The Fight For History: 75 Years of Forgetting, Remembering, and Remaking Canada’s Second World War

The Fight For History – Tim Cook

“..as this book will show, the past rarely lies still in its grave; it is continually dug up, reanimated and occasionally even weaponized.”

Following the conclusion of WWII, there had been some skepticism on the part of the government about whether or not Canadians would ever want to learn about it.  With The Fight for History, Cook’s goal is to “track and untangle the complicated, contested, and ever-shifting meaning of that war over the past seventy-five years.”

While this is the first of his books I’ve read, Tim Cook has been writing about war for years.  In fact, he’s certainly no stranger to the Second World War itself having previously written two large volumes covering Canada’s contributions to the conflict.  This time around, he examines the effect of the war on Canadian life following Germany’s defeat.   What would the government do with the tens of thousands of returning veterans?  With monuments and museums dedicated to The Great War, where would World War Two fall in history?  What about the thousands of Canada’s fallen overseas?  How would we honor them?

One of the many shocking things I had learned reading Cook’s book was that Canadians just didn’t want to talk about the war.  In fact, even many of those who had returned from the front had no interest in digging up horrors of war, choosing instead to bury it and move on with their lives.  It wasn’t until we were able to put some time between ourselves and the end of the war that we became interested in examining it at all.

I was blown away by the apathy on the part of Canadians both at the public and government level.  By the time we had shown any interest in the actions of our armed forces, our allies in the United States and Britain had already gone full-steam ahead with telling their own stories through books, movies and television.  By focusing heavily on themselves and having those stories make up the backbone of the official accounts of the war, it left Canada under-represented in history.  I found this the most interesting.  While the war could not possibly have been won without the Americans, their complete disregard for Canada’s role in the battle against The Third Reich has been a constant point of contention among Canadian veterans over the years.

It can be intimidating to see a five hundred plus page tome about war and assume the contents are drier than kindling, but Tim’s style of writing allowed me to move seamlessly through history with ease.  I breezed through this book in about four days.  I will definitely be seeking out more of Tim’s work moving forward.

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