Thursday, November 26, 2015

History of military history

Who gets republished after fifty-three years?

Well, the late G.W.L (Gerald) Nicholson, for one.  McGill-Queen's is reprinting his 1962 work Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919: The Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War.  Nicholson (1902-80), a high school teacher turned WW2 soldier, became a Canadian Army official historian in 1943, and eventually the only one to whom Charles Stacey entrusted authorship of a volume in the Second War official history.

Then, since the First World War official history (planned in 8 volumes) had foundered, Nicholson sat down and whipped off his own one-volume version. That's the one being republished.  How will a survey from over fifty years ago stand up against the rivers of dissertations and monographs that have come along since?

Actually, the republication is a sign of the strength of Canadian military history. Jack Granatstein's 1998 call in Who Killed Canadian History? for much more work in Canadian military history has surely been amply answered. Canadian history in general is, well, still not quite dead yet, let's say, but military history surely thrives, with institutional support at the War Museum and the Forces' Directorate of History, strongholds in the universities, vigorous aid from agencies such as Historica, the Vimy Foundation, and the Juno Beach Foundation, and until last month, anyway, passionate encouragement from the government of Canada. And along with events and anniversaries, the books flow forth. Indeed, this fall McGill Queen's also offers The Embattled General: Sir Richard Turner and the First World War, a biography by William F. Stewart.
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