FISHER, Robin (1946-)




Author Tags: Early B.C., First Nations, Forts and Fur

“By turning inwards on themselves rather than writing for the public, historians have been complicit in the decline of intellectual values in our society.” — Robin Fisher, 1993

One of British Columbia's foremost historians, Robin Fisher was born in New Zealand in 1946. He completed a BA at Massey University and an MA at the University of Auckland. He emigrated to Canada in 1970 to undertake a PhD. at the University of British Columbia. His academic career began in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University where he was appointed Assistant Professor in 1974 and Full Professor in 1983. In 1993, he accepted the position of founding chair of the history program at the University of Northern British Columbia. He later became Dean, Arts and Science and, in 1997, of a newly-formed College of Arts, Social and Health Sciences. In 2002, he joined the University of Regina as Dean of Arts. He joined Mount Royal University in Calgary as Provost and Vice-President, Academic, in 2005.

Fisher's first book was Contact and Conflict: Indian-European Relations in British Columbia, 1774-1890 (1977), the first of several titles to provide in-depth analysis of First Nations history and problems in British Columbia. In a nutshell, Fisher reveals that Aboriginals had been able to adjust gradually to changes wrought by the fur trade, wherein they could play an important role as partners, but they rapidly lost ground when the fur trade declined and colonization ensued. In the Spring 1976 issue of BC Studies Fisher also wrote a 16-page article entitled Arms and Men on the Northwest Coast to trace the introduction of firearms to Indians.

With photographs by Gary Fiegehen, Fisher’s Vancouver’s Voyage: Charting the Northwest Coast (1992) explores Captain George Vancouver’s journey from 1791 to 1795. “Exploration and discovery have become dirty words for many, given the rich, vibrant cultures which existed for generations before Vancouver and other Europeans arrived,” says Fisher. “Yet he participated in mutual discovery with natives, learned much that was new to him and his time and contributed to the revelation of the coast and its people to the world... It’s clear Vancouver was only human and had mixed motives, which is why what he did and thought two hundred years ago still speak to us today.”

In addition to his biography of B.C. premier Thomas Dufferin Pattullo entitled Duff Pattullo of British Columbia, he has co-edited a book on Captain Cook with Hugh Johnston. "I have a lifetime research project to conduct on-the-ground surveys of the Pacific landing places of Captain James Cook," Fisher says. "One of the most moving moments in my life was to watch the sun rise on the new millennium at Mercury Bay, NZ. More than two hundred years earlier, Cook observed the transit of Mercury."

Fisher co-edited with J.A. Bumsted the diaries of Ensign Alexander Walker on an 1875-86 voyage [see Alexander Walker entry]; and he co-edited From Maps to Metaphors: The Pacific World of George Vancouver (1993) with Hugh Johnstone.

In the 25th anniversary edition of BC Studies (#100), Robin Fisher wrote, “Perhaps there is something to be said for a moratorium on the use of bid D and F words — Derrida and Foucault — by historians, especially those who have not read either one very closely, even in translation. Unless we are careful, the current theoretical fads of discourse, deconstruction, and post-modernism, which are all taking academics in the direction that little is knowable, will end up being the last refuge of a know-nothing generation.”


Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Contact and Conflict: Indian-European Relations in British Columbia, 1774-1890
Duff Pattullo of British Columbia
From Maps to Metaphors: The Pacific World of George Vancouver
Vancouver's Voyage: Charting the Northwest Coast, 1791-1795

SELECTED BOOKS:

Fisher, Robin. Contact and Conflict: Indian-European Relations in British Columbia, 1774-1890 (UBC Press, 1977, 1992).

Fisher, Robin & Hugh Johnstone, editors. Captain James Cook and his Times (D&M, 1979).

Fisher, Robin. Duff Pattullo of British Columbia (UTP, 1991)

Fisher, Robin. Vancouver’s Voyage: Charting the Northwest Coast (Douglas & McIntyre, 1992). Photographs by Gary Fiegehen.

Fisher, Robin & Hugh Johnstone, editors. From Maps to Metaphors: The Pacific World of George Vancouver (UBC Press, 1993).

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2010] "Early B.C." "George Vancouver" "First Nations" "Forts and Fur" "Classic"