cover art for S9E20 - Boosters and Barkers: Financing the First World War

Curious Canadian History

S9E20 - Boosters and Barkers: Financing the First World War

When the British government declared war on Germany in August of 1914, no one in Canada (who was automatically thrust into the conflict by Britain’s declaration) ever could have predicted the incredible contribution the country would make in manpower, material and money. By the end of that war 650,000 Canadian soldiers were in unform and Canada had one of the most powerful corps formations on the western front. But what people often don’t think about, is how did Canada find the cash to support such a significant contribution. And that question is the focus of the newest CCH episode. How did Canada figure out a financing system that supported an almost unbelievable contribution to the world’s first global industrial war? Who was in charge? How was the program carried out and what was the reaction of every day Canadian? 

To answer these questions we have brought on David Roberts. David is a retired editor/historian at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography / Dictionnaire biographique du Canada. In addition to writing several articles for that publication, he is the author of In the Shadow of Detroit: Gordon M. McGregor, Ford of Canada, and Motoropolis (2006), published by Wayne State University in its Great Lakes Books series.  Mr Roberts lives in Don Mills, Ontario.

Today’s book recommendation is David’s newest book Boosters and Barkers: Financing Canada's Involvement in the First World War published in 2023 by the University of British Columbia Press for the Canadian War Museum's Studies in Canadian Military History series.

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  • S9E21 - Prophet of Destruction - Agent A12, Winthrop Bell

    Imagine you are a maritime Canadian finishing your PhD dissertation in Germany right when the First World War breaks out. As a subject of the British empire, your country (and empire) is automatically at war with Germany and thus you are now an enemy alien in that country. This is the situation that faced Winthrop Bell in 1914, and it began an incredible story that led to Winthrop Bell becoming a British imperial spy in Germany, and in many ways, a prophet. Long before anyone predicted the horrific regime that would become the Nazis, Canadian Winthrop Bell was already sending back warning signs about this emerging National Socialist party, their agenda, and the growing public support for the ultimate goal of that regime.  Today we have on as a guest Jason Bell, PhD. Jason is a professor of philosophy at the University of New Brunswick. He has served as a Fulbright Professor in Germany (at Winthrop Bell’s alma mater, the University of Göttingen) and has taught at universities in Belgium, the United States, and Canada. He is currently writing a book on Allied deception operations in the Balkans during World War II.  This week’s book recommendation is Cracking the Nazi Code: The Untold Story of Agent A12 and the Solving of the Holocaust Code by Jason Bell, published by Pegasus Books in 2024. 
  • S9E19 - Rum, Debt and Fur

    Several episodes back, season 9 episode 15, we had on as a guest Alan Greer to talk about alcohol and its role in early colonial North America. One of the areas that was touched upon, that I thought would make an excellent future episode was alcohol’s role in the fur trade. As many are probably aware much of Canada’s early interactions between First Nations and Europeans came in the form of the fur trade. Some could make a strong case that the Canada we know today owes much to that early fur trade process.  In this episode we look back on how alcohol played a role in allowing Europeans to impose a credit/debt system within the fur trade, and the effects that this system had on European-Indigenous relationships. As well, how was alcohol used at the sharp end, where Europeans and Indigenous traders interacted? And was this all simply a European imposed system or did Indigenous traders act and react, resist and accept or outright reject these European tactics, tools and techniques of trade? Book recommendation: Allan Greer’s Property and Dispossession: Natives, Empires and Land in Early Modern America, Cambridge Univ. Press in 2018 
  • S9E18 - Race and Racing: The Jerome Family

    If you happened to grow up in North Vancouver, British Columbia (like I did) the name Harry Jerome was one seen everywhere. Harry Jerome was not just an Olympian, a world record holder, a Canadian athletic legend, a profoundly impacting community leader, but he was also Black in a time when the US was still embedded in the Jim Crow era and segregation, racism and prejudice were rife throughout this country as well. In this episode I have an incredible talk with Harry’s sister Valerie Jerome. Valerie herself was an incredible athlete, who trained alongside her brother and competed at the Olympics, Commonwealth and World championships. Like her brother she went on to become a community leader and teacher, even running for civic, provincial and federal elections for the B.C.’s Green Party. Myself and Valerie sit down to talk about what it was like being Black in Canada in the 1950s, life in North Vancouver, the quest to become an Olympian, overcoming incredible odds and the important legacy of Harry Jerome. Today’s book recommendation is by Valerie Jerome titled “Races: The Trials and Triumphs of Canada’s Fastest Family” As well you can catch live footage of Valerie competing back in the day in the CBC Gem series – Black Life: Untold Stories – an eight episode documentary that looks at Black lives in Canada.  
  • S9E17 - Lost in the Crowd: Acadians and the First World War

    The First World War occupies a complicated space in our public memory. For many Canadians, places like Vimy Ridge or Passchendaele are certainly familiar, Remembrance Day is generally well attended, issues like shell shock are broadly understood, and the traumatic events of the conscription crisis are often taught, though in very different ways whether one is French-Canadian or not. Yet, in the last two decades more and more scholarship has appeared which has added nuance and complexity to narratives that have traditionally been presented or taught or even understood in far more simplistic and inaccurate ways. Gregory Kennedy has contributed to this burgeoning field by examining the story of Acadians in the First World War. The Acadians are a minority French community in the Maritimes and yet their experience highlights the much more nuanced realities of the broader Canadian experience during that nation-defining conflict. While much of the country railed against the perceived lack of participation of French Canadians, Kennedy’s work shows that the Acadians did indeed enlist at very similar rates as to Anglophone Maritimers. The contributions of Acadians formalized into the raising of the 165th battalion, an all-Acadian regiment. Yet, even the story of the 165th sheds light on the varying experiences of Canadian soldiers in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Gregory Kennedy is Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Professor of History at Brandon University. He was previously Professor of History at the Université de Moncton, and from 2015 through 2023 was the Research Director of the Institut d'études acadiennes. He has two monographs, Lost in the Crowd: Acadian Soldiers of Canada's First World War and Something of a Peasant Paradise? Comparing Rural Societies in Acadie and the Loudunais, 1604-1755, both with McGill-Queen's University Press. Kennedy is the lead researcher of the SSHRC-funded Partnership Development project Military Service, Citizenship, and Political Culture in Atlantic Canada. He is also the co-editor of a forthcoming interdisciplinary collection of essays called Repenser l'Acadie dans le monde, and a co-researcher of the SSHRC-funded Partnership project Trois siècles de migrations francophones en Amérique du Nord.Today’s book recommendation is by Gregory Kennedy titled Lost in the Crowd: Acadian Soldiers of Canada’s First World War, published by McGill Queen’s Press in 2024. 
  • S9E16 - Sex in Canada: Getting Down in the Great White North

    I’m sure all our listeners at some point in their lives have encountered an uncomfortable moment when discussing sex and sexuality, and in many places and communities within Canada discussions of sex are still quite taboo. Today, we’re breaking that taboo and asking some real questions about sex in Canada. How has the subject of sex in Canada changed over time? When did issues related to sex and sexuality really undergo significant change in this country? How much sex did Canadians used to have? How much sex are they having today? These questions and so many more are going to be answered in the sexiest CCH episode to date. We dive to the bottom of these questions with sociologist Tina Fetner Tina Fetner is Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department at McMaster University. Her previous projects explored the dynamics of social change relating to sexuality, examining the impact of the opposing activism of LGBT movement and the anti-LGBT activism of the religious right from a historical perspective. Her current research examines the social organization of sexual behaviour. She is the principal investigator for the Sex in Canada multi-method research project that examines sexual behaviour and social attitudes among Canadian adults. This project builds upon previous work, including comparative analyses of the change in attitudes toward lesbian and gay people, as well as the uneven growth of Gay-Straight Alliances in high schools.Today’s recommended book is Tina Fetner’s most recent book Sex in Canada: The Who Why When and How of Getting Down Up North. Published by UBC Press in 2024.  
  • S9E15 - Alcohol in early North America

    When one thinks of the pre-confederation development of North America one might think of war and empires, competing nations, economic trade, fur, colonization, resistance and so many other themes and topics that have been enshrined in our understanding of early French and British North America. What’s interesting, is that present in almost all of this is alcohol. In fact, alcohol has been at the heart of the settler-colonial experience since the first Europeans arrived on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. Alcohol was already central to European personal, economic, and professional relationships, and thus became central to European colonialism including European-indigenous relations, the slave trade, the fur trade, and the relationship between the classes. In fact, alcohol came to define much of the lives of those European settlers. Of course, alcohol was not without its detractors, religious leaders, pious settler communities and First Nations all sought in different ways to limit or resist both the temptation and the spread of alcohol in North America and by the middle of the nineteenth century the tide of alcohol had subsided considerably – but analysis’ of the causes of excessive drinking, focusing as it did on the inherently disorderly conduct and defective self-control of the lower orders, as well as the inherent vulnerability of Indigenous peoples, has misled generations of historians.  In many ways alcohol became wrapped up in the struggle for survival between those who had lived here for generations and those who were newly arriving, between nations and empires, and people, and played a role in shaping the future of the new world. To help us dive into this complex subject we’ve brought on an expert in the field, Allan Greer. Allan Greer is a historian and professor at McGill University Originally trained as a historian of early Canada, over time he expanded the scope of his research and teaching to include colonial North America, the history of native peoples of the Americas and the history of the Atlantic World. He is centrally involved in Montreal's French Atlantic History Group. Allan Greer has published extensively on, among other topics, the social history of early French Canada, the Canadian Rebellion of 1837-38, state formation, the early modern Jesuits, religious change and colonization, colonial saints, property and the history and historiography of New France. His books have won a number of national and international awards.The book recommendation is by Allan Greer and is titled Property and Dispossession: Natives, Empires and Land in Early Modern North America published by Cambridge University Press in 2017.
  • S9E14 Hockey: The Game as We Know it Today

    Hockey has had both an enduring but also a complicated relationship with ideas about what it means to be ‘Canadian’. While not every Canadian skates, or plays the game, or even cares about the game, the sport itself occupies a serous place in the Canadian cultural psyche. While the game has often been seen as something to unify Canadians, or to express ‘Canadianness’, it has also been exposed for very serious flaws in its culture, its infrastructure, and its dubious place as a game of character and inspiration for Canadian youth. The game of hockey, as we understand it now, has undergone dramatic challenges and changes since its first official appearance on ice in Montreal in the 1870s.  This episode seeks to understand some of the key developments in the game that we now recognize today. From the rules to the rink size, to professionalization, commercialization, internationalization, to the broadening of the hockey cultural mosaic. From its amateur roots to a game that is international in its appeal, incorporating men and women from different socioeconomic classes and ethnic groups, and one that continues to evolve alongside modern value systems while evoking serious discussion on its relevance to modern Canadians. Book recommendation: Canada’s Game: Hockey and Identity by Andrew C. Holman published McGill-Queen’s Press in 2009. 
  • S9E13 - Of Fugitives and Orators: The Characters Behind the RCMP’s Complicated History - a special Canadian Time Machine episode

    In May 2023, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) commemorated its 150th anniversary. The federal police force – which originally started out as the North-West Mounted Police – is almost as old as the Dominion of Canada itself. This episode examines the complex and painful history of an institution that has historically mistreated Indigenous peoples and women. It also takes us back to the scene of one of the RCMP’s largest manhunts – the search for fugitive Albert Johnson, also known as “The Mad Trapper.” Guests on this episode are Sam Karikas, CEO of the RCMP Heritage Centre, and Jean Teillet, a recently retired Métis lawyer, author, and lecturer, who is also the great-grand niece of Louis Riel.More episodes are available at: To read the episode transcripts in French and English, and to learn more about historic Canadian milestones, please visit