Browse Case Studies


Dora Russell (1894-1986) was much more than the second of Bertrand Russell’s series of four wives. A liberated young woman, with advanced views on women’s rights and an unconventional approach to sexuality, throughout her long life she worked tirelessly for the cause of greater human understanding and peace.


“…and with maps I make him familiar with the topography of Golgotha.” This line, from a letter written in 1918 by the soldier-poet Wilfred Owen, conjures an ominous picture of the landscape confronting all initiates to the trenches. But it also touches on an aspect of the war that, even today, remains largely unknown and unrecognized.


Canadians were credited with the invention of the “Trench Raid” during the First World War; the tactic was first used in 1915.


At the mid point of World War II, in August 1942, the tragic events at Dieppe demonstrated the terrible risks of attacking a heavily-defended port. The Western Allies knew that a massive amphibious assault was necessary in order to loosen Hitler’s stronghold on Europe, but how to execute such an operation effectively, without again suffering huge losses, was a vexing and complex problem. A vital part of the solution was the construction of artificial harbours, codenamed Mulberry.


Violets from Plug Street Wood Sweet, I send you oversea. (It is strange that they should be blue, Blue when his soaked blood was red, For they grew around his head: It is strange they should be blue.)


The Canadian YMCA provided a wide variety of services – educational, social, spiritual, practical and even psychological – for Canadian troops serving overseas during the First World War. In a revealing and affectionate series of letters, William Fingland, an officer serving with the “Y”, provided vivid insights into his daily life to his sweetheart, waiting at home.


This important collection of propaganda posters provides an official version of everyday life in German-occupied Belgium during the First World War. Related materials provide a very different picture.


While her physician husband studied, Jane Abbott spent much of the summer of 1914 absorbing the art and culture of Vienna. Typical Americans abroad, they were eager to absorb all that Europe had to offer. However, their stay was to be cut short by an event which, when its repercussions finally ended, was to cost almost 20 million lives.


The charismatic clergyman Dick Sheppard’s 1934 public call for all who shared his pacifist sentiments to sign a pledge to renounce war led to the development of an influential political movement. The movement faced its first serious challenge with the growing threat of Hitler’s Germany.


The letters of the McDaniel brothers, RCAF ground crewmen stationed in northern England during the Second World War, are filled with the war-time experiences, momentous and mundane, of two young men, offering a glimpse into the often overlooked lives of ground unit personnel.


Marion S. Simpson of Hamilton, Ontario was one of many women who played an important role on the home front, knitting socks for the soldiers during the First World War. The socks were invaluable on both a psychological and practical level: gifts of socks from home both raised morale and helped keep the men in the trenches warm and dry.


The letters of British pilot John Lisle, who spent two years as a German prisoner of war (1943-45), as well as revealing the tedium and sense of isolation of the prisoner’s life, provide insights into the ways the prisoners tried to live as “normally” as they could.


Gerry Bell, a native Hamiltonian, is regarded as Canada’s first black airman. He served in England during World War II and continued to be closely connected with aviation until his death.


The Christmas Truce of December 1914 has become the stuff of legend. In a savage war which dragged on for four long years and in which perhaps eight million people died, it seems almost inconceivable that groups of soldiers in the trenches, the declared enemies of one another, could have exchanged songs and cigarettes, even for a brief interlude. Gerald Blake was there.


Eric Grove was only nineteen years old when he joined the Royal Air Force and at the age of twenty-one he was flying Lancaster bombers across Germany. One year later, at just twenty-two, he became a prisoner of war.


Constance Malleson, in a series of letters to her former lover and lifelong friend Bertrand Russell, provides a vivid account of life during World War II. She writes first from her home in the English countryside, later from Finland, and then, following her escape from attack by the Soviet Union, from Sweden. Her letters provide valuable insights into the hardships of war, as seen from the civilian perspective.


Well into his eighties, Bertrand Russell lost none of his dedication to the cause of peace. Presiding first over the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and then the Committee of 100 (C100), he marched, mobilized and even sat down in London’s streets of power to protest the adoption of nuclear weapons.


Established in Toronto in 1935, the Canadian Youth Congress “expressed the thought of awakened and intelligent youth” in favour of peace. The movement, claiming some four hundred thousand members at its height, faced almost insuperable odds as first the Spanish Civil War and then the Second World War broke out.


A young man who had not yet found his artistic path, never gets that chance. Julian Gould’s great artistic ability was evident from his teenage years. He volunteered for service in the First World War and was killed before he had the chance to establish himself.


In a bitter conflict that foreshadowed the worst excesses of World War II, Europe found itself divided. The Spanish Civil War also divided the United States although most popular sentiment, as this archival collection suggests, was on the side of the doomed Republican cause.