The importance of military history

If you study military history, you’re not a real historian. When I hear this, I can’t help but be bothered. Especially during the month of November, when it is more important than ever to remember the value in Canada’s military past.

There is the perception among many historians today that military history is no longer relevant. Cultural history, social history, political science; these are worthwhile areas where you can safely look upon the study of war and society. Most universities in Canada hold true to this notion. I do not share this view. Military history is my passion. It has offered me education and many worthwhile opportunities.

It was my interest in Canadian military history that compelled me to come to Laurier. My decision to come to university developed out of a growing feeling that my career was not fulfilling and it was having a seriously negative impact on my life.

So when I sat down to consider what I would be interested in studying, there was one thing I had always held a strong interest in: the Second World War. Since leaving high school, it had been a subject of interest that I had perused on an amateur level. Laurier is one of the few schools that offers a wide range of courses focused on the study of history with a strong focus on Canadian military history.

Though I came in wide-eyed and enamoured with the thoughts of studying paratroopers from the Second World War, over the past three years my interests have changed drastically. I owe this in large part to the opportunities afforded to me by my involvement with the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies (LCMSDS).

It was through the Centre that I had the opportunity for the past two summers to be a participant in the Cleghorn Battlefield Tour. Each year, the Tour gives Laurier students the opportunity to visit the battlefields of Western Europe where Canadians fought during the First and Second World Wars.

Beginning as a student participant and then this past summer working to record it through photographs, my experiences on the Cleghorn Tour have truly been the most rewarding of my university career thus far.
I have learned more about the past of ordinary Canadians in those few weeks than in months of reading and study. By having the chance to travel to battlefields, which before I had only read about. I have discovered a deeper passion for the study of Canadian military history and a focus for my university career.

Military history is important. Canada’s military past, and its military present, raises countless issues for academic and citizen alike. Military history is an interdisciplinary subject. When it is studied from different backgrounds, such as social history or political science, a far more critical interpretation can be developed.

Only by approaching it from different perspectives can we begin to understand its importance to Canada and its history.

On Nov. 11, regardless if you feel the same about the field of study, take a moment to remember our veterans and consider what their contribution has meant to our country’s history and its people from its beginning through to present day.