War and brutality go hand in hand

Combat naturally leads to behaviours that would be deemed shocking in normal life

War and brutality go hand in handAntony Beevor is a prolific English military historian, most famous for the bestseller Stalingrad. First published in the late 1990s, the book’s narrative covers the period between the June 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union and the conclusion of the Battle of Stalingrad in February 1943. That battle is often described as the Second…

Attlee and Churchill: bound together in war and peace

Churchill said history would be good to him, as he'd write it himself. But ostentation wasn’t Attlee's style

Attlee and Churchill: bound together in war and peaceFor the longest time, Clement Attlee lived in Winston Churchill’s shadow. Where Churchill was flamboyant, charismatic and eloquent, Attlee was reticent, dull and rhetorically challenged. Churchill was larger than life and Attlee was the little man who seemed to blend into the woodwork. After becoming leader of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party in 1935, Attlee…

The common bonds of humankind unite us

Why the story of the Christmas truce of 1914 still resonates

The common bonds of humankind unite usHolocaust survivor Viktor Frankl tells us, “There are two races of men in the world, but only these two – the ‘race’ of decent men and the ‘race’ of indecent men. Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society.” His truism was discovered by as many as 100,000 soldiers in the First…

The return of the Armenian Genocide must be stopped

Putting the health of the people in the South Caucasus at risk puts us all at risk. Diseases spread and mutate rapidly in refugee camps

The return of the Armenian Genocide must be stoppedWhen teaching history, it’s rare that an issue more than 100 years old becomes a current events lesson, but that’s what happened as I began teaching about the Armenian Genocide. The Ottoman Empire is responsible for the death of 1.5 million Armenians, primarily under the cover of the First World War. The empire collapsed after…

Fake news? Every era had its perpetrators

Early newspapers were often more interested in expressing the opinions of the owners than the facts

Fake news? Every era had its perpetratorsFake news is a popular term these days. It’s hard to imagine why. Much more inflammatory and even manufactured ‘news’ has been with us all through history. Pamphleteers of the French and American revolutions may be the most famous. Among the best was Thomas Paine. But the average person with an axe to grind and…

Three generations of courage and commitment

When you search the name Henry Morgenthau, you find remarkable legacies left by three men of one extraordinary family

Three generations of courage and commitmentAs I examined the history of human rights in America, one name kept coming up: Henry Morgenthau. It turns out I was actually learning about three men: Henry Morgenthau Sr., Henry Morgenthau Jr. and Henry Morgenthau III, father, son and grandson. All of them spoke with courage and together advanced the cause of human rights…

COVID-19’s elder virus brother, the Spanish flu

An estimated 500 million people contracted the Spanish flu, and the death toll was between 17 million and 50 million

COVID-19’s elder virus brother, the Spanish fluAs our world deals with the coronavirus pandemic, a couple of interesting personal stories came out of Europe on March 29. The Guardian reported that Hilda Churchill, a 108-year-old woman in Salford, England, became (quite likely) the oldest British person to die from COVID-19 symptoms. And Turkey’s Anadolu Agency and Fox News reported that a…

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killer

One hundred years ago, a flu pandemic swept across the world, killing tens of millions of people, particularly those in the prime of life

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killerFrom the wet and windswept northwest of Ireland to rural southwestern Ontario, the flu pandemic of 1918 to 1920 was remorseless. My mother and my wife’s father lost siblings to an illness where death might come within 24 hours of first symptoms. And sometimes it was particularly brutal. Historian John Barry has described it this…

Pack up you troubles in your old kit-bag

Our perspective in marking Remembrance Day is definitely at odds with views of the day, but that doesn't mean the sacrifices weren't worthy

As rhetorical formulations go, ”the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” packs a formidable punch. Signifying the coming into effect of the armistice that ended the First World War, the words have a striking resonance: eliciting solemnity, dignity and the sense of something very important. Much more so than VE Day or…

Did the Great War really create a distinct Canadian identity?

It took far more than our efforts during the Great War to nudge Canada out of its subordinate role in the British Empire

Did the Great War really create a distinct Canadian identity?If you turn left upon entering the main gate of Toronto’s St. James Cemetery, you’ll soon come to a tall, imposing Celtic cross made of stone and inscribed with the family name Hagarty. There are three people buried there, but pride of place is given to someone whose earthly remains repose thousands of miles away…
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