Marching As To War

I bought Pierre Berton's Marching as to War years ago. I even read a good one-quarter to one-third of it before it got accidentally abandoned. (I meant to set it aside to read something else and then never really got back to it. Oops.)

When I decided to read off my own shelves this year, and to read by colour , it was on the top of my list. It  was a great reason to pick it up again and even though I had a bookmark still in it from where I left off I started over again.

Marching as to War is looks at Canadian politics and military history between 1899, the start of the Boer War and 1953, the end of the Korean War. While it's meant to be more of a military history, Berton realized that you can't look at that period without looking at the politics. For example, you can't truly understand how unprepared we were for WWII until you look at the Depression-era politics of the 1930s.

One thing that I appreciate about Berton is that he tends not to take a rah-rah approach to looking at the past. He all but says, "Yep, we sure screwed that up" in a few places. It often feels like so many Canadian historians are afraid to say anything bad about anyone (unless it's politically motivated). He also has a way of complimenting people for some things while criticizing them for others. He gives people their due, whether it be good or bad or both. You know that he realizes that people have layers.

But what I like most about reading anything that Berton writes is his writing style. He's entertaining. He makes me laugh out loud. And when it comes to Canadian historians that's a rare, but much appreciated, trait. I have about half a dozen of his books around here.

I does make me a little bit sad though, that for all his work he'll mostly be remembered by those younger than me as "that dude that taught us how to roll a joint on the Rick Mercer show." (Which I thought was awesome, don't get me wrong.) Oh well, maybe some of them will become Canadian history majors and discover him.