The Frontier of Patriotism: Alberta and the First World War is a 608-page book recently published by the University of Calgary press that delves into the intricate social and military history and personal experiences of Albertans.
Co-edited by renowned researcher, writer, editor and poet Dr. Adriana Davies and renowned 20th-century military and political historian Jeff Keshen, the book is a collection of 40 essays from 40 different authors, mostly historians, split into four sections. Each section is dedicated to a different part of the war effort, including the home front.
“We agreed the book should not only be military history but also social history because we wanted to talk about the home front,” said Dr. Davies.
The authors bring to life this crucial period in the history of Alberta through letters, journals, diaries and newspaper accounts.
“This was a province that was nine years old at the beginning of the war and 13 years old at the end of the war. Jess and I have strongly come to believe that in those four years, and the ten years afterwards, modern Alberta took shape because of the challenges presented by the war,” added Davies.
The first section of the book covers the front. During the First World War, just over 400,000 people resided in Alberta, and close to half the population was men. Davies estimates that close to 48,000 Albertans served during the course of the war, 36,000 on the front and 12,000 at home arranging the war effort. More than 20,000 Albertans were wounded, and 6,100 were killed during the First World War.
The war, and the book, are much more than the numbers, however, and it is the second section of the book that looks at the more intricate social changes on the home front during the war. Topics range from the shifting role of women, the impact of the war on the medical field, inflation, local heroes, and the labour movement.
The third section looks at the communities of war, both geographical and social.
“We deal with subjects such as conscientious objectors, which were significant in Alberta, and we deal with some enemy aliens,” points out the co-editor.
One of the essays in this section takes a closer look at Canadian internment camps and the more than 5,000 Ukrainians interred in Alberta during the war.
The last section looks at the aftermath of the war in this newly developing province.
“I think not only does it tell you, the essay, about the experience of Albertans in the war, both on the front and the home front, but you also see the shaping of modern policies on health care, on education, on scientific developments, on all aspects of life,” said Davies.
The book has been a monumental undertaking by both Davies and Keshen, to compile and edit the works of different authors. It’s taken just short of three years to put together and was finally published in Sept. 2016.
Davies is hoping readers can take away a real sense of what it was like to be an Albertan during this time period.
“It isn’t just facts and figures and campaign strategy, it’s real people’s experiences, and I think people relate to history where you have the stories of ordinary people told, who were challenged by difficult time and the horrors of history and rose to the challenge or did not rise to the challenge,” stated Davies.
The book is available for purchase on Amazon and other online retailers.