For Canadians, a popular retort about the War of 1812 is our supposed role in the burning of the White House. In 1814, British soldiers landed in Washington and looted the American capital. Canadians, in their minor role in the conflict as auxiliary forces, sometimes say that Canadians themselves burned down the White House. Despite any claims you might hear, it was British soldiers behind one of the most notable moments of the war. Where and how did the myth of Canadian involvement appear?Read More
In the aftermath of the First World War, many of the belligerent nations instituted memorials to the Unknown Soldier. First in France, Britain and Italy – then others – governments laid to rest the remains of a soldier that could not be identified. It symbolized the futility and terribleness of modern war that left so many of the dead lost to the churning trenches of European battlefields. The Unknown Soldier, though still familiar to us today, is a symbol of a time increasingly distant from contemporary commemoration.Read More
As Canada marks another Remembrance Day, the purpose and value of what we remember is again hotly debated. Last year we addressed questions about the “White Poppy” movement, the history of Remembrance Day, and why we imbue this day with such special significance. This year for 11 November, we want to explore the process that leads to these questions about the poppy as a symbol and Remembrance Day, as well as how it is changing in new ways.Read More
In his monumental work, The Great War and Modern Memory (1975), American literary historian Paul Fussell sought to situate how the men of the First World War gave meaning to their painful and life-changing experiences. But it wasn’t just a meaningful exercise for veterans of the First World War, for the book had been written at an opportune time about 60 years after the outbreak of war in 1914 and just 30 years after the end of Fussell’s war in 1945. Fussell had become interested in previous experiences not unlike his own—he sought to explore these experiences across time and space.Read More
In October 2012 six Canadian veterans who served in Afghanistan filed a class-action lawsuit against the federal government claiming that the compensation structure of the New Veterans Charter (2005) violates the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In this post we examine the historical context for the arguments provided by both sides.Read More
We are now in the centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War. No doubt some events will be incorporated into the ongoing commemorations, while others will be forgotten despite their seeming relevance at the time, like the trial of Madame Cailloux that enthralled the public in July 1914 just as the crisis in the Balkans unfolded. Memory – the combination of history that is remembered and forgotten – is hard to distinguish from history for non-historians. This is precisely why, as we've discussed before, it's important that the memory of the war be reasonably and clearly debated in the public forum. Though we might accept that the government has some license to instil a patriotic narrative about the war, it's equally vital that this narrative not overpower some of the basic historical facts put forward by historians. Outing “myths” about the war is especially useful for remembering what happened one hundred years ago and what has been forgotten.Read More
As today is 11 November, we want to explore the current and perhaps future of Canadian commemoration. Today, Remembrance Day has taken on a far different meaning than it's original intention. As we discussed last week, Remembrance Day originally sought to remember the end of the Great War – but after the outbreak of the Second World War it transformed into a broader act of remembrance about the tragedy of all wars. It was less about the First World War and became entrenched in the concerns of the present, and continues to be to this day. Yet, the language used to describe a different type of commemoration before the Second World War—Judeo-Christian rhetoric—is still applied to speak about events in later generations. The way we talk about war has changed very little over the last 100 years.Read More
The white poppy movement begun at the University of Ottawa has sparked a great deal of controversy about Remembrance Day and the use of the poppy as a symbol. Today, Clio's Current wants to add to this discussion by talking about the past and future of Remembrance Day in Canada.Read More
There are two major misconceptions about the Netherlands. The first is that every Dutch person speaks English and, second, that all Dutch people love Canadians for our role in liberating large parts of the country in 1945. As we approach Remembrance Day on 11 November, we've decided to explore the history of Remembrance Day and reflect on its future. Before we do that, however, today's post looks at Canada's involvement in the Second World War, particularly in the Netherlands, and how both the Dutch and Canadians have come to remember this period of history.Read More
Our last two posts have touched on two very distinct ideas: the ways in which Harper's Conservatives have politicized Canadian history and the recent developments involving Quebec sovereignty and Bill 99. In this post, we've decided to try and blend these two ideas together to look at the problems Harper's Government faces in commemorating the centenary of the Great War.Read More
In this post, we offer some reflections about the use of water as a weapon during the Second World War, and specifically its use in the southern Netherlands. The battle for the Scheldt, which took place between October and November 1944, began by flooding large swathes of Dutch territory in an attempt to dislodge Nazi occupying forces. In the end, and because of the mobilization of water as a weapon, this particular region in the Netherlands doesn't necessarily subscribe to the "sweetest spring" narrative typically associated with Dutch-Canadian relations in 1945.
This post comments on an article that appeared in the National Post on the 71st anniversary of the Dieppe raid in August 1942, when Canadian troops were tasked with penetrating the German defenses of the small French town. Dieppe has become one of the defining moments in many Canadian histories, and most often remembered as a failure because of disproportionately high causalities inflicted on Canada by Nazi Germany. By the end of 19 August 1942, about 901 Canadians had been killed in action, while 1,946 were captured and taken prisoner.Read More
The British government has recently unveiled its plans for the upcoming Great War centenary, which has sparked some controversy over what exactly the conflict accomplished and how people should remember it. Plans for official Canadian centenary events have yet to be made public, but we can expect similar discussions to take place between historians, journalists, and political commentators. In this post, we raise a number of important questions historians and the public at large might consider as we hear more and more about the First World War in the media.