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© Canadian Review of American Studies/Revue canadienne d’études américaines 33, no. 2, 2003 Challenging the Boundaries of Geography: A Roundtable on Comparative History Presented at the Canadian Historical Association, Toronto, May 2002 by Sheila McManus, Dimitry Anastakis, Jeet Heer, Karen Marrero, and Joseph Tohill Introduction Sheila McManus Historians are trained to respect the boundaries of geography by working within the political borders of whatever country we choose to study. There has been a dramatic rise in historians’ interest in comparative research and teaching in recent years, and this resurgence of comparative/transnational/borderlands scholarship in North America is dominated by junior scholars. The idea behind this roundtable was to bring together a handful of those scholars to discuss some of the ways in which our work is challenging and will continue to challenge the existing boundaries of the historical profession . The panel brought together senior PhD candidates and recent graduates, all of whom are currently working on some aspect of Canadian-American comparative/transnational/borderlands history , to discuss the ways our work challenges the boundaries of geography and the boundaries of current historical teaching and training. Canadian Review of American Studies 33 (2003) 140 The Benefits and Drawbacks of Writing History and Conducting Archival Research in Canada and the United States Dimitry Anastakis Today I’m going to talk a little bit about my experience of researching and writing a dissertation about a bilateral trade treaty, in this case the 1965 Canada–US Automotive Products Trade Agreement (auto pact), which touches upon many of the important political and diplomatic traits within each country. Now, I am sure that you will be pleased to hear me say that I am not going to discuss the details of that famous agreement, and all of the implications of its creation and eventual demise. Instead, I want to speak very briefly about the some of the benefits and drawbacks that stem from doing such a project. But before I begin, I would like to make one point. In doing this particular project , I was not really doing comparative history per se, but there were many aspects of the issue which inevitably led to comparisons between the two countries when it came to their differing political, economic, and social systems. It is important to remember that I was examining a single treaty, that was negotiated, signed and implemented by Canada and the United States. I was not really comparing the two countries, but rather analyzing their approach to a single issue. Nonetheless, there are obviously some comparative aspects to the research (Anastakis “Auto Pact”). First, let’s talk about some of the drawbacks of doing such a project. As Sheila, Joseph, and I have joked in the past, when you do something like this, you are really doing two dissertations for the price of one. You end up having to do twice the background reading, twice the research, and spend twice the amount of time conceptualizing Revue canadienne d’études américaines 33 (2003) 141 your work and its outcomes. While your bibliography might be doubly impressive, I am not sure that your dissertation committee is willing to give you twice the amount of credit for your work. In any event, doing such a project, which deals with the US and Canada, requires you to become familiar with two entirely different yet closely related political, economic, and governmental systems, which can lead to some interesting outcomes in your research. For example, the governments of Canada and the United States are based on similar fundamental concepts: democracy, the rule of law, and federalism. While these surface similarities might lead one to believe that writing about an issue which impacts upon these fundamentals would be easier, this is not the case. Though both are democracies, Canada’s is a parliamentary democracy, while the US possesses a Congressional system. In terms of treaty-making and treaty-signing, this entails radically different approaches within each governmental system. In 1965 Lester Pearson was hanging on with a tentative, minority government. In the US, Lyndon Johnson had just won an overwhelming presidential victory, and his party was in control of both the House and the Senate in Congress. Yet...


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