2022 Victoria The Second World War in BC History and Public Memory

The Second World War in BC History and Public Memory

Scott Sheffield’s investigations of the academic literature on the Second World War in BC revealed a surprising dearth of literature explicitly exploring the impact of that global conflict on the communities and residents of this province.

Through some concerted searching he was able to glean a number of references and sometimes thoughtful and concerted coverage of the war years across a diverse range of hundreds of works on BC’s history. On the whole though, the story was fragmentary, disconnected, and relatively meagre.

Only a few stories have been incorporated into the broader narrative of BC’s history: the internment, dispossession and expatriation of the Japanese-Canadian population; the economic and industrial boom; women’s enhanced contributions as a result; and the growth in the strength and legitimacy of organized labour.

Beyond these usual touch stones, relatively little evidence that the war occurred in this province has managed to penetrate the scholarly history, public memory or identity of British Columbians. Yet, as he explains in a recent presentation to the BCHF annual conference, the evidence and historical writing that does exist suggests that the Second World War was fundamentally important to the development of modern British Columbia.

R. Scott Sheffield is an associate professor of history at the University of the Fraser Valley who spent the bulk of his career researching Indigenous military service and he is the author of The Red Man’s on the Warpath: The Image of the ‘Indian’ and the Second World War (UBC Press, 2004), and (with Noah Riseman) Indigenous Peoples and the Second World War: The Politics, Experiences and Legacies of War in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (Cambridge U Press, 2019), as well as numerous articles and book chapters.  His current research explores British Columbia’s home front during the Second World War, especially the role of community in shaping British Columbians’ experience of total war.