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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > May 2017 > Alternate histories

Alternate histories

Two works provide close-up analyses of neglected corners of the Canadian wartime experience


From the Klondike to Berlin: The Yukon in World War I

Michael Gates

Lost Moose

From the Tundra to the Trenches

Eddy Weetaltuk; Thibault Martin, ed.

University of Manitoba Press

A HISTORIAN’S GOAL should always be to find a story that has not been told, or to find an old story and tell it a new way. Two new books, both about people in the north of Canada, aim to do one or the other of these things; they both contain stories that deserve to be heard.

In the first, Yukon author and journalist Michael Gates describes how his territory assisted in Canada’s role in the First World War. Despite the Yukon’s higher-than-national average contributions of both men and money, Gates found little published material about the area’s involvement in the war effort and felt compelled to fill the gap. The result is From the Klondike to Berlin, a narrative built on an examination of Yukon residents’ wartime experiences overseas and on the home front.

Gates traces these stories chronologically through the war and its immediate aftermath. Occasionally, he also devotes a chapter to a figure, such as the poet Robert Service, whose individual story is interesting enough to merit greater detail. These are the most engaging chapters in the book. Gates also does well in drawing attention wherever he can to what was unique to the Yukon during this period, including domestic politics, the special skills the region’s soldiers took to the front, and the way the territory memorialized its fallen.

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