The image of farmers and workers called to the battlefields endures in Canada’s social memory of the First World War. But is the ideal of being a citizen first and a soldier only by necessity as recent as our histories and memories suggest?
Militia Myths brings to light a military culture that consistently employed the citizen soldier as its foremost symbol, but was otherwise in a state of profound transition. At the time of Confederation, the defence of Canada itself represented the country’s only real obligation to the British Empire, but by the early twentieth century Canadians were already fighting an imperial war in South Africa. In 1914, they began raising an army to fight on the Western Front. By the end of the First World War, the ideological transition was complete: for better or for worse, the untrained civilian who had answered the call-to-arms in 1914 had replaced the long-serving volunteer militiaman of the past as the archetypal Canadian citizen soldier.
Militia Myths traces the evolution of a uniquely Canadian amateur military tradition – one that has had an enormous impact on the country’s experience of the First and Second World Wars.
Based on extensive research into the writings of Canadian citizen soldiers in peacetime and in war, Militia Myths will be of interest to anyone who has ever looked at a cenotaph and wondered why so many young men answered the call to arms in 1914–18.
In the superb analysis of Militia Myths ...Canadian historian James Wood recaptures the ideological origins and evolution of the conceptual foundations that shaped Canada’s Army during its most formative years ... he has in a single effort replaced many outdated and erroneous myths about Canada’s Army with solid evidence-based research and analysis, effectively delivering what will undoubtedly become a must-have book in every Canadian military library. Militia Myths is one of the best books in Canadian military - history I’ve read this year, and it is highly recommended to all.
Wood’s work expands our knowledge of the Canadian militia beyond the elite imperialists and general officers commanding. By a close study of the Canadian Military Gazette and the speeches of militia officers and advocates, he shows the complex varieties of thought regarding the role of the citizen soldier in Canadian defense. By doing so he muddies the waters of the traditional historiography surrounding imperialism and the militia in Canada. More a history of military thought than a discursive study of popular conceptions, the work will appeal to academic military historians, while leaving gendered analysis and discourse and identity studies to the social historians.
This is a very good study of the development of the Canadian citizen soldier ... that makes a significant contribution to the scholarly literature in the field of Canadian military history.
This is a must-have book in Canadian military and social history, representing both fields at their very best. Wood sets the record straight on one of the most discussed but nonetheless little known concepts in our history: the militia myth. For the first time, we have a real and compelling understanding of what was once demonized in our history – the idea of being a citizen first and a soldier if necessary.
Militia Myths is an engaging and important book. It revises our understanding of military professionalism in the early twentieth century. Wood shows the distinction between amateur and professional soldiers in modern warfare to be more complex than we have come to believe. His work is sure to stimulate further study of the pre-1914 period and the impact of the Great War on Canada’s armed forces.
Introduction: Canadian Ideas of the Citizen Soldier
1 A Military Spirit in Canada, 1896-98
2 An Army for Empire, 1898-1901
3 “Don’t Call Me Tommy,” 1901-04
4 “Who Are You Going to Fight?” 1905-08
5 Continental Commitments, 1909-11
6 Involuntary Action, 1911-14
7 War and Citizenship, 1914-17
8 Victory and Vindication, 1918-21
Conclusion: A Citizen’s Duty in “Canada’s Century”
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