Our Glory and Our Grief: Torontonians and the Great War

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Jeff Keshen. Canadians entered the Great War in August viewing armed conflict as a rather majestic affair.

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But before long, opposing armies were slaughtering each other on the battlefield in numbers never equalled before or since. With victory hanging in the balance, both private and governmental opinion-makers began working to prop up notions of the conflict - and the enemy - that sometimes had little to do with the facts. They were guided by concern for security and morale, but they played upon long-established and war-heightened attitudes of imperialism, romanticism and racialism. The press of the day competed for readers with ridiculously upbeat stories.

Patriotic editors killed most of the disheartening reports filed from the front, and Lieutenant-Colonel Ernest J. Chambers, Canada's Chief Censor, killed most of the rest. This collection is a vast and valuable resource for history, and this site taps only some of its potential.

Our glory and our grief : Torontonians and the Great War

Much of what is said on the other pages, and much of what will be said here in conclusion is a result of looking at the collection of documents see right as a whole. Looking at an individual newspaper article may give some sense of what happened in one instance--it may give one story--but when you take the entire group of documents into account you begin to see something bigger.


  • Finistère.
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  • Kommutative Algebra.

When you "zoom out" historically, you can start to sense the deeper meanings behind things. While leafing through this collection, the headlines may jump out at you, the stories may touch you, and the pictures of these men who gave their lives may haunt you. What becomes clear is that these men were presented and percieved as heroes.

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Presentation and perception of a concept like this is a social construction. This is what happened here. These heroes were constructed.

Armistice - But Peace? I THE GREAT WAR Week 225

The construction of heroes on a local level has been noted before by Canadian historians. Miller talks about the pride and enthusiasm the community has in its servicemen that go overseas.

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Miller also talks about the vilification of the enemy, and the glorification of the fallen and their sacrifice. Most importantly, Miller argues that the city needed to see their servicemen as heroes for their own psychological benefit.

To ease their own minds, the members of the community needed to be continually reminded of the community's participation in the war, as well as their sacrifice. This is the point that really strikes home.

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The men were presented as heroes in the articles because they needed to be percieved as heroes by the community. This presentation and perception of their service men as heroes justifies and validates the communities war effort, and connects them to the war in an intimate way. This phenomena can be seen to occur in other places as well.



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