Focus on Sabbatical: Andrew Nicholls

Andrew NichollsA sabbatical and a little patience was what Andrew Nicholls needed to get his forthcoming book off the ground. The associate professor of history and social studies education took the fall 2007 sabbatical semester to write Strange Nations and Their Countrey’s Spolyes: Canada, Early Stuart Britain, and the War That Wasn’t. And he recently learned that McGill-Queen’s University Press will publish the book next year.

For Nicholls, news of the acceptance was especially gratifying. He has researched the book’s topic since his graduate school days.

Central to the book is an event that Nicholls said has received “little analysis” from academe: the seizure of Quebec by the Kirke brothers in 1629 and its occupation by the English until 1632. Nicholls explains in his book that as the Kirke-led English “proxy force” had captured the land from French settlers, King Charles I reached a peace agreement with France over a war fought since 1627. This coincided with related efforts to plant a Scottish colony in what became Nova Scotia. Were it not for the agreement, the future of North America might have unfolded very differently.

“The new book takes a holistic approach to looking at British and North American history, examining topics such as national security, colonization, shipping policies, court politics, and domestic wartime issues,” Nicholls said. “At its heart is the assertion that we should not allow modern-day political boundaries to obscure the interconnected nature of Early Modern European ventures in North America.”

The sabbatical not only allowed Nicholls time to write the book but also helped him discover new avenues for research.

“The Internet has changed what research used to be for many historians,” he said. “Our library has access to a great database of historic literature. Finding information has become a more democratized process—I no longer have to travel for some of the information I need. It’s eye-opening to see how available information is, and that changes what I’m able to assign to students.”

Nicholls became particularly busy toward the end of his sabbatical when he picked up two additional projects. He worked with Bruce Fox, photography and graphics coordinator for Instructional Resources, to digitize World War I–era postcards from a variety of countries. Nicholls is working with Marc Bayer, information systems librarian at E. H. Butler Library, to create a virtual museum of the postcards, which, he said, would provide a “great study of twentieth-century literacy.” Nicholls also began work with David Carson, chair and professor of history and social studies education, on a study about slavery and abolitionism that was presented in February at the Burchfield Penney Art Center at Buffalo State.

Besides the additional projects, Nicholls also had an “engagement” that kept him busy during the sabbatical: he got married in October 2007. The timing overlap, he said, was not planned.

Nicholls already looks forward to a future sabbatical and hopes the new book—his third—is a charm. “I hope the book will find its own audience,” he said. “It would be great if journals and popular history magazines reviewed it, and if it strikes a chord with a variety of readers.”

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