Studies in the History of Overseas Migrations
Wolfgang Helbich: The Pitfalls of Macrohistory: the Case of Waterloo, Québec
The Pitfalls of Macrohistory: the Case of Waterloo, Québec Wolfgang Helbich (Ruhr Universität Bochum) When, back in the 1990s, I started out on my Waterloo project, I committed no less than three mortal sins. I did not have a theory to guide me and justify what I was about to do. Nor did I have a preconceived methodology. And while I nev- er doubted I was doing history, I had no idea which label for some subdiscipline or revisionism or especially “turn” of history I was supposed to paste on my work. But frankly, all that did not really worry me. What I did know were my overriding questions behind the simple title, “Bi- cultural Cohabitation in Waterloo, Québec”: How did Anglo and French Cana- dians get along in a face-to-face society with a sizeable representation of either group during a period for which sufficient source material is available, or what was their relationship? And how did they differ in their socio-economic data, their tastes and preferences, their local, provincial, and national politics? Final- ly, did living in a bicultural town result in attenuating conflicts that were acute elsewhere, and could living together even exert a mutual (or one-sided) influ- ence sufficient to effect some change in behavior or values of one or the other group? During the first stages of my project, when trying to explain my intentions to colleagues, I sometimes used the term “microhistory”. For more than a dec- ade, I had been researching...
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