As a historian of Canada’s involvement in the First World War I get awfully tired of talking and writing about the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Especially tiresome is the intellectual work of critiquing the reification of Vimy’s nationalist mythology, a topic that seems to come up annually when its anniversary rolls around. The Vimy mythology has an enduring power.
Over the course of the last five years, four collaborators (Mary Chaktsiris, Sarah Glassford, Christopher Schultz, Nathan Smith) and I curated the “Canada’s First World War” series for ActiveHistory.ca that sought to problematize and expand our understanding of Canada’s experience of the First World War. We wanted to give voice to stories that had been lost in more monolithic narratives, to question accepted mythologies and to lift up subaltern histories that had been ignored. One of those narratives that most dominate this history and most obscure others is the Vimy mythology, and one of our primary goals was to finally expose Canadians to the problems associated with viewing Canadian identity and nation building through a Vimy-hued lens. We did publish one article on Vimy, by Canadian War Museum historian Nic Clark, but the article’s critique of Vimy’s place in Canada’s mythology supported this goal.