Tag Archives: WWI

  • The Sound of History: A Chronicle of Captain Eddie McKay

    University of Toronto Press commemorates 100 years since the end of the First World War by curating a selection of new and recent books that remind us of our nation’s history, courage, and sacrifice. Notable amongst these titles is One in a Thousand: The Life and Death of Captain Eddie McKay, Royal Flying Corps by Graham Broad.

    Broad’s lively chronicle of Eddie McKay, a varsity athlete at Western University, who flew with the Royal Flying Corps, doubles as an engaging meditation upon the historical process. The biography ends with four unsolved events in McKay’s life. These mysterious tales remind us that even the most detailed account of a person’s life is never complete.

    We’re proud to present a recording of Broad reading perhaps the most dramatic of these tales, “The Woman.” The short mystery has been divided into several instalments. Like the radio serials that were all the rage in McKay’s time, we will post a new audio track every day leading up to Remembrance Day – so you can enjoy the sound of history.


    Part One: The Woman

    Part Two: Who Was Maud Palmer?

    Part Three: An Unexpected Possibility

    Part Four: A Case of Mistaken Identity

    Part Five: The Mystery Returns

    Part Six: It's Not Impossible


  • One in a Thousand: One Hundred Years Later

    One hundred years ago, Eddie McKay, the WWI flying ace featured in One in a Thousand, was shot down and killed. To commemorate his life and death, and the publication this year of Eddie's story in an innovative new microhistory, author Graham Broad discusses how he was compelled to research, write, and publish Eddie's story. To learn more about Eddie McKay, you can of course get your hands on a copy of One in a Thousand, but we also urge you to check out Eddie's account on Twitter: @AEMcKayRFC

    I don’t believe in such things, but if I did, I’d say that Eddie McKay was pursuing me.

    About fifteen years ago, when I was a TA in the Canadian history survey at Western, I was asked to give a guest lecture about Canada in the First World War. It was my first lecture and I was quite unsure of myself, but I knew that the lecture would be more meaningful for the students if I told them about someone from their own university who had been killed in the war. The campus had no First World War cenotaph—it’s a long story—but I found Eddie's name in an old book about Western’s history. I looked into his story briefly. He was a rugby player who became a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. Perfect.

    I spent a few hours in the university archives looking for a picture of him to no avail. I left, stretching and yawning, rubbing my eyes, and paused to glance for a moment at a nearby display case. And there was an old and yellowed photo of Eddie McKay, wearing his rugby team uniform, looking straight back at me from the pages of a scrapbook about Western’s sports history. I alerted the archivist. “That’s weird,” she said. “I flipped to that page at random this morning.”

    Odd things like that happened again, over a decade later, when I decided to write a book about Eddie, like the time I took my laptop to the local market for a change of scenery. Sipping coffee and writing, I looked down for a moment at the top of the table. Somebody had etched “Eddie” in it. So that was weird, too.

    Again, I don’t believe in that stuff, but Eddie McKay does haunt me in a way. I can’t really claim to know him. Even if he had survived the war, it’s improbable that I ever could have: he would have turned seventy-eight the year I was born. Would I have liked him, or would he have liked me? He was athletic and a soldier. I am bookish, uninterested in sports, and unmilitary. And it would be incredible if he did not share many of the commonplace sentiments of his own age that rightly find no place in our own. Yet something about him compelled and still compels me inexorably. I’d mention him once a year when I guest lectured, and later in my classes when I started to teach. Then in 2007, I persuaded my senior seminar to do a little class project about him. Together, we gathered material about his life, at least the stuff we could get locally, and placed a commemorative marker for him on campus. I pass it often. My wife, who works at the university, can see it from her office window.

    In 2013, I hashed out an idea with Natalie Fingerhut, the Higher Education History Editor at University of Toronto Press. A biography, of sorts, of Eddie McKay. Could it be done? I dunno, I said. I’m not sure if there’s enough material. What the students and I had gathered in 2007 provided no more than a sketch. Even better, she proposed. It would really be two biographies: the story of Eddie McKay and the story of how I wrote that story—or failed to write it. A pedagogical microhistory.

    So, I committed biography, as they say. Sort of. I was able to locate only about six documents relating specifically to Eddie’s life prior to his twentieth year, for example, so the “biography” was pretty much confined to the last three years of his life when he was a student and soldier. Moreover, the experience of thinking my way through things I had taken for granted, such as how I went about doing history, why I believed the things I discovered about the past were probably true, laid me bare. Oh, back in the day I had taken the obligatory theory and methods courses, and I had wandered the thickets of “theory” over many hours of beer and argument with classmates who were convinced that there was nothing in this world that we could be convinced about. But I had always believed that, for all the interventions of the post-modernists, the core methodology of the historical profession hasn’t changed much over the years. We write about more things and often take a broader perspective, but fundamentally it seems to me that most historians do what historians have been doing for a very long time: they gather evidence to tell stories and make arguments about the past.

    My book, One in a Thousand: The Life and Death of Captain Eddie McKay, Royal Flying Corps, is the story of a promising young man who was killed in a terrible war. It is also the story about how I struggled to learn what I did about him, how I came to certain conclusions—however tentative—about him, and how I dealt with gaps in the record and the mysteries I couldn’t resolve. Where is he buried? Who was the mystery woman who inquired after him when he failed to return from his final patrol? What was in the envelope, addressed to him, that was never sent by the President of UWO in 1917? The book serves as an entry point, then, for students wanting to learn more about historical theory and method. It’s possible to skip the methodological discussions and read the book as biography alone, but it’s my hope that readers who come for the history will stay for the historiography.

    Eddie McKay was killed in action the day after his 25th birthday, 28 December 1917. For the past two years, I have been tweeting significant events in his life from @AEMcKayRFC. You can follow him there. In a future blog post, I’ll ruminate some about how I learned to stop worrying and love the tweet.

    Graham Broad is Associate Professor of History at King's University College at Western University and the author of A Small Price to Pay: Consumer Culture on the Canadian Home Front, 1939-1945 (2013).

  • Lest We Forget: UTP Titles for Remembering War History

    Tomorrow, University of Toronto Press will join Canada in thanking all who have served our country. We feel that it is important learn about our history so that we can properly honour the sacrifices made for us and so we can learn from the past. To that end, we would like to invite you to take a look at the following books.

    Winegard_FirstWorldOilWarThe First World Oil War

    By Timothy C. Winegard

    Oil is the source of wealth and economic opportunity. Oil is also the root source of global conflict, toxicity and economic disparity. When did oil become such a powerful commodity—during, and in the immediate aftermath of, the First World War.

    In his groundbreaking book, The First World Oil War, Timothy C. Winegard argues that beginning with the First World War, oil became the preeminent commodity to safeguard national security and promote domestic prosperity. For the first time in history, territory was specifically conquered to possess oil fields and resources; vital cogs in the continuation of the industrialized warfare of the twentieth century.

    This original and pioneering study analyzes the evolution of oil as a catalyst for both war and diplomacy, and connects the events of the First World War to contemporary petroleum geo-politics and international aggression.

    Celinscak_DistancefromBelsenHeapDistance from the Belsen Heap: Allied Forces and the Liberation of a Nazi Concentration Camp

    By Mark Celinscak

    The Allied soldiers who liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen in April 1945 were faced with scenes of horror and privation. With breathtaking thoroughness, Distance from the Belsen Heap documents what they saw and how they came to terms with those images over the course of the next seventy years. On the basis of research in more than seventy archives in four countries, Mark Celinscak analyses how these military personnel struggled with the intense experience of the camp; how they attempted to describe what they had seen, heard, and felt to those back home; and how their lives were transformed by that experience. He also brings to light the previously unacknowledged presence of hundreds of Canadians among the camp’s liberators, including noted painter Alex Colville.

    Distance from the Belsen Heap examines the experiences of hundreds of British and Canadian eyewitnesses to atrocity, including war artists, photographers, medical personnel, and chaplains. A study of the complicated encounter between these Allied soldiers and the horrors of the Holocaust, Distance from the Belsen Heap is a testament to their experience.

    Marrus_LessonsoftheHolocaustLessons of the Holocaust

    By Michael R. Marrus

    Although difficult to imagine, sixty years ago the Holocaust had practically no visibility in examinations of the Second World War. Yet today it is understood to be not only one of the defining moments of the twentieth century but also a touchstone in a quest for directions on how to avoid such catastrophes.

    In Lessons of the Holocaust, the distinguished historian Michael R. Marrus challenges the notion that there are definitive lessons to be deduced from the destruction of European Jewry. Instead, drawing on decades of studying, writing about, and teaching the Holocaust, he shows how its “lessons” are constantly challenged, debated, altered, and reinterpreted.

    A succinct, stimulating analysis by a world-renowned historian, Lessons of the Holocaust is the perfect guide for the general reader to the historical and moral controversies which infuse the interpretation of the Holocaust and its significance.


    covers3Living with War: Twentieth-Century Conflict in Canadian and American History and Memory

    By Robert Teigrob

    Canada and the United States: we think of one as a peaceable kingdom, the other as a warrior nation. But do our expectations about each country’s attitudes to war and peace match the realities?

    In Living with War, Robert Teigrob examines how war is experienced and remembered on both sides of the 49th parallel. Surveying popular and scholarly histories, films and literature, public memorials, and museum exhibits in both countries, he comes to some startling conclusions. Americans may seem more patriotic, even jingoistic, but they are also more willing to debate the pros and cons of their military actions. Canadians, though more diffident in their public displays of patriotism, are more willing than their southern neighbors to accept the official narrative that depicts just wars fought in the service of a righteous cause.

    A provocative book that complements critiques of contemporary Canadian militarism such as Warrior Nation, Living with War offers an intriguing look at the relationship with the military past on both sides of the border.

    For those local to Toronto, please find information about the Remembrance Day Ceremony at Queen’s Park here

  • Unlocking The First World Oil War

    Winegard_FirstWorldOilWarDr. Timothy C. Winegard discusses his interest in warfare, meeting his wife, and his new book The First World Oil War.

    How did you become involved in your area of research?

    I have been enthralled with warfare from a very young age. I can remember being in Grade One or Two and getting so excited for the Book Mobile to make its weekly visit to my school, because each week the librarians brought new war books specifically for me. To be honest, I suspect that many of them never actually got read, but I was fascinated by the photographs, knowing that my Grandfathers had served for Canada in these wars.

    My Great-Great-Grandfather Charles served in the Boer War and the First World War. My Great-Grandfather William served in both World Wars and his son, my Grandpa William, in the Second World War. They all served as “civilian soldiers.” I also have family members who served in Korea, Vietnam and the First Gulf War. Accordingly, I served nine years as an officer in the Canadian Forces, including a two-year attachment to the British Army. My name, Timothy Charles William Winegard, is a testament to their impact upon my family, and certainly myself.

    However, my primary passion has always been the First World War.  This is my fourth book, and the third looking at particular angles of the Great War.

    What inspired you to write this book?

    The origins of this book lie in a series of questions.  Having just published two books on global and Canadian indigenous peoples and the First World War respectively, my wife asked me, “What is your next book going to be on?”  Having been immersed in indigenous warfare and politics for the past six or seven years, I wanted to return to my roots as a pure military historian.  I had long ago written a journal article on the topic of this book.  In fact, that article on Dunsterforce from 2005, was the first piece of writing that I had ever published.

    I simply answered my wife’s question with: “Oil and War.”  Bewildered, she ingenuously asked: “Isn’t that a given?”  She unknowingly answered her own question, and the premise of this book.  And, yes, it is now a given.  But how, why, and when, did this marriage between oil and war happen?—during the First World War and its fraudulent peace.  And, how, why, and when, did the United States and the United Kingdom come to dominate global oil?—during the First World War and its fraudulent peace.   This book is, in essence, the answer to her question, and many more.

    How did you become interested in the subject?

    Simply put, oil dominates all aspects of modern society and has done so for the past century.  Oil was and is the catalyst for global conflict and aggression over this time period.  It really just seemed like a logical fit to trace the influence of oil on war and geo-politics from its starting point of the First World War to contemporary occurrences in the Middle East, Russia, the Ukraine, the Sudans, Nigeria, and of course this list could go on.  I also figured that with the Great War centennials approaching, now was the right time to finally sit down and write this book.

    How long did it take you to write your latest book?

    Adding in the time I spent researching, I would say roughly four to five years.  However, I wrote the actual manuscript/book over a two-year period.  The majority of this writing, however, was done over two summers, during my break from teaching, and coaching the university varsity hockey team.  During the actual school year, my time was limited, so while I did revisions and proof-reading, the actual writing occurred over two summer breaks.

    What do you wish other people knew about your area of research?

    Certainly that people forget just how much impact the First World War has had on our lives.  Most events that have transpired in the last 100 years, including current events, have their roots in the Great War: the spread of Communism, the creation of Israel, the troubles in the Middle East, the partitioning of borders across the globe based on oil concessions and arbitrary demarcations, the issues in the Balkans.  The list is endless.  The goal of this book is to tie together the circumstances of the Great War to contemporary events using oil as the medium.

    What’s the most surprising thing you discovered during the course of your research?

    Just how far the First World War (and oil) have taken us down the rabbit hole.  Some of the links and associations shocked me.  The rise of al-Qaeda, the politics of Afghanistan (and the entire greater Middle East for that matter), the corruption, and clandestine activities that took and take place to secure global oil rights.  It really is both mindboggling and fascinating.

    Do you have to travel much concerning the research/writing of your book?

    Compared to other books I have written; the research trips were not quite as hectic. I went to various archives and libraries in Canada, the United States, Britain, and Australia.  Although some of these trips overlapped with research for another book, so in this sense, I killed two birds with one stone.

    However, my research trips for this book produced my own adventures.  I was consumed by two tornadoes in the US, engulfed in a hotel fire in London, was subject to numerous cancelled flights, slept on countless acerbic airport floors and vinyl seats, and was forced to make an emergency landing at NORAD in Colorado Springs as the engine and baggage compartment of my plane were immersed in flames.  I suppose this is all a part of the travel and research process though!  I always joke that the actual writing part of the book process is the easiest, and I am sure many authors would agree.

    The best part of my research for this book, however, is that I met my wife Becky in Washington D.C. while I was at the US National Archives. I bought a ticket for a Washington Capitals game and she was sitting beside me.  She was in D.C. for a work conference, having flown in from Grand Junction, Colorado.  She is the reason I left Canada, and now live in Grand Junction, and teach and coach at Colorado Mesa University.

    What was the hardest part of writing your book?

    Aside from finding the time, I would say knowing what to include and what to exclude.  By that I mean trying to make the links from the Great War to more recent events clear to the reader, by not getting too focused on the details, but rather present the bigger picture of how it all fits together in one giant web of geo-politics and war.

    What are your current/future projects?

    Right now I am researching for a book on the political aspects surrounding the 1972 Summit Series of hockey between the Soviet Union and Canada. As Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip sings, “If there’s a goal that everyone remembers it was back in old ’72.”

    I am not really looking at the actual hockey that was played, nor Paul Henderson’s famous winning goal.  I am looking at the Cold War politics of the series, and the role played by both governments (and the United States) and their various security branches. The book will also look at the political aspects of the series on a national level in Canada, as it was made to coincide with the 1972 Federal Election.  Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made sure of this, as he thought the series (and what was thought at the time to be Canada’s certain victory), would unite the country, and Canadians would forget about the FLQ Crisis, French-English divisions, and spiraling unemployment and inflation.  He used the series politically to try to gain voting favour in the upcoming election.  While he was reelected in 72, it was with a minority government.  These are just a few of the political aspects which will be detailed in the book.  There was a lot of political maneuvering happening amongst Canada, the Soviet Union, the United States and even NATO, both at the international level and also on the domestic fronts.  As Phil Esposito remarked, “This is war.”  Indeed, it was a cold war both on and off the ice.

    What do you like to read for pleasure?  What are you currently reading?

    To be honest, I don’t get a lot of time to read for pleasure, although all of the reading I do for my research is pleasurable nonetheless! I am currently reading secondary source literature for my next book.  I also read the weekly magazine Economist dutifully.  Lately, my son and I have been reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid series for his bedtime story.  He is six, but we both love it—the vignettes mirror real life, and are quite hilarious.  We also like the Skippy John Jones kid’s series.

    What is your favourite book?

    This is a tough question!  I love J.R. Miller’s book, Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens: A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada.  It is brilliant, and I often say that I wish I would have written it.  Thomas More’s Utopia, and Machiavelli’s, The Prince are also two of my favourites.  And while I don’t read a ton of fiction, I do love Joseph Boyden’s, Three Day Road, and The Chrysalids by John Wyndham.  Some of my other favourite authors are: Hermann Hesse, Franz Kafka, William S. Burroughs, and Margaret Atwood.

    If you weren’t working in academia, what would you be doing instead?

    I am not sure, really, as this is what I always wanted to do, and worked towards. Well, I always wanted to play in the NHL, like every other Canadian kid!

    I have always said that I wanted to enter politics later in my life, like my grandpa did.  I always said I wanted to be a Member of Parliament, and perhaps the Minister of Defence or the Minster of Indian Affairs.  Obviously, my move to the United States has hindered that aspiration for the time being.  And since America won’t grant me dual citizenship, I cannot run for office here in America, as I will always remain a citizen of Canada.  When our kids are adults, we may move back to Canada, and perhaps I can pursue this further.  Who knows though: Life happens while you plan for it!

    I loved my time in the Army, but didn’t want to make it a career.  Before I met my wife, I was teaching at Western University in the Indigenous Studies Department, and had been accepted to study aboriginal law at the Law School.  I might have made aboriginal law a career, had I not met Becky when I did.  But, I love my job, both teaching at a university and writing.  This is what I was programed for.

  • Publishing with UTP Higher Education

    The Higher Education Division of UTP is quickly approaching its fifth anniversary, and in advance of this hallmark, we will be contributing monthly blog postings on the purpose and various functions of our division. Our first five years have been set amidst a background of rapidly changing technologies and shifts in the needs of teachers and scholars, and we would like to contribute our voices to the wider conversation. Our Editor, Natalie Fingerhut, continues the conversation with her description of the personalized treatment that authors receive when they publish with the Higher Education Division at UTP.

    As a prospective author, you can pitch your textbook idea to any number of publishers. Many of you choose big presses because you like the name brand. Some of you like presses where there are acquiring editors, developmental editors, copy editors, line editors. You don’t mind being shuffled from one editor to the next. Or maybe you do. Perhaps you are tired of not having your email returned. Perhaps you want to hear your editor’s voice over the phone but he or she never calls you back. Your editor has too many authors to deal with and can’t remember who you are. Maybe what you want is a more personal touch—a more human relationship with your editor.

    If so, UTP’s Higher Education Division is the place for you and your textbook.

    We editors at UTPHE pride ourselves on excellent customer service. We answer your emails within a day and if we reach an impasse, we call you to sort it out. I remember emailing with an author on a Sunday night. We were both home alone with our kids and I could tell that he was concerned about his book cover. So, I asked him if it was OK if we set up a phone meeting for that night at about 9:00 pm when all the kids were in bed. We talked for 15 minutes about how difficult it was to solo parent and what TV shows our kids liked best… and then we talked for 5 minutes about the book cover. Needless to say, he has published two books with me already and has another book on the way. So, yes, we editors go the extra mile with our authors because we are extremely appreciative of the work they do for us and we want them to be happy. In turn, they are appreciative of our work and we get repeat business and referrals. Everybody wins.

    Unlike some other presses, we stay with you and your book from its birth to its reincarnation in new editions. We do not leave you. We do not pass you off to some jargon-talking PR person. We do not leave you at the mercy of a junior editor. When we sit down with you at a conference to discuss your book idea over coffee or, more likely, a glass of wine, that is just the beginning of the relationship. If we successfully acquire the book, we have it reviewed. We take it through production. We present it at sales conferences. We take it to large North American conferences like the AHA, APSA, ASA, and AAA, as well as medium-sized and smaller conferences. We treat your book with the respect that it deserves because we understand how much time and effort has gone into writing it. We know that you are busy juggling multiple obligations and we also know that you have a choice in who you publish with, so we do our best to make the editorial process smooth for you. We want you to come back and we want you to bring your friends.

    Typically, this is how it goes (taken from a real email conversation, with the permission of the author):

    Graham Broad: Right, so what I want to do is write a short book about this WWI soldier who went to Western University and his letters and guide the student through the reading of those letters—just like I did with my own students.

    Natalie: That sounds creative. How did your students respond to it? I like when professors use ideas that have been tried in the classroom.

    Graham Broad: They loved it. My teaching evaluations have never been so high. They had to write papers about this soldier using his letters and they were fantastic. That’s why I thought it would be a good book to write. I have to be honest: I pitched to other presses, but no uptake.

    Natalie: Well, I can’t speak for other presses, but I think that the project fits with our mandate to publish materials for course use that are both useful pedagogical tools and that contribute to ongoing scholarship.

    Graham Broad: So, what are the next steps?

    Natalie: How about putting together a proposal? I’ll send you a link to our guidelines. After you submit your proposal, we will chat about it and then I’ll send it out for review. That usually takes between 4-6 weeks. I then prepare it for presentation to our editorial board which meets monthly. Once I have their approval, the UTP Board approves it, I send you a contract, and you go off and write the book.

    Graham Broad: I think I could have first draft to you in 2 years. Is that OK?

    Natalie: Absolutely. Most of our authors take between 2-3 years to submit a first draft. After I receive it, I’ll read it through and we’ll talk about whether it is ready for external review. If so, I’ll send it out again to three anonymous reviewers. When those come in—usually within 3 months’ time—I’ll organize the reviews and send you a review document and discuss a revision plan with you. When you submit your final version, I prepare it for production.

    Graham Broad: And how long does production take? I’ve heard nightmares about the potential delays.

    Natalie: We try to do it in a year—sometimes significantly less. Some books that have permissions and images take longer, but we try and keep it to a year maximum. Our goal is to publish it with enough time for professors to order exam copies and consider ordering it for their courses. We also gear our production schedule around important conferences to make sure that books get released in time to be promoted to key audiences. We are very time-sensitive with our books because we are market-driven.

    A personal touch means that real people work on the books we publish and of course life can get in the way of best-laid publishing plans. But good communication and a clarity of expectations lead to a great working relationship between author and editor, and ultimately to great books. We are always eager to work on interesting textbooks that have a point of view, and I’m excited to say that this micro-history on the WWI soldier was recently approved at our editorial meeting. We are confident that it will find an audience, and we base that confidence on our combined years of experience in editorial, sales, and marketing.

    Our editors have all spent time knocking on professors’ doors conducting sales calls. We ask you what kinds of teaching materials you want and we do our best to find them for you. We hear your concerns that your students are not good readers and we want to work with you to teach them how to do it better. Building critical thinking skills is our primary pedagogical goal, and we publish books with this goal in mind. We also hear your concerns about the lack of editorial freedom at big presses and we relish the opportunity to help you publish exactly the kind of book you want for your students. If you are intrigued by our approach, we hope you will consider working with us in the future!

    -Natalie Fingerhut, Editor

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