Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Maple Leaf Empire: Canada, Britain, and Two World Wars

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Maple Leaf Empire: Canada, Britain, and Two World Wars

Article excerpt

Jonathan F. Vance, Maple Leaf Empire: Canada, Britain, and Two World Wars (Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press Canada, 2011), 272 pp. 47 b.&w. illustr. 22 colour illustr. Cased. $29.95. ISBN 978-0-1954-4809-2.

The conventional approach to migration studies is to consider the impact of emigration on the emigrants and of immigration on the recipient society. This book turns that approach on its head, describing what happened when large numbers of Canadians (some themselves recent immigrants) returned to Britain (in fact, almost entirely to England) as part of Canada's contribution to the First and Second World Wars. It does this by joining a brief survey of Canadian military involvement to a description of the 'social memory' of that experience of return to the parent society, taken from a variety of sources - letters, diaries, interviews and the like.

The Canadians, ranging from recent immigrants from Britain (particularly in the First War) to those who had neither memory nor knowledge of the 'Mother Country' beyond the often-idealized view produced by the Canadian education system and popular culture, reacted in different ways. Perhaps the most common experience was the realization that Canada was different and, often in their eyes, superior - whether in size, in climate or the more egalitarian society which placed more value on individual initiative and social mobility. This perception of a Canadian identity in turn reinforced the impetus given to Canadian autonomy by its war effort. At the same time, their experience in Britain showed Canadians, particularly the 85 per cent of Second War Canadian troops who were Canadian-born (in contrast to the 50 per cent British-born of the First War), the Britishness of Canada outside Quebec in the first half of the twentieth century. …

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