Our mandate:

  • To encourage a deep knowledge, understanding, and expression of Prince Edward Island;
  • To serve as a bridge between the University and Island communities;
  • To contribute to the formulation of public policy in Prince Edward Island;
  • To undertake comparative studies of Prince Edward Island and other islands.


UPEI announces UNESCO Chair in Island Studies and Sustainability
Chair will be co-held by Dr. James Randall and Dr. Godfrey Baldacchino

Charlottetown, PEI (July 22, 2016)—Dr. Robert Gilmour, Vice-President Academic and Research at the University of Prince Edward Island, today announced a new UNESCO Chair in Island Studies and Sustainability. The chair will be co-held by Dr. James Randall, a geographer and coordinator of UPEI’s Master of Arts in Island Studies (MAIS) program, and Dr. Godfrey Baldacchino, a professor of sociology at the University of Malta and an Island Studies teaching fellow at the University of Prince Edward Island.

Drs Randall and Baldacchino

“The UNESCO Chair is a singular achievement for the university, particularly for the program in Island Studies,” said Dr. Robert Gilmour. “The chair formalizes and reinforces the combined efforts of our former Canada Research Chair, Dr. Baldacchino, and the current coordinator of UPEI’s MAIS program, Dr. Randall, and, as such, significantly enhances the international impact of one of the university’s signature initiatives.”

The UNESCO Chair in Island Studies will work to establish and expand academic and research programmes on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Sub-National Island Jurisdictions (SNIJs). It will operate from the premise that SIDS and SNIJs are innovative, entrepreneurial, and connected, not vulnerable, lacking, and isolated. The chair is one of 700 UNESCO chairs around the world and is the first in Atlantic Canada.

“The relevance of islands to our world at the moment is unparalleled. From political turmoil in the South China Sea, to the impacts of climate change, to refugee movements through Europe, to the role of offshore financial centres, stories about islands and islanders seem to be in the news every day,” said Dr. James Randall. “This Chair brings together the people and the organizations doing island studies research and learning in order to help us solve some of the great challenges facing our world.”

The principal long-term mission of the Chair of Island Studies and Sustainability is to contribute to the sustainable development of SIDS—a UNESCO priority since the articulation of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000—and to extend this priority to SNIJs. The chair proposes to harness the insights and experience of island studies scholars, students, governments, and organizations worldwide, many of which the co-chair-holders, the Institute of Island Studies, and partners and supporters have already established.

“It is a great privilege to be the co-holder of the UNESCO Chair Program at UPEI along with my colleague Dr. Jim Randall,” said Dr. Godfrey Baldacchino. “UPEI has made huge investments in island studies over almost four decades and has developed a world class and world renowned reputation and expertise as a result. Most island studies roads lead to, or pass through, Charlottetown; the UNESCO Chair is a natural transition which now allows us to take the game to the next level, whether in public engagement, cutting edge scholarship, or research funding.”

“It is most edifying to see the strong relationship between the University of Prince Edward Island and the University of Malta cemented with this prestigious UNESCO Chair appointment—a first for both our institutions,” said Professor Alfred J. Vella, Rector of the University of Malta, in Malta. “In this way, our respective expertise in the study of islands and small jurisdictions is better recognized. I look forward to an even stronger island studies program, driven by the competitive advantage that our two institutions enjoy in this field.”

This chair is created through the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme, which has promoted international inter-university cooperation and networking since 1992 to enhance institutional capacities through knowledge sharing and collaborative work. The programme supports the establishment of UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks in key priority areas related to UNESCO’s fields of competence – i.e. in education, the natural and social sciences, culture, and communication.

For more information on the UNESCO Chair in Island Studies and Sustainability, see http://projects.upei.ca/unescochair/.

Island Studies Press publishes new book:

Time and a Place cover



AUTHORS: Edward MacDonald, Joshua MacFadyen, Irene Novaczek, John R. Gillis, Graeme Wynne, David Keenlyside and Helen Kristmanson, Douglas Sobey, Rosemary Curley, Jean-Paul Arsenault, Boyde Beck, Alan MacEachern, Kathleen Stuart, Claire Campbell, and Colin MacIntyre



Time and A Place: An Environmental History of Prince Edward Island
Edited by Edward MacDonald, Joshua MacFadyen, and Irene Novaczek

Time and A Place tracks PEI’s changes from the Ice Age to the Information Age. Putting PEI at the forefront of Canadian environmental history, It is a remarkable work that illuminates the numerous forces that shape and change ecosystems.
With its long and well-documented history, Prince Edward Island makes a compelling
case study for thousands of years of human interaction with a specific ecosystem. The pastoral landscapes, red sandstone cliffs, and small fishing villages of Canada’s “garden province” are appealing because they appear timeless, but they are as culturally constructed as they are shaped by the ebb and flow of the tides. Bringing together experts from a multitude of disciplines, the essays in Time and A Place explore the island’s marine and terrestrial environment from its prehistory to its recent past. Beginning with PEI’s history as a blank slate – a land scraped by ice and then surrounded by rising seas – this mosaic of essays documents the arrival of flora, fauna, and humans, and the different ways these inhabitants have lived in this place over time.

Time and A Place is a co-publication with McGill-Queens University Press. For more details and information to purchase copies, see: http://projects.upei.ca/isp/upcoming-titles/
Click here for an interview with editor Ed MacDonald.

A Tribute to Long-time Friend of the Institute of Island Studies: Dr. George McRobie
by Harry Baglole

George McRobie 2010

Dr. George McRobie died in Charlottetown on Friday, July 2nd. The trajectory of his remarkable life took him from his birthplace of Moscow (1925), through his childhood in northern Scotland, his highly successful career in London and throughout the world, and finally here to Prince Edward Island, his half-time home since 2009. He was a man of great personal warmth and charm, much beloved by his many friends on the Island.

McRobie achieved fame through his close association with the British economist E.F. Schumacher and what could be called the “Small Is Beautiful” movement. They first met while Schumacher was Economic Advisor to the National Coal Board. For Schumacher, international attention came with the publication of Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered, in 1973. This seminal work has been named by the Times Literary Supplement as one of the 100 most influential books published since World War II.

As well as being a fine theorist, Schumacher was also a remarkable man of action, and in McRobie he found a willing and capable colleague. Together they were founders of the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) in 1966, a UK-based NGO specializing in creating small-scale technology for developing countries. In 2005, the ITDG changed its name to Practical Action, and today it claims that “every year we help over one million people out of poverty.”

Schumacher and McRobie both served stints as President of the Soil Association, the main British organization promoting the use of organic agriculture.

For rather obvious reasons, the book Small Is Beautiful found a ready audience in Prince Edward Island. In 1975, McRobie first visited the Island, where he spoke to the Legislative Assembly at the invitation of Premier Alex Campbell.

With Schumacher’s death in 1977, the mantle of leadership fell on the shoulders of McRobie. In 1981 he published his book Small Is Possible – a “factual account about who is doing what, where, to put into practice the ideas expressed in E. F. Schumacher’s SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL.” McRobie’s purview encompassed the whole world; and in the chapter on Canada, he lauded the Island’s Institute of Man and Resources as one of “the two most striking and imaginative programmes” he had encountered in our country.

In later years, McRobie’s ties to the Island were strengthened when he was invited back on several occasions, at the invitation of the Institute of Island Studies, as an advisor on worker co-operatives and sustainable agriculture. In 1989, he was awarded an Honorary Degree by UPEI.

Dr. McRobie also has a close association with the Sir Andrew Macphail Foundation. This began in 1990 when he was tasked by the Institute of Island Studies to write a report outlining a vision for the Homestead in the demonstration and promotion of sustainable farming and forestry. Since 2011, the Homestead has hosted an annual George McRobie Lecture on the subject of sustainable agriculture – and George attended all five of these. The guest speaker at the inaugural McRobie Lecture was Patrick Holden, founder and head of The Sustainable Food Trust, and a friend of McRobie’s during the years they worked together at the Soil Association.

On a more personal note, George’s residency on the Island in recent years is entirely due to the sustainable devotion of his wife Susanne Manovill, friends since he visited here in the 1980s. In 2009 George was a widower, and Susanne invited him to return for a visit. Since then, Susanne and George have been inseparable.

Harry Baglole of Bonshaw is a former Director of UPEI’s Institute of Island Studies.(PHOTO by Francoise Enguehard)


Two good friends of the Institute of Island Studies receive awards at Congress in Calgary!


Congratulations go out to Dr. Lisa Chilton and Dr. Edward MacDonald of UPEI’s history department, who were nationally recognized for excellence in research and service. READ MORE…

Island Lecture Series continues…
John Cousins presents Island Studies April Lecture:
New London: The Island’s Lost Dream
Tuesday, April 19 | 7 p.m. | SDU Main  Building Faculty Lounge

John Cousins

The Island Studies Lectures Series concludes this season on April 19 with historian/folklorist John Cousins presenting a lecture entitled “New London: The Island’s Lost Dream,” tracing the rise and fall of the “Quaker” village of New London between the years 1773 and 1795. The talk – a sneak preview of a book to be published later this year by Island Studies Press – gets under way at 7 p.m. in the SDU Main Building Faculty Lounge on the UPEI campus.

New London was unique in the history of Island settlements. It was begun not as a community of scattered farms but as a compact industrial village stretched along “Leadenhall Street,” the road leading to the harbour mouth. The villagers for the most part were woodsmen, mill workers, and artisans: shoemakers, blacksmiths, coopers and woodworkers like the famous Benjamin Chappell. There was even a village doctor: Dr. Cullshaw. The plan of Robert Clark, the London Quaker who owned Lot 21, was to exploit the sea and the forest of his Island properties and export fish and lumber to the Caribbean. In return, products from the Caribbean – rum and sugar, for instance – would be carried back to the Island.

The village was unique in other ways. It was planned as a Quaker community and its core families were Quakers from London and from the southern and western counties of England – some of whose descendants still live in the area. Powerful Quaker industrialists in England, among them John Townsend, a London pewter merchant, and William Cookworthy, the founder of England’s porcelain industry, were Clark’s supporters. Yet, within 20 years, the settlement at New London’s harbour mouth had died.

Using eyewitness accounts and correspondence from the time, Cousins examines the village’s birth, its middle years and finally the “perfect storm” of events which led to the end of Robert Clark’s dream: the American Revolution, the business failure of Robert Clark, and finally the machinations of Island politicians who seized part of Clark’s property. In the end the dream of New London and its founders died. However, the first-hand accounts of its early days recorded by Benjamin Chappell, Thomas Curtis and Joseph Roake demonstrate that the courage, grace and toughness of the first New Londoners outlasted the death of their dream.

John Cousins was born in the fishing village of Campbellton, Lot Four, western Prince County in 1945. He has been a fisherman, a school teacher, a school administrator, a historian and a folklorist and has published a number of works on PEI history and folklore. He taught as a sessional professor of folklore in UPEI’s History Department from 2000 to 2014. He is descended from John Cousins and Mary Townsend, whose families were among the first settlers at New London.

Admission is free and everyone is welcome to attend.

Chair of the Institute of Island Studies and Co-ordinator of the MAIS Program
Dr. Jim Randall shares his thoughts on Quality of Life with
PEI Standing Committee on Health and Wellness
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 | J. Angus MacLean Building, Charlottetown, PEI

Jim Randall low-res

Some of my research has been spent looking at quality-of-life indicators. I was part of a team at the U. of Saskatchewan that assessed neighbourhood level quality of life of residents. This team included geographers, epidemiologists, sociologists and business management professors from university as well as City Councilors and representatives of the health district and community-based organizations in the Saskatoon region. This research was carried out several times so we were able to fine tune an instrument that we were comfortable was fairly accurate in assessing how individuals felt about their own quality of life (degree of “happiness,” sense of belonging). It also was used to help direct public policy (neighbourhood inequality, health determinants and perceptions of personal health and security). As I will talk about shortly, this is only one kind of instrument that can be used to assess quality of life.

Since coming to UPEI I have maintained my working relationship with this group. We carried out another version of this quality of life project several years ago, comparing perceptions of quality of life among residents in Charlottetown, Hamilton and Saskatoon. We employed a survey research company to carry out a telephone survey for this work and then followed up with focus groups, especially focusing on newcomers to each of these urban places. READ MORE

Remarks from Dr. Jim Randall, Chair of the IIS Executive on The Geography of Governance are now online! Here’s a teaser…

I served as rapporteur for the symposium on “The Geography of Governance” hosted by the Institute of Island Studies on February 25th. As such, it was my pleasure to summarize the ideas and discussion from the meeting. Ms. Diane Griffin, a Councilor from the Town of Stratford and a Vice President of the Federation of PEI Municipalities, gave a powerful keynote address. She reminded the approximately 60 people in attendance that ninety percent of the province still has no land use zoning and those living on the seventy percent of the Island that is still unincorporated have little recourse when developments are proposed in their backyards. There is very little to prevent someone from building an incompatible activity right next to you. Moreover, you and your neighbours will have to share the additional costs of servicing this ad hoc development; everything from snowplowing to road maintenance.  Borrowing from Justice Ralph Thompson’s recommendations in the 2009 Commission on Land and Local Governance, the provincial government is kick-starting the conversation by trying to get us to think about what constitutes a viable community. Is it a minimum population (i.e., 4,000 people)? Is it a minimum real property assessment (i.e., $200 million)? Or is it about following natural or social features like watersheds or cultural homogeneity?

(And click here for more on the Symposium – including the video)…





Diane Griffin, Stratford Town Councillor and Vice-President of the Federation of PEI Municipalities





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