Hands-on his­tory

Au­thors Deirdre Kessler and Dou­glas Bald­win write “The Char­lot­te­town Con­fer­ence and the Birth of Con­fed­er­a­tion”, in prepa­ra­tion for coun­try’s 150th birth­day

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY SALLY COLE scole@the­guardian.pe.ca

Au­thors Deirdre Kessler and Dou­glas Bald­win write “The Char­lot­te­town Con­fer­ence and the Birth of Con­fed­er­a­tion”, in prepa­ra­tion for coun­try’s 150th birth­day.

For Cana­di­ans, the birth of Con­fed­er­a­tion is a pop­u­lar sub­ject.

In fact, ap­prox­i­mately 50 books and 100 jour­nal ar­ti­cles have been writ­ten on the topic.

So when Deirdre Kessler and Dou­glas Bald­win were asked by Nim­bus to write a book about the road to Con­fed­er­a­tion for its “Sto­ries of our Past” se­ries, they wanted to cre­ate some­thing that would be in­for­ma­tive and vis­ual.

“For the most part, un­less we have good imag­i­na­tions, we don’t nec­es­sar­ily know all of the so­cial, cul­tural, me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal and artis­tic views of a place,” says Kessler, who set about col­lect­ing de­tails like the weather and the moon phases dur­ing the Char­lot­te­town Con­fer­ence in 1864.

Then there was the his­tory that oc­curred be­fore the Fa­thers of Con­fed­er­a­tion set foot in Char­lot­te­town as well as ev­ery­thing that hap­pened at the con­fer­ence.

“We tried to write it in a lively man­ner that would keep the in­ter­est of the gen­eral reader who grew up in a dif­fer­ent age than when the first Con­fed­er­a­tion books were writ­ten,” says Bald­win, a Cana­dian his­to­rian, dur­ing an In­ter­net in­ter­view.

“We also tried to in­clude the con­clu­sions of the more re­cent an­a­lytic works with­out get­ting bogged down in de­tails.”

Work­ing to­gether, the coau­thors have cre­ated a his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ence for adults that blends Kessler’s artis­tic back­ground and Bald­win’s aca­demic back­ground in an en­gag­ing man­ner.

“It worked per­fectly .... We de­cided who would re­search and write the dif­fer­ent sec­tions of the book and then sent the dif­fer­ent drafts back and forth,” says Bald­win, who is Kessler’s brother-in-law.

The re­sult is a colour­ful, pocket-sized guide, “The Char­lot­te­town Con­fer­ence and the Birth of Con­fed­er­a­tion” (Nim­bus), filled with bright im­ages. Whether it’s Robert Har­ris’ oil study of The Fa­thers of Con­fed­er­a­tion, his water­colour of Mount Ed­ward Road in 1871, a fea­ture on hoop skirts worn by the Moth­ers of Con­fed­er­a­tion or in­di­vid­ual por­traits of the Fa­thers, there’s some­thing for all in­ter­ests.

The book is also sprin­kled with pic­tures of ar­ti­facts: coins, stamps, maps, post­cards and other doc­u­ments from the time.

“(We have also in­cluded) the words of the Fa­thers of Con­fed­er­a­tion — par­tic­u­larly quo­ta­tions from Ge­orge Brown’s fas­ci­nat­ing let­ters to his wife,” says Bald­win.

This hands-on his­tory guide comes at an im­por­tant time.

With the re­cent an­niver­sary of the Char­lot­te­town Con­fer­ence and the forth­com­ing 150th an­niver­sary of Con­fed­er­a­tion in 2017, the au­thors felt it was time to retell P.E.I.’s role at a piv­otal mo­ment in his­tory.

“Deirdre, of course, is a pro­lific writer of young peo­ple’s books and fic­tion and po­etry books for adults. And I have writ­ten sev­eral books on P.E.I. So we were both prac­ticed in writ­ing for the gen­eral reader.”

For Kessler, the fun was set­ting the scene for the book so that Bald­win’s care­ful re­search of the di­aries of the Fa­thers of Con­fed­er­a­tion could be put into the con­text of what hap­pened that week.

“That first week of Septem­ber had the weather that we rhap­sodize about. There were no mos­qui­toes. But it was warm so peo­ple could still swim. So when the del­e­gates sailed into the Char­lot­te­town Har­bour, it was beau­ti­ful. And when they walked that street, no mat­ter what time of the day, it was beau­ti­ful.”

JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN

Deirdre Kessler holds some of her re­cent books. She is the co-au­thor of “The Char­lot­te­town Con­fer­ence and the Birth of Con­fed­er­a­tion” a new book by Nim­bus Pub­lish­ing. She wrote the book with Dou­glas Bald­win, a Cana­dian his­to­rian.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

“The Char­lot­te­town Con­fer­ence and the Birth of Con­fed­er­a­tion” is a new book by Deirdre Kessler and Dou­glas Bald­win.

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