History Slam Episode 156: For Home and Empire

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By Sean Graham

When we talk about the First World War, it is usually in national terms. In Canada, there is discussion of national mobilization efforts and the federal government’s implementation of programs and policies to support the war effort. These efforts, though, took place at a local level. Battalions within the Canadian Expeditionary Force, for instance, were typically distinguished by where they were from – The Nova Scotia Highlanders, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, or the Saskatchewan Dragoons come immediately to mind. There were similar localized efforts when it came to raising money, rationing, and wartime production.

These local efforts within national programs were not unique to Canada, as Australia and New Zealand saw similar distribution of wartime mobilization. This is the subject of Steve Marti’s new book For Home and Empire: Voluntary Mobilization in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand During the First World War. In the book, Marti explores how federal governments relied on local, voluntary efforts to support national military operations. In doing so, communal bonds were strengthened, but so too were class, race, and gender boundaries.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Steve Marti about the book. We talk about the similarities between Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, why federal governments relied on local efforts, and the impact on local communities. We also chat about those who were excluded from local programs, the impact on fundraising, and how communities commemorated their war efforts.

Sean Graham is a historian at Parks Canada, an Adjunct Professor at Carleton University, and a contributing editor with Activehistory.ca

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