Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Roger Sarty

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


This dissertation examines the amateur military tradition as it developed in Canada between 1896 and 1917, tracing the evolution of a citizen soldier ideal which had an enormous impact on the country’s experience of the First World War. Prior to 1914, the central dilemma of Canadian military development was to create an army that was both inexpensive and made only limited demands on its soldiers in time of peace, but that could be expanded in war to a strength that was adequate for the defence of the country. Before the First World War, a militia of part-time citizen soldiers seemed to represent the form of military organization best suited to the needs of a North American nation within the British Empire. After 1914 this ideal of military citizenship became the measure by which Canadians judged their contribution to the conflict.

What Canadians said and wrote about the citizen soldier between 1896 and 1917 reflected the values and intellectual currents of the wider society. What this dissertation reveals during the period under study is the existence of a military culture that consistently employed the citizen soldier as its foremost symbol, but that was otherwise in a state of profound transition owing to a succession of foreign crises and the rapid development of Canada into a modern industrial state. In these turbulent years, an uncertain relationship with the United States, participation in an imperial war in South Africa, rising confidence as an independent nation of the British Empire, a long European crisis, and, finally, the demands of maintaining an army on the Western Front, together brought about a fundamental reversal of the home defence orientation which had previously characterized the citizen soldier ideal in Canada. By the end of 1917, the year of Vimy Ridge and the conscription crisis, the transition from a home defence militia to an expeditionary army was complete; the untrained civilian who had answered the call-to-arms in time of emergency replaced the long-serving volunteer militiaman of the pre-war era as the archetypal Canadian citizen soldier.

Convocation Year