The Holiday season is upon us and among the new titles that have arrived in the Local History Room collection, we have a very special treat for history fans.
The Holiday season is upon us and among the new titles that have arrived in the Local History Room collection, we have a very special treat for history fans.
This fall, the Winnipeg Public Library is proud to be a partnering with The World Remembers organization by hosting an electronic display of names in the Local History Room. This is part of a nation-wide act of remembrance and commemoration of the men and women who died a century ago during the First World War.
The World Remembers is a non-profit company based in Toronto whose sole purpose is to build and facilitate The World Remembers project.
The ongoing project began in 2014 by displaying, for one minute starting on October 15th and ending on November 11th, the names of everyone killed in the conflict in 1914, and repeating the process the following years. The World Remembers organization displays the names of those soldiers who died in World War 1 so that people not only remember these fallen soldiers but honor these shared histories. The monitor screen set up in the Local History Room shows a continuous loop of the names of soldiers killed in war in 1917. This display will end on November 11th and will display more than 661,800 names of soldiers who lost their lives from UK, Canada, France, Germany, the US, Turkey, Belgium, Australia, the Czech Republic, Italy, New Zealand, Slovenia, China and the former British Indian Army. This display will also be running simultaneously at other organizations (libraries, schools, and universities).
If you are interested in finding a specific individual whose name will be displayed, you can search the TWR database here and find out at the exact day and time it will come up.
There is also a book display set up near The World Remembers display for those interested in learning more about the First World War. Come and have a look.
It’s time to take a look at some of the recent arrivals in the Local History Room.
On June 19th, 1816 an event occurred that had a pivotal impact on the history of what would become Manitoba (even if it has somewhat receded from our collective memory). This was the of Battle of Seven Oaks that broke out between rival hunting parties of the fur trade companies (the Hudson Bay and North West) that were vying for control of the territory. The Seven Oaks Reader by Myrna Kostash offers a comprehensive retelling of the Fur Trade Wars. The book incorporates period accounts and journals, histories, memoirs, songs and fictional retellings, from a wide range of sources.
Come to the Local History Room and check it out!
The Winnipeg Public Library is hosting a new traveling exhibit created by the Canadian Centre for the Great War open to the general public at the Millennium Library. The exhibit “The Business of War: Canadian Businesses and the First World War” is located on the 4th floor and is about Canada’s wartime mobilization on the home front. Its panels explore how Canadian businesses large and small aided the war effort by supplying goods and helping to lift people’s spirits and raise money in order to keep support our troops and the overall Allied cause. While warfare throughout the ages always required soldiers fighting on battlefields, the First World War also came to require of Canadians an unprecedented mobilization of all their resources and that is where the term “home front” was coined. Library materials related to the exhibit are displayed as well so you can further your knowledge about this topic.
Firing lines : three Canadian women write the First World War by Debbie Marshall is the story of three Canadian journalists who were present in both France and England during the pivotal events of the conflict and reported their personal observations in letters, articles and books. Mary MacLeod Moore, a writer for Saturday Night magazine , covered the war’s impact on women, from the munitions factories to the kitchens of London’s tenements. Beatrice Nasmyth, a writer for the Vancouver Province, managed the successful wartime political campaign of Canadian Roberta MacAdams and attended the Versailles Peace Conference as Premier Arthur Sifton’s press secretary. Elizabeth Montizambert was in France during the war and witnessed the suffering of its people first-hand. She was often near the fighting, serving as a canteen worker and writing about her experiences for the Montreal Gazette.
The year 1917 was filled with events that both shook and defined the world. Though our library has many books about years “that changed everything”, one can argue this year was one that can legitimately be called one of the most seminal for the world we currently live in. Many of these events have been or are going to be officially remembered through ceremonies and events, but if you are interested in learning more, the library has material that can help you explore their history.
Vimy: The Battle and the Legend by Tim Cook
We have just celebrated the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, on April 9th. This tactical victory did not in itself change the course of the war but it started to change how Canadians saw themselves in relation to Great Britain and the rest of the world. This victory was notable because of its meticulous planning and execution. It was achieved by Canadians from all over the country who were fighting together as the Canadian Corps for the first time and succeeded where other attempts had failed. This feat of arms came at a high cost (over 10,000 casualties) but helped cement the reputation of the Canadian Corps as an elite formation distinct from the British army – a fact that would be reflected in Canada signing the Versailles Treaty separately from Great Britain in 1919. Whether this constituted the “birth of a nation” can be debated, but it was certainly a step away from being a colony toward full-fledged nationhood.
This wasn’t the only event that was important in Canadian history that year. 1917 was a federal election year, and the first where Canadian women were able to vote. The stakes of these wartime elections were high. The conscription crisis to replenish the manpower of the Canadian Expeditionary Force drove a wedge between the mainly French-Canadians opponents who resisted volunteering for a war that they did not see as theirs to fight and the supporters of Britain and her allies. Tensions between the two factions rose to such a level that violent riots erupted in the city of Quebec on Easter, leaving 4 dead and 150 wounded, and created a chasm between Quebecers and the rest of the country that would be felt for generations.
The Curse of the Narrows by Laura MacDonald
The first World War’s effects were felt by entire societies in direct and indirect ways. In countries like Canada, which was far from the front, it left scars in every community, but none more than in Halifax. The port city was already a central hub for men and supplies being sent overseas when tragedy struck on December 6, 1917. Two ships filled with explosive material collided, resulting in a blaze that spread out of control. This resulted in the largest non-nuclear explosion ever recorded, devastating the city and killing or wounding 11,000 inhabitants. In addition to the immediate death toll, a colossal rescue effort by both Canadians and Americans was necessary to tend those left wounded and homeless in the middle of a blizzard.
March 1917: On the Brink of War and Revolution by Will Englund
On the world stage, 1917 saw the fall of the Romanov dynasty, that had ruled Russia for centuries, by the Russian Revolution, which would see the rise of the first communist regime in history. This revolution (traditionally marked on October 25th) saw Russia withdraw from the war and radically shifted the balance in Germany’s favor. As the German Empire successfully dealt with its enemy in the east, it unwittingly gained another when the United States of America declared war on April 6th. The country had remained neutral until unrestricted submarine warfare and an intercepted telegram revealed a German plan to goad Mexico to invade them with promises of winning back part of its former empire. Though a relative late-comer on the Allied side, the U.S. influx of men and supplies was decisive in the war ending in their favour. Both events were the first steps that would see the rise of the two superpowers that would dominate international politics of the 20th century.
The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Jonathan Schneer
A less well-known but equally far-reaching event, a letter issued by Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour on November 2, 1917, led to the creation of Israel and conflicts that persist today. The widely-published letter was addressed to a Zionist organization and was interpreted as promising the creation of a Jewish homeland in the territory known as Palestine, occupied by the Ottoman Empire. However, this was in apparent contradiction with promises made to Arab leaders who were also revolting against the Ottomans for their independence. What became known as the Balfour Declaration left plenty of ambiguity about where and how this Jewish homeland would be established, with British diplomats initially hoping that a peaceful compromise could be made with all parties. This proved unworkable in the decades following the war, with terrible consequences for the Middle-East.
Finally, this year will also mark two important but overlooked landmarks: 100th anniversary of the Canadian income tax (imposed as a “temporary” war measure) as well as the founding of the National Hockey League (November 26th).
We have a few new reasons for you to come and visit the Local History Room. A new display about the history of the railway system and how it shaped Manitoba is ready to explore, with artifacts and information generously loaned to us by the Manitoba Railway Museum – come and check it out! It’s also time to have a look at what’s new in the room’s collection, as it keeps growing with new additions.
Stay, breathe with me : the gift of compassionate medicine shares Helen Allison’s insights into the need to stop seeing patients simply as diseases needing cures and technologies but as living beings with symptoms and suffering that need to be addressed as a whole, with nonjudgmental medicine delivered with compassion. Several intimate stories tell of her experiences with her own patients in palliative care and the lessons she learned from them as they struggled with various, often fatal, ailments and how everyone, physicians or relatives, can contribute to improve their quality of life.
Finally, a title not in the Local History Room collection yet but which I would like to recommend for local fiction and horror fans is The Shadow Over Portage and Main: Weird Fictions, an anthology of short stories from authors who were influenced by their stay in Winnipeg. Whether it’s the extremes in our weather, our reputation for crime and murder, or our unique mix of cultures and ethnicities, authors like David Annandale, Eric Bradshaw and Keith Cadieux among others have written tales about the dark and gothic side of the city. My personal favourite is the story of a woman who discovers a book about superstition that has troubling effects on people who come in contact with it. Most of the stories are meant to inspire unease and fear, some of them have ghosts (predictably) and other supernatural threats, some don’t even mention Winnipeg but we are meant to recognize its “vibes”, which leads to the conclusion that our city can be quite a dark place!
Drop by and have a look in person, or feel free to explore the Local History and Genealogy Subject Guide for more of our recommended online resources to explore Manitoba’s past.
It has been a while since I blogged about alternate history novels and there have been quite a few great new additions to the library’s collection, challenging the reader to imagine our world if it taken divergent paths in its history.
In Judenstaat, author Simone Zelitch imagines the consequences for the Jewish people and the rest of the world if a Jewish state had been created in central Europe, in the region of Saxony, instead of in Palestine in 1948. The story begins forty years later with a historian preparing a documentary celebrating the anniversary of Judenstaat given new evidence about the death of one if its founding fathers. Her investigation brings to light uncomfortable truths about the nation’s past. The change in the timeline brings a different Cold War, with Judenstaat building its own version of the Berlin Wall (to keep out potential “fascists”), and tackles national myths and their place in countries’ identities.
Hystopia gives us a totally different 1960’s where John F. Kennedy not only survived multiple assassination attempts but is now in his third term as United States President. The Vietnam War is still ongoing but a new “Psych Corps” has been created by the government to take charge of traumatized veterans and clean their memories with drugs and therapy. One of these returned soldiers is an author trying to write the novel that will honour his brothers-in-arms (the story is told as a novel within the novel), even as some of the more psychologically-scarred ones are roaming the U.S. countryside and recreating the atrocities they lived through. This is a challenging read as it does not shy from scenes of strong violence, but it also tries the challenge of recreating the unease and paranoid feeling of being in the US in the troubled 1970’s.
The ever-prolific Harry Turtledove is working on his newest trilogy – the Hot War trilogy. The first two volumes are already available: Bombs Away and Fallout. The first one is called Bombs Away. This is a tale told from multiple point of views (a characteristic of Turtledove’s storytelling) and tells of how the world became embroiled in nuclear warfare in 1951, after General Douglas MacArthur escalated the Korean War. In an age before missiles and jet bombers, the war between the Western and Eastern blocks slowly escalates and risks spinning out of anyone’s control to stop it before humanity faces extinction. Ordinary people from nations around the globe, both civilians and combatants, are shown trying to cope with unprecedented nuclear destruction in a chilling but all-too plausible scenario.
This next trilogy, The Great Library, written by Rachel Caine, includes elements of fantasy in addition to its alternate history setting. In Ink and Bone we discover a world in the near-future where the great Library of Alexandria (the largest library in the ancient world, containing works by the greatest thinkers and writers of antiquity) was not destroyed. The Library has grown into the greatest depository of human knowledge in the world, becoming the all-powerful ruler of society through its control of access to knowledge. Thanks to alchemy, the knowledge of its books can be transmitted to everyone instantaneously (like ebooks today), but private ownership of books is a capital offence, with a black market booming in illegal books. The main protagonist is from a family of book smugglers who joins the Library’s ranks as a spy but how will coming into contact with people worshipping knowledge over human life and their immense power change him?
Clash of Eagles, the first volume of the Esperian trilogy by Alan Smale, tells the story of a Roman general captured by Cahokians after his legion is massacred while attempting the conquest of North America. Having been spared and gradually accepted by them, he must decide if he still fits in the empire’s plans of expansion or join his adopted people whose culture he has grown to admire. It’s a story of a clash of two cultures who never met in our history but realistically imagines how such an event might have unfolded and transformed our world. This series is recommended for action/adventure fans as well as history buffs.
Finally, closer to home, Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction by Dominik Parisien is a collection of 15 stories about how steam technology might have reshaped the history of our country. You’ll read of mythical clockwork creatures that roam the landscapes of New France terrorizing the settlers in “Clochemard” and Mounties pursuing steam-powered buffalo-girl hybrids and solve a string of murders in “Buffalo Gals” (a Canadian superweapon that could change history). Many stories deal with real issues about our history like colonization, racism, and industrialisation’s impact on human society and the environment. It is quite a good read if you are in the mood for something local.
The direct living links to the First World War are no longer with us, but we are still living in the world that it helped shape perhaps more than any other event in the 20th century. Popular interest in the conflict has seen a resurgence worldwide because of the Centennial commemorations, and this also led to the re-examining of what we really “know” and how we choose to remember the “War to End All Wars”. Winnipeg has monuments and plaques to commemorate the sacrifices of a generation, regimental museums preserve artifacts and records of past members of their units, and libraries (both ours and others) have many titles of both fiction and non-fiction works that helps preserve the history of the war for the living.
Though there are plenty to recommend from, two recent additions are personal favourites I would like to share. The first is Canada’s Great War album : our memories of the First World War , which is an excellent source of information for anyone, no matter how knowledgeable you are on the subject. It’s seventeen chapters are written by different authors, including historian Tim Cook and Peter Mansbridge who writes about how Canadians have chosen to remember. This particular title covers a variety of topics and is filled with gorgeous photography, memorabilia, and personal stories from veterans or their relatives. You will learn about the use of animals on the frontline, innovations in battlefield medicine, and the Conscription Crisis. The authors also discuss the nascent Canadian Navy and Air Force, how the mobilization of the home front permanently changed Canadian society, and much more.
Another book I discovered recently is Band of brigands : the first men in tanks by Christy Campbell, which uses diaries, letters, and personal accounts to tell the story of what was at the time a new breed of soldiers: the British Tank Corps. This is actually not a very well covered part of military history, which might sound strange since Great Britain was the first nation to develop and field tanks in large numbers (which is why I found this book fascinating). You can read about how tanks were developed specifically as a breakthrough weapon to overcome the network of trenches and barbwires of the Western Front, clearing the way for the infantry in an effort to end the bloody stalemate. The men who trained and fought in those unfamiliar and unreliable machines faced miserable living conditions inside overheated metal boxes surrounded by fuel and explosives (such were the infernal conditions of being in an early tank that it required 36 hours recuperation for each day fighting in one). However, their appearances in battle had a dramatic effect in France and Belgium, while changing the face of warfare forever.
A case in point is the continuing debate of what we see as the root causes that caused the outbreak of the First World War. In his new book The great class war, 1914-1918 , Canadian author Jacques Pauwels has challenged what he sees as the old widely held belief the European heads of state blundered into the war with reluctance and little idea of how things would escalate into an industrialised slaughter. He takes the long view instead, noting many of the upper classes of the warring nations saw the war as a way to curb what they perceived as the rise of the lower-class that reversed the trends of liberalism and democracy that were challenging a century-long status quo – one that had benefitted them through nationalism and crushing “un-patriotic” dissent against a war fought mostly by the working classes of the warring nations. Ironically, the war ended merely accelerating many of these popular movements, and lead to the birth of radical parties that would hasten the fall of the old order and gave birth to fascism and communism, and later the post-colonial movement.
September 8th, marked the 50th anniversary of the first broadcasting of Star Trek, and the beginning of an enduring cultural phenomenon. I chose to mark the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise in this post not only because I was a big time trekker in my teens, who was inspired by its optimistic vision of the future, but also because I owe a big debt to the television series and paperback novels for helping me learn English as a second language. Fans can rejoice that a new series is on the horizon but we can also take comfort in the fact that the library has a lot of material in its collections covering its diverse crews and eras for us to keep on trekking.
There are of course the television series (five up to now) and motion pictures, starting with the classic from the 1960’s that started it all to the most recent prequel series Enterprise with Captain Archer at the helm. The library has also all the feature films available on DVD or Blu-Ray, which means you can re-discover old favourites or discover them for the first time.
Despite the enduring impact of the shows and movies, the Star Trek universe owes a big debt to the novels that sustained its fanbase and help build its universe to the extent that it did. Not only do these stories have helped flesh out characters and worlds beyond what was on-screen, they also serve to this day to continue the lives and careers of the different crews after their shows ended, extending the longevity of the series and their casts. A recent release is the Next Generation/Deep Space Nine crossover novel The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack which tells the story of Captain Picard and his crew’s effort to rebuild the Cardassian homeworld with the help of Ambassador Garak (promoted at the end of the DS9 TV series), despite efforts from factions hostile to a peaceful future with the Federation. In A Ceremony of Losses by David Mack, both crew feverishly work to avert the slow extinction of an entire species, fighting not only on the scientific front, but also the political one as different governments maneuver to use the crisis to their respective gains.
As much as we loved the action, humor and camaraderie of the shows, the Star Trek universe has also garnered respect for its attempt to create a coherent vision of the future mostly based on solid science that more often than not correctly anticipated present societal and technological trends and is credited for directly inspiring technological innovations (notably cell phones and portable tablet computers). This in turn created literature exploring the mythology and fictional universe of the show, like the Star Trek Encyclopedia, while other non-fiction works like Star Trek: the Official Guide to Our Universe or The Star Trek Book set out describing the real science behind the fiction. Sure, technobabble used as plot devices that didn’t always made sense was often used, but such books reflect how the shows’ writers tried to plausibly address real scientific concepts as well, making it what science fiction at its best is all about.
But what if you are interested in the lives of actors themselves? Leonard Nimoy, the actor best known for his portrayal of Commander Spock past away recently, and like some of his fellow “crew member”, he struggled with the challenges of newfound fame and of being typecasted into this one role. His friend and colleague William Shatner relates in his newest book Leonard how they met on the set of another television show before their lives became irrevocably linked for over five decades, and shares stories from the people who knew him best to celebrate his
life. Kate Mulgrew also gained international fame as Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager, but in her memoir Born With Teeth, she tells of her struggles to establish herself as an actress despite many challenges, including difficult family issues, and her ongoing career in television.
Finally we must not forget to include the man who started it all with his revolutionary concept of “a wagon train to the stars”: Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. In addition to an authorized biography, the library has Gene Roddenberry : the last conversation Portraits of American genius by Yvonne Fern and deals with the author’s interactions with Gene during the last year of his life, presenting through their discussion his views on humanity and its future that shaped his vision of the show.
Whether you are a diehard fan of Kirk’s original 5-year mission or prefer the adventures that followed in the next following decades, there is ample trek treasures available at the library. May there be 50 more years of trekking through the stars.