuguese-speaking communities. Since it was founded in 2007, Senso has published 15 issues.

Ana Fernandes-Iria has agreed to donate the organizational records of the Luso Learning Centre and Senso Magazine on a regular basis, which will constitute two separate, open-ended, archival collections. Additional steps need to be taken before the collection can be made available to the public, in a process that can take months.

The PCHP | PHLC team thanks Ana Fernandes-Iria for her donation to the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, and for being an enthusiastic ongoing supporter of our community outreach work.

New archival donation: Canadian Auto Workers Local 40

The PCHP | PHLC is proud to announce that we have facilitated the donation of yet another archival collection to the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collection, York University Libraries. Dr. Susana Miranda and Anna St. Onge met with David Amow, President of the Canadian Auto Workers Local 40, and finalized this donation today. CAW Local 40 represents workers in manufacturing, hotel, textile, auto service, protection services, office and in the health care sectors. Its archival records contain documents related to the labour organization of Portuguese immigrant women in the building cleaning and textile industries of Toronto during the 1970s and 1980s, of which we highlight the unionization of McGregor Hosiery Mills factory employees in 1977, and the strike at the First Canadian Place office building in 1984. But the collection isn’t only valuable for what it reveals about Portuguese women, but is also an excellent addition to the Clara Thomas Archives overall labour collection. CAW Local 40 absorbed some smaller, more radical unions, like the Canadian Textile and Chemical Union, which were focused on organizing more marginalized workers, such as immigrants and  women, and reveal much about the more progressive bent in the Canadian labour movement in Toronto in the 1970s and 1980s.

A few more steps need to be concluded before the collection can be made available to the public, including transporting the boxes to the archives; having them appraised by an independent expert; processing that collection; and creating a finding aid. This process can take a few months. In the meantime, the PCHP | PHLC will study these materials; draw a selection for digitization; and find interesting ways to use them on its online exhibit website.

We are very happy for having enabled the preservation of this collection, and we are grateful to the executive and all the members of CAW Local 40 for having entrusted us with its care.

More to follow.

Union meeting at McGregor Hosiery Factory, 1977. Domingos Marques fonds, F0573, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections

David Higgs, Domingos Marques and Ilda Januário´s collections now open for consultation

David Higgs, Domingos Marques and Ilda Januário’s collections at the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections have been processed and are now open for consultation. Their finding aids can be consulted online:

David Higgs

Domingos Marques

Ilda Januário

The collections from the Portuguese Interagency Network and the Portuguese Canadian Democratic Association/ Associação Democrática Portuguesa will also be made available for consultation soon.

The Portuguese Canadian History Project | Projeto de História Luso-Canadiana

The Portuguese Canadian History Project | Projeto De História Luso-Canadiana (PCHP|PHLC) is a community outreach initiative that started in 2008, and is coordinated by Gilberto Fernandes, Susana Miranda, and Raphael Costa. It is committed to locating historical sources in the hands of private individuals and organizations in the Portuguese-Canadian community and having them placed in the care of the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections at York University.  Organizations and individuals like the Portuguese Interagency Network, the Portuguese Canadian Democratic Association, Domingos Marques, Ilda Januário, David Higgs have entrusted us with their collections.

While the PCHP|PHLC continues to pursue collections, we have begun to use some of the material collected to develop a curriculum for public viewing meant to showcase the Portuguese-Canadian experience.  This online display is one tool in that program.  The PCHP|PHLC can be reached at