The Cold War in Canada

While researching for an upcoming conference paper on transnational Nicaraguan twinning links – the United States is the apparently one of the few Western countries that calls these relationships “sister cities” – I came across two very interesting political cartoons. Both images, published in the Whitby Free Press, an independent press operating an hour from the heart of Toronto, depicted 1980s world leaders in a less than flattering light.


Whitby Free Press, November 30, 1983, 1.

The above image shows U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau – the father of Current PM Justin Trudeau – and Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov playing video games in an arcade. Reagan and Andropov are both playing a game labeled The Day After, a reference to the TV movie of the same name that premiered earlier that year and captured popular attention due to its graphic depictions of the horrors of nuclear war. It is also a reference to the increased tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during the “Second Cold War” of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The cartoon, which draws attention to the increasingly dangerous and apocalyptic contest between the United States and the Soviet Union, pokes fun at Trudeau’s dovishness and desire for detente between the superpowers, showing the prime minister playing a peaceful game as represented by hearts and a dove. Although he did not engineer it, Trudeau’s cooperative approach ultimately won out as relations between the United States and the Soviet Union warmed in the final years of the Cold War.


Whitby Free Press, January 18, 1989, 7.

The second image makes light of Reagan’s age – he was the oldest elected president of the United States – and shows him sleeping while holding a bottle of Geritol and riding a horse backwards. Although a rather funny cartoon, it highlighted a significant issue of the Reagan presidency. By his second term as president, Reagan demonstrated signs of significant mental decline, often forgetting important details about his own policies. At the time, many of the president’s critics blamed his “forgetfulness” on political intransigence, especially in the wake of the Iran-Contra scandal and the subsequent questions concerning Reagan’s role in the illicit arms deals. However, today most scholars believe that Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, which affected the president’s ability to govern in his second term. It is likely that his forgetfulness was less a ploy and more a result of his declining mental state. The president is also holding a jar of jelly beans, which, as we all know, was his favorite snack. At the time, this cartoon was meant to highlight the absurdity of Reagan’s final years in office. However, the cartoon also unintentionally serves to humanize Reagan by addressing his struggle with Alzheimer’s. My own grandmother is dealing with memory loss and, despite my opinions of Reagan’s policies, which aren’t good, I can not help but feel sorry him.

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Another piece I wrote up for Peace and Change

slide4This past week I attended the 63rd Annual Meeting of the Rocky Mountain Conference for Latin American Studies hosted by the Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies (RMCLAS) in Santa Fe, NM. While at the conference, I attended a number of panels and roundtables that presented scholarship and teaching practices that might prove interesting to peace and activist scholars.

Transnationalism proved a popular topic at the conference with three panels and a roundtable discussion dedicated to the theme. It is also not surprising that I attended these panels considering that I examine transnational networks. One particular panel, titled “Without Passports: International Solidarity in the Cold War,” presented a different views on international cooperation between North American and Latin American activists. In “International Agents: Locating Transnationalism in the Chicano Movement,” University of New Mexico graduate student Victor Andrew Oneschuck detailed the connections between the Chicano movement and political movements in…

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Feeling the Bern

A few weeks ago, I found out that this June I will present at the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations’ annual conference in San Diego as part of a panel discussing cities and municipalities as transnational actors. In preparation for my paper, which will discuss the international sister city or twinning movement with Nicaragua in the 1980s, I have been skimming through some digitized newspaper collections and, in the process, come across a number of articles discussing the former mayor of Burlington Vermont, Bernard “Bernie” Sanders.

It turns out that Sanders was not only a vocal opponent of the Reagan administration’s support for the Nicaraguan Contras, which he described as “a local issue” that robbed the Vermonters of the “funding we need for our children, our elderly people, our poor people,” but he also worked to promote peaceful relations with the Sandinistas.

In 1984, Sanders encouraged the creation of a sister city partnership between Burlington and the Nicaraguan city of Puerto Cabezas, which allowed for North American aid to reach the impoverished Central American community and facilitated a grassroots “people to people” diplomacy. In 1985, he visited Puerto Cabeza and later traveled to Managua in order to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship.

Today, the Puerto Cabezas/Burlington sister city relationship, unlike many similar partnerships begun during this era, is still in effect, with the citizens of Burlington having helped create a tree nursery and other sustainability programs in Puerto Cabezas. For his part, Sanders, who the people of Vermont would later elect as one of their Senators and is currently competing for the Democratic presidential nomination, was deeply moved by his experiences in Nicaragua, which he described as “deeply emotional.” It is, however, unlikely that Sanders still holds Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who is criticized by many for the apparent corruption of his administration, in as high of esteem as he did in 1985.

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Mapping the Revolution

I’ve been mapping the transnational networks of the Nicaraguan Revolution for a few years now and I thought that I would share some of the data I have accrued. Below are a few visualizations and the accompanying data. You can download the spreadsheets and upload them to Palladio in order to recreate these visualizations.


Twinning and Sister Cities

Gabi Gottwald – Political Connections

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New Peace and Change blog post

In the world of digital collections and archives, few organizations compare to the HathiTrust. The multi-institutional library brings together the individual collection of its more than 100 partner institutions to create a digital clearinghouse of nearly 14 million total volumes, including books, journals, magazines and other print material. For scholars of interested in peace research, HathiTrust includes documents from a number of peace organizations, including the American Peace Society and the National Council for Prevention of War. It also includes numerous documents related to the U.S. government and a large catalog of digital books. In fact, roughly 39% of the works hosted by HathiTrust are in the public domain.

Below is an example of the type of documentation that can be found in HathiTrust. It is a program for the Fourth Annual American Peace Congress held in St. Louis, Missouri between May 1 and 3, 1913.

HathiTrust also…

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StoryMap JS

My latest blog post for Peace and Change

Later this week we will have the first post from Alisha Baginski (follow her on Twitter at @BAGINS_), Peace and Change’s student intern, who will be unveiling a digital project she created using StoryMap JS. Before the post debuts, I thought that I would introduce our readers to the digital tool that she is using and its applications in the classroom and beyond.

StoryMap JS is an open-source tool that allows users to create web-based, multimedia-rich narratives that emphasize the importance of geography. Developed at Northwestern University’s Knight Lab, the tool can be used by those looking for a simple means of telling a story ground in space. Built using Knight Lab’s Gigapixel, StoryMap JS also allows for the creation of media rich stories that incorporate videos as well as photographs, maps, works of art and any other image file.

Numerous news organizations, such as The…

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I recently came across a unique, and very useful, digital archive documenting the history of San Francisco called FoundSF. The archive is a wiki – a website that is maintained and edited through the collaborative processes of its users – that catalogs and presents historical artifacts from the San Francisco area. It contains digitized newspapers, videos, and pictures of San Francisco and the communities that call it home. The themes of the collection found on FoundSF range from broad discussions on race, gender, and the area’s ecology, to remembrances of San Francisco theme parks and attractions.

Perhaps to the surprise of few, there is much space dedicated to the various protest movements that rocked San Francisco over the latter half of the twentieth-century. In fact, a certain rebelliousness pervades the entire archive, with many of the conventions of impartiality ignored. As the curators point out, “FoundSF does not have…

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