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McKay, Ian & Jamie Swift: The Vimy Trap Or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War

Ian McKay & Jamie Swift

The Vimy Trap Or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War, Between the Lines Books, Toronto, 2016; e-book available

The story of the bloody 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge is, according to many of today’s tellings, a heroic founding moment for Canada. This noble, birth-of-a-nation narrative is regularly applied to the Great War in general. Yet this mythical tale is rather new. “Vimyism” – today’s official story of glorious, martial patriotism – contrasts sharply with the complex ways in which veterans, artists, clerics, and even politicians who had supported the war interpreted its meaning over the decades.

Was the Great War a futile imperial debacle? A proud, nation-building milestone? Contending Great War memories have helped to shape how later wars were imagined. The Vimy Trap provides a powerful probe of commemoration cultures. This subtle, fast-paced work of public history – combining scholarly insight with sharp-eyed journalism, and based on primary sources and school textbooks, battlefield visits and war art – explains both how and why peace and war remain contested terrain in ever-changing landscapes of Canadian memory. (blurb)

David Stephens reviews the book for Honest History, paying particular attention to Australian comparisons. Other reviews by Ruth Latta and Paul W. Bennett. Google Books extracts and e-book. Authors talk. Author McKay talks.

Christopher Watters did a Masters thesis comparing Australia and Canada with particular reference to Vimy; he wrote for Honest History on how battles are used to educate children. Yves Frenette wrote about the Harper Conservative Government’s obsession with commemoration.