Canadians often characterize their military history as a march toward nationhood, but in the first eighty years of Confederation they were fighting for the British Empire.
From 1867 to 1947, war or threat of war forced Canadians to consider what bound them as a nation and entangled them in a string of overseas conflicts. The contribution of Canadian lives and resources to imperial warfare supported a constitutional transition from colony to nation, but it also disrupted the comfortable logic of national imperialism and fundamentally transformed popular perceptions of Canada’s relationship to the Empire. As French Canadians, Indigenous peoples, and those with roots in Continental Europe and beyond mobilized in support of war and to protect their rights as British subjects, their participation challenged the imagined homogeneity of Canada as a British nation.
From soldiers overseas to workers and volunteers on the home front – and from the cultural ties of imperial pageantry to the social bonds of race and class – Fighting with the Empire examines the paradox of a national contribution to an imperial war effort. This insightful collection of connected case studies explores the middle ground between narratives that celebrate the emergence of a nation through warfare and those that equate Canadian nationalism with British imperialism.
This book will be of interest to scholars and graduate students of Canadian history and military history, particularly those engaged in questions of national and imperial identity and the experience of world wars.
Fighting with the Empire addresses central controversies about the very nature of Canadian national history and how imperialism and nationalism intersect. It exposes ethnic and racist assumptions and offers original insights into how different groups used the Crown and British heritage in their pursuit of particular goals. I highly recommend it.
Steve Marti is a First World War historian based in Kingston, Ontario. He is the author of the forthcoming book For Home and Empire: Voluntary Mobilization in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand during the First World War, and a co-editor of The Great War: From Memory to History.
William John Pratt is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta. He has published a variety of articles and book chapters on Canadian military history and Western Canadian history and co-edited several volumes of the University of Calgary History of Medicine Days conference proceedings.
Introduction / Steve Marti and William John Pratt
Part 1: Mobility and Mobilization
1 Fathers and Sons of Empire: Domesticity, Empire, and Canadian Participation in the Anglo-Boer War / Amy Shaw
2 Daughter in My Mother’s House, but Mistress in My Own: Questioning Canada’s Imperial Relationship through Patriotic Work, 1914–18 / Steve Marti
3 Postal Censorship and Canadian Identity in the Second World War / William John Pratt
Part 2: Persons and Power
4 Guardians of Empire? Imperial Officers in Canada, 1874–1914 / Eirik Brazier
5 Francophone-Anglophone Accommodation in Practice: Liberal Foreign Policy and National Unity between the Wars / Robert J. Talbot
6 Claiming Canada’s King and Queen: Canadians and the 1939 Royal Tour / Claire L. Halstead
Part 3: Hardly British
7 For King or Country? Quebec, the Empire, and the First World War / Geoff Keelan
8 Anti-fascist Strikes and the Patriotic Shield? Canadian Workers and the Employment of “Enemy Aliens” in the Second World War / Mikhail Bjorge
9 First Nations and the British Connection during the Second World War / R. Scott Sheffield
Conclusion / Steve Marti
Selected Bibliography; Index
Canada and the British World
Culture, Migration, and Identity
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