Meet Beverly Lemire!

19 October 2020

  1. Where are you from and how did you end up in your field? 
    1. I grew up in Montreal where I took 1 year of a BA. Then I lived various places in Ontario, ultimately going to the University of Guelph as a mature student, married with a three-year-old daughter.
    2. I was always interested in large historical questions, including the British ‘industrial revolution,’ which began with the cotton industry. But more than that I was fascinated by links and connections, including the importance of the Indian cotton trade and the response to its imports in Britain. These ranged from a craze for Indian cottons (from the wealthy to ordinary folk), followed by months-long anti-calico riots against women wearing calico (stripped and beaten), plus the determined efforts by British manufacturers to replace Indian goods with British-made fabrics. Throughout, ordinary people played many parts, which fascinates me in the study of history. 


  1. What is your current area of research? 
    1. Material culture analysis is at the core of my research. Things reflect social groups and can shape events. Presently, I examine the ways material practices (1600-1900) were used to shape culture and society in the former British empire, including the transmission of racism, through media linked to tobacco: advertisements, tobacco jars and even pipes, for example. Understanding the multiple ways ‘whiteness’ was created and normalized requires reassessments of ordinary things and routine processes, from starched white shirts to the values assigned to laundry.


  1. What are your hobbies? 
    1. Cooking is a window into culture; I like to cook and to learn more about herbs and spices and vegetables.
    2. I pay attention to nature whenever I can through gardens or bird watching, as well as through travel.


  1. What advice would you give incoming students? 
    1. Be curious. Become comfortable with uncertainty and with uncomfortable histories. And pursue your interests.