Nov. 10, 2016

The First World War: the Alberta experience

University of Calgary Press releases book of personal accounts from the battlefield and the home front
The Frontier of Patriotism.

The Frontier of Patriotism.

As Canadians pause on Remembrance Day to honour wartime sacrifices and members of the Canadian Armed Forces, a new book documents the unique experiences of Albertans and their contribution to national efforts during the First World War.

The Frontier of Patriotism: Alberta and the First World War, published by the University of Calgary Press, provides an in-depth look at all aspects of Alberta’s involvement in the war, reflecting the experience of Albertans both on the battlefield and the home front.

Contributors of the 40 essays drew heavily upon on national and local archival resources. The war is documented through the letters, diaries, photographs and memoirs of the individuals who lived through it, as well as through accounts in local newspapers.

“The dead were lying all around,” wrote Bruce Davies, a Lethbridge corporal, in a letter home from Belgium in June 1916. “I got out and crawled back into the trench. I found that I had been hit in the right leg pretty hard, also in the left knee. Previously none of these wounds had been dressed, the reason being that the stretcher bearers kept being blown to pieces ... My God, it was awful agony.”

The Frontier of Patriotism is the latest title in the series Beyond Boundaries: Canadian Defence and Strategic Studies. The series examines Canada’s role in international military and strategic studies, from peacebuilding and Arctic sovereignty to unconventional warfare and domestic security.

The book provides readers with a deep appreciation of the different ways in which the First World War and its aftermath shaped the lives of Albertans. An exploration of regional and local stories, as well as the national story, presents the commonalities and distinctiveness of Canadian identity.

"In the four years of the war and the decade that followed, modern Alberta took shape,” explains co-editor Adriana Davies, an Alberta researcher, writer, editor and poet.

“The health-care system was challenged by the high enlistment rate of doctors and the demands of the wounded who returned. Women played a greater role on the home front and achieved suffrage. This was happening in every community in Alberta! Social historians have been challenged to tell these stories."

The Frontier of Patriotism is the most comprehensive exploration of Alberta during these critical, transformational years.

“Alberta’s response to the First World War was overwhelming, providing among Canada’s highest enlistment rate and an incredible array of home front initiatives to support the war effort,” says co-editor Jeff Keshen, dean of arts at Mount Royal University and adjunct professor in the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

“The 40 essays comprising this anthology detail the all-encompassing impact of this conflict on a new province that became far more Canadian through shared sacrifice and outpourings of patriotism.”

The University of Calgary Press is overseen by Libraries and Cultural Resources and, as an open-access publisher, makes its titles available for free download in addition to selling in hard copy format. The Frontier of Patriotism is available by visiting the website.

Davies and Keshen were the featured lecturers Nov. 3 at The Military Museums of Calgary