BA, MA, LLB, PhD
|City Councillor and Regional Director Victoria, British Columbia, Canada|
8 December 2011
19 January 1978 |
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
|Alma mater||University of London
University of New Brunswick
University of Victoria
Dr. Ben Isitt (born ca. 1978) is a Canadian historian and legal scholar with expertise in the relationship between social movements and the state. He holds public office as a city councillor and regional director in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Isitt's interest in world affairs and politics was sparked by a high school history class in which he was one of only two students to argue from the left. A backpacking trip through the United States further influenced him; the grade 12 student saw "glaring poverty." He entered the University of Victoria in 1996 and later became news editor of The Martlet. In a break after his first year, he took a 28-country trip through Europe and the Middle East, including a time working on an Israeli kibbutz. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in history and professional writing in 2001.
Graduate work and community involvement
While a Master's degree student at UVic, Isitt entered the contest for Mayor of Victoria as an independent candidate in 2002. This followed the decision of the Victoria Civic Electors, municipal arm of the New Democratic Party, against challenging the business-aligned incumbent Alan Lowe. Isitt's platform advocated for "a Cooperative & Green Victoria." David Turner, a New Democrat and Victoria's mayor from 1990 to 1993, endorsed Isitt for mayor for "his energy, vision and commitment to a more just distribution of resources." With 40 volunteers and $9 000, Isitt won more than five thousand votes, 32% of all ballots cast.
In 2003, Isitt finished his Master of Arts in history with a thesis on the origins of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in British Columbia. The same year, he was elected to the executive of the New Democratic Youth of Canada as policy director, endorsing Joe Comartin for leader of the NDP and serving on the party's federal council.
For a time Isitt lived in New Brunswick, pursuing a PhD in Canadian history; he was active in the NDP there, helping to revive the youth wing and writing for The Brunswickan. In 2005, Isitt once again ran for mayor, winning the nomination of the NDP-affiliated Victoria Civil Electors and capturing 43.6% of the votes cast, compared to Lowe's 51.9%.
In 2008, Isitt successfully defended his history dissertation Tug-of-War: The Working Class and Political Change in British Columbia, 1948-1972.
After working as a research officer for the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, Isitt worked as a postdoctoral fellow and assistant professor of history at the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia, teaching courses in Canadian and world history including introductory courses on Canada since Confederation and the Canadian West and advanced courses on labour, international relations and the peace movement.
Isitt is the author of three books, From Victoria to Vladivostok: Canada's Siberian Expedition, 1917-19 (University of British Columbia Press, 2010), Militant Minority: British Columbia Workers and the Rise of a New Left, 1948-72 (University of Toronto Press, 2011) and Duty with Dignity: The Professional Employees' Association in British Columbia (PEA, 2014). His research has been published in journals including the Canadian Historical Review, Canadian Journal of Political Science, Labour/Le Travail, International Labor and Working Class History, and BC Studies.
Isitt travelled across Russia along the Trans-Siberian Railroad in 2008 completing research for From Victoria to Vladivostok (University of British Columbia Press, 2010). This forgotten chapter in the social and military history of Canada and Russia saw 4200 Canadians serve in the Allied Intervention during the Russian Civil War. Isitt has returned to Russia several times, via China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan, presenting research at universities throughout Siberia and the Russian Far East. A Russian-language edition of From Victoria to Vladivostok has been published by the Korpus company in Vladivostok and a French-language edition has been published by Laval University Press.
In 2010, Isitt completed a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of London External Programme. He currently holds a fellowship with the Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria for doctoral research on the legal history of labour relations.
Isitt was elected to public office as a city councillor and regional director in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada in November 2011. He received 8,419 votes for city council, finishing fourth for eight available seats, and received 5,885 votes for regional director, the second-highest total for three spots allocated to the city. Isitt ran as an independent candidate, offering to "build a fair, safe and green Victoria." He currently serves on the city's Community Services Standing Committee, acts as liaison for the Blanshard-Hillside-Quadra and Rocklands neighbourhoods, and represents Victoria on the Capital Regional District board.