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November 2013

Snapshots in History: November 30: Remembering the Winter War

November 30, 2013 | John P. | Comments (0)



(Tanks were destroyed with satchel charges and Molotov cocktails. File URL: ; Page URL: ; Attribution: By SA-kuva. (MTV3) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Date: 1939 or 1940)


On November 30 and beyond, take a moment to remember the Winter War, the Soviet Union’s invasion of Finland that began on November 30, 1939 and ended in mid-March, 1940 with the signing of the  Moscow Peace Treaty that ceded large territorial tracts, most of Finland’s pulp and paper industrial capacity, and one-third of the Finns’ hydroelectric power generating capacity.  On the surface, Goliath did indeed beat David but at a high price. The Soviets had overwhelming superiority in terms of ground troops, tanks, and aircraft but ended up with approximately 323,000 total casualties (out of a total population of some 180 million people at the time) to Finland’s 70,000 (out of a total population of some 3 million people at that time). The Finns had several things going in their favour: knowledge of their terrain and how to mobilize and fight thereon; the cold, sub-Arctic temperatures at the time for which the Finns had better clothing and used white sheets as camouflage in the snow; and, the poor organization of the Soviet forces. Unfortunately, the Soviets had numerical superiority of their side with the eventual outcome likely, and French and British plans to send military aid to Finland came to naught. The League of Nations resolution adopted on December 14, 1939 to expel the Soviet Union for taking aggressive action against Finland was of little consequence as the League had already failed to prevent the start of World War Two in September 1939. Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


A frozen hell: the Russo-Finnish winter war of 1939-1940 / William R. Trotter, 1991. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 948.97032 TRO

The author brought out the Finns’ advantages in defense: love of their country, knowledge of the land, and ability to move around it. Superiority in military equipment alone is not necessary a recipe for success. The Finns did surrender land and resources to end this conflict but retained their independence. Soviet incompetence on the battlefront helped the Finns but Finnish resources were stretched to the limit.


Mannerheim president soldier spy

Mannerheim: president, soldier, spy / Jonathan Clements, 2012. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 948.9703 MAN CLE

This biography examined Finnish statesman Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim who served as Commander-in-Chief of Finland’s military forces during World War 2, including the Winter War. Prior to Finland’s independence from Russia in December 1917, Mannerheim had served in the Imperial Russian Army. Mannerheim became the country’s President in 1944 and served until 1946, when ill-health forced his retirement. He died in January 1951. 


White death Russia's war on Finland 1939-40 

White death: Russia's war on Finland, 1939-40 / Robert Edwards, 2006. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 948.97032 EDW

Although Finland lost 11% of its territory, 30% of its economic assets, and over 25.000 of its people killed (amongst the 70,000 casualties), Finnish troops outclassed their poorly trained Soviet counterparts in battle with their use of skiing for mobility, their navigational abilities, deadly marksmanship using their automatic weapons, and the ability to improvise as needed. Learn where the slogan “White Death” came from.  


The winter war the Soviet attack on Finland 1939-1940

The winter war: the Soviet attack on Finland, 1939-1940 [1st. pbk. ed.]  / Eloise Katherine Engle and Lauri Paananen, 1992 [c1973]. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 948 .97032 ENG

For a time, Engle and Paananen’s book was one of the few titles available in English that was readily available on the Winter War. The book covered the failed negotiations between Finland and the Soviet Union over the latter’s desire for additional territory to protect itself from future conflict. The harsh Moscow Peace Treaty ending the Winter War helped to set the stage for Finland’s attempt to regain its resources and territory in the Continuation War of 1941-1944 against the Soviet Union.

For a copy of the 1972/c1973 edition of this title, please click here.


For books in the Finnish language on this subject (both Non-Fiction and Fiction), click here.

Snapshots in History: November 26: Happy Birthday, NHL!

November 26, 2013 | John P. | Comments (0)

On November 26 and beyond, take a moment to acknowledge the founding of the National Hockey League (NHL) on November 26, 1917. The NHL, arguably the premier professional ice hockey sports league on the planet, resulted out of the suspension of the preceding National Hockey Association that had been founded in 1909. The original NHL teams were the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, and the Quebec Bulldogs. The Quebec Bulldogs were initially unable to play so the league established another team, the Toronto Arenas, to compete in the new league. If you are a hockey history enthusiast, then consider the following titles available for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:

The NHL a centennial history

The NHL: a centennial history / D’Arcy Jenish, 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 796.96264 JEN

Hockey historian Jenish is the first out of the gate with his near-centennial history of the National Hockey League. Jenish re-tells the history of the NHL with unprecedented access to NHL documents and with in-depth interviews with former president John Ziegler and current commissioner Gary Bettman amongst other NHL officials, general managers, coaches, and player representatives. Two ongoing themes permeate the NHL’s history: survival and expansion. Jenish covers the league’s expansion in 1967, its merger with the World Hockey Association in 1979, and the subsequent player-owner conflicts, free agency, salary cap, and lockouts


The lords of the rinks the emergence of the National Hockey League 1875-1936

The lords of the rinks: the emergence of the National Hockey League, 1875-1936 / John Chi-Kit Wong, 2005. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 796.96264 WON

Sports management academic Wong followed the establishment of hockey within an amateur framework in the late 19th century. The first recorded game was played in Montreal in 1875 and the first set of rules was published in 1877. Wong told the story of the schism between amateur and professional hockey circles in the early 20th century, and the formation of the NHL after the suspension of the National Hockey Association to sever relations with Edward Livingstone and his team, the Toronto Shamrocks. As the NHL expanded from 4 to 10 teams in the 1920s, the author showed interest in a clearer delineation between capital (the team owners) and labour (the players). Wong undertook detailed research in the NHL archives, analyzing many letters, memos, telegrams, meeting minutes and other documents. The author pondered how hockey might have turned out differently had a team promotion and relegation model been instituted similar to that of professional soccer in European countries.

Snapshots in History: November 14: Remembering Sir Frederick Banting

November 16, 2013 | John P. | Comments (0)




On November 14 and beyond, take a moment to remember Sir Frederick Grant Banting (Born: November 14, 1891 at Alliston, Ontario; Died: February 21, 1941 at Musgrave Harbour, Newfoundland from wounds and exposure to the elements following a airplane crash.) whose is best known for his life-saving and life-changing work on the discovery of insulin that improved lives for millions of diabetics all over the world. For this discovery, Dr. Banting was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1923 with Dr. John James Rickard Macleod. Macleod had provided Banting with access to laboratory facilities at the University of Toronto in 1921 along with the assistance of a medical student, Dr. Charles Herbert Best. Banting was angered at the Nobel Committee for ignoring Best’s contribution in the discovery of insulin so Banting gallantly shared his half of the Nobel Prize money with Best. (Best succeeded Dr. Macleod as professor of physiology at the University of Toronto in 1929.) In addition to being the youngest Nobel laureate in medicine/physiology, Banting also received the Reeve Prize in 1922 from the University of Toronto, was awarded an annual life annuity of $7,500 by the Canadian government in 1923, and was knighted by King George V in 1934 as well as becoming a Vice-President of the Diabetic Association (now Diabetes UK). Banting also became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1935.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Breakthrough Banting Best and the race to save millions of diabetics

Breakthrough: Banting, Best and the race to save millions of diabetics / Thea Cooper and Arthur Ainsberg, 2010. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 612.34 COO

Journey back to 1919 where a frail 11-year old Elizabeth Hughes has been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes with the only accepted form of treatment being starvation. Due to the work of Banting and Best, marred somewhat by scientific jealousy and business rivalry, Elizabeth Hughes becomes one of the first diabetics to receive insulin injections while the discoverers and the Eli Lilly and Company work to mass produce insulin in order to help diabetics all over the world.

Also available as an eBook


The greatest Canadian. Volume 3, Frederick Banting, Lester B. Pearson [Greatest ed.] [DVD] / Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2004. DVD. Documentary. Adult Non-Fiction. 920.071 GRE

Watch the dual documentaries of Frederick Banting and Lester B. Pearson and their advocates’ promotion of their cases as to why Banting and Pearson should each be considered as “the Greatest Canadian.”  


Frederick Banting hero healer artist

Frederick Banting: hero, healer, artist / Stephen Eaton Hume, 2001. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 616.46202 BAN HUM

Consider this readable biography of Banting that included his exploits in the Canadian Army Medical Corps that led to his being awarded the Military Cross in 1919 for heroism on account of treating wounded soldiers for 16 hours, while being wounded himself. Continue the story of Banting’s life by reading about his work with Charles Best and others on isolating insulin to treat diabetics around the world.

Also available as an eBook.  


The discovery of insulin 3rd pbk ed

The discovery of insulin [3rd pbk. ed.] / Michael Bliss, 2000. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 615.36509 BLI  

Consider this multi-awarding winning book (including the City of Toronto Book Award) by University of Toronto Professor Emeritus of History Michael Bliss about the discovery of insulin by the Canadian research team of Banting, Best, Macleod, and James Bertram Collip.

Click here for the 1982 edition of this title.  


Banting a biography

Banting: a biography [2nd. pbk. ed.] / Michael Bliss, 1992. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 616.462 BANTING / 921 BAN BAN / 921 BANTI

Read this acclaimed biography by Professor Michael Bliss of Frederick Banting’s ascent to celebrity status following the discovery of insulin and his subsequent frustrations in scientific discovery, a failed marriage to a socialite that ended in scandal, his attempt to seek solace through his work and painting, and his untimely death in a plane crash.

Click here for the 1984 edition of this title.  


November 14th is also World Diabetes Day as proclaimed by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization. For more information on diabetes and resources available in Toronto Public Library collections, please visit Toronto Public Library’s Health and Wellness Blog and view the blog post Diabetes by Numbers….

Snapshots in History: November 7: Remembering Marie Curie, Double Nobel Prize Winner

November 8, 2013 | John P. | Comments (0)


(Credit: The Genius of Marie Curie (BBC))


On November 7 and beyond, take a moment to remember and acknowledge the contribution of an exceptional scientist named Marie Curie (also known as Marie Sklowdowska-Curie) (Born: November 7, 1867 at Warsaw, Poland; Died: July 4, 1934 at Passy, Haute-Savoie, France). Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win a Nobel Prize in two fields (physics in 1903 (one half of the prize shared with her husband Pierre Curie with the other half going to Antoine Henri Becquerel – all for work on radioactivity and radiation); and, chemistry in 1911 (singularly awarded for her discovery of the elements radium and polonium and the isolation of the element radium)), and the only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different sciences. Ultimately, her work contributed to her death from aplastic anemia likely due to long-term radiation exposure, including storing unshielded test tubes with radioactive content on her person and in her desk drawers as well as her work during World War One developing mobile X-Ray (radiography) units known as the “petites Curies”. Consider the following titles for loan from Toronto Public Library collections:


Marie Curie and her daughters the private lives of science's first family

Marie Curie and her daughters: the private lives of science’s first family / Shelley Emling, 2012. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 540.9252 CUR EML

Polish-born Marie Curie’s wins of both the Nobel Prizes in Physics (with husband Pierre) and Chemistry speak for themselves as indicators of an accomplished scientist. However, her daughters were also accomplished individuals with Irene also a Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry (whose work contributed to the development of the atomic bomb) and Eve, a well-regarded humanitarian and journalist.

(This title was also reviewed in Salute to International Women’s Day! Selected Biographies and Memoirs of Women.)  


Radioactive Marie & Pierre Curie, a tale of love & fallout 1st ed

Radioactive : Marie & Pierre Curie, a tale of love & fallout [1st ed.] / Lauren Redniss, 2010. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 540.92 CUR RED

Read the dual romantic and scientific biography of scientists Marie and Pierre Curie that stressed the importance of their work in radiation and radioactivity for the modern world as well as their personal relationship.


Marie Curie a biography

Marie Curie: a biography / Marilyn Bailey Ogilvy, 2010. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 540.092 CUR OGI

Follow the story of bright, young Maria Sklowdowska trying to get an education in Poland under the domination of Czarist Russia as well as her move to France where she meets and collaborates with fellow scientist Pierre Curie whom she marries as they were kindred spirits in both religion and science. Marie Curie becomes the first female professor at the Sorbonne following her husband’s untimely death due to a traffic accident in 1906. Science historian Ogilvy discusses the controversy amongst some scientists about Marie Curie’s Nobel Prize awards; they charged that Pierre Curie performed the work. Learn more about Marie Curie’s initiative to establish radium institutes as well as mobile X-ray units for the French army during the First World War. Friend and admirer (of her accomplishments) Albert Einstein paid tribute to Marie Curie a year following her death in 1934.

Snapshots in History: November 4-5: Remembering the Kitchen Accord and the Constitution

November 5, 2013 | John P. | Comments (0)

On November 4-5 and beyond, Canadians may want to reflect on the events of November 4-5, 1981 that led to the patriation of Canada’s constitution from the United Kingdom and the subsequent ratification of the Constitution Act (1982) and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by Canada’s federal government and a majority of the provincial governments. However, the outcome was far from perfect and harmonious as the then-separatist Parti Québécois (PQ) government of Québec under Premier René Lévesque refused to go along with the federal government and some of the other provincial governments who disagreed on issues such as an amending formula, the proposed Charter of Rights (which some provinces saw as encroaching on their jurisdiction and powers), and the provincial right to opt out of federal programs in exchange for compensation. Initially, the provinces of Ontario and New Brunswick sided with the government of Canada against the other eight provincial governments including Québec (referred to as the “Gang of Eight”). At the constitutional meetings of November 1981, the matter was turned on its head when Lévesque agreed with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on the provisional idea of patriating the constitution without amending it, followed by the possibility of a national referendum in several years time. Other provincial premiers were concerned that this course of events, if followed through, would lead to a diminution of provincial powers. So began the push to make a deal…

On the evening of November 4, 1981, then-federal Justice Minister Jean Chrétien met with then-Ontario Attorney-General Roy McMurtry, and then-Saskatchewan Attorney-General Roy Romanow in the kitchen of the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa, thereby being dubbed The Kitchen Cabinet. The Premiers agreed to remove the “opt-out” clause off the table, while the federal government agreed reluctantly to include the notwithstanding clause that would allow provincial governments to override certain sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau agreed and The Kitchen Accord was born. Québec Premier René Lévesque learned of this deal on the morning of November 5, 1981 at breakfast, felt a sense of betrayal, and announced that his government would not support the deal and left the meeting. Québec announced its intention to veto the agreement but subsequent rulings by the Québec Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada stated that the province did not possess veto powers, even though previous administrations had argued for the right of Québec to have a veto in constitutional negotiations.

For those who are interested in this aspect of Canadian constitutional history, consider the following titles for loan from Toronto Public Library collections:


Canada's constitutional revolution

Canada’s constitutional revolution / Barry L. Strayer, 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 342.71029 STR

The now-retired Hon. Dr. Barry L. Strayer, who served on the Federal Court of Canada and the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada, was also a constitutional adviser to the federal government who was influential in designing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In this work, Dr. Strayer shares his experiences as an important legal advisor. He discusses the constitutional discourses of the 1960s and the influence of Pierre Trudeau and constitutional expert F. R. Scott on the Charter of Rights file. Strayer also lays out the negotiations before and after the 1980 Québec referendum, the ensuing federal-provincial conflict, and the eventual conclusion of the patriation process.



The Canadian constitution

The Canadian constitution / Adam Dodek, 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 342.71029 DOD

The author, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, provides an up-to-date overview of Canada’s constitutional history, including a brief overall history, an examination of the Constitution Acts of 1867 and 1982, the importance of the Supreme Court of Canada and its Justices, key constitutional cases, and important dates in Canadian constitutional history.

Also available as an eBook.  



The last act Pierre Trudeau the gang of eight and the fight for Canada

The last act: Pierre Trudeau, the gang of eight, and the fight for Canada / Ron Graham, 2011. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 342.71029 GRA

Journalist Ron Graham offers the reader a good accounting of what happened that fateful November in 1981 with the negotiations to fully bring Canada’s constitution home from the United Kingdom. Watch the shifts in position between the opposing camps on the constitutional front that led to the “Kitchen Accord”. Lévesque expresses anger at what he sees as a betrayal of Québec and likens it to “The Night of the Long Knives” (which usually refers to Hitler’s purge of the Nazi Party in 1934) although it is doubtful whether the PQ government would have agreed to anything. Trudeau sees the patriation process as legal but also as mean. However, he also the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms come to fruition but later regretted agreeing to the notwithstanding clause. Read Andrew Cohen’s review of this book in the Globe and Mail here.

Also available as an eBook



Memoirs and reflections

Memoirs and reflections / R. Roy McMurtry, 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 340.092 MACM MACM

The former “Red Tory” Progressive Conservative attorney-general of Ontario (and member of provincial parliament) offers insights into a varied and exceptional career that also included time as a reformist defense lawyer, Canadian high commissioner to the United Kingdom, and chief justice in Ontario. In addition to being in the midst of constitutional discussions while provincial attorney-general, McMurtry also discusses legal cases mired in controversy, including the police raids on Toronto bathhouses, and a nurse wrongly accused of and charged with murdering babies. 



The patriation minutes

The patriation minutes / Howard A. Leeson, 2011. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 342.71029 LEE

See the developing constitutional negotiations in early November 1981 through the lens of Dr. Howard A. Leeson, a political science professor then serving as Saskatchewan’s Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. Leeson has made public his primary sources:  notes and minutes taken at meetings of the First Ministers as well as in-depth memos of meetings taking place away from the Government Conference Centre. 


If you want to delve a little further back, try the following title as well:

Canada-- notwithstanding : the making of the constitution, 1976-1982 / Roy J. Romanow, Howard A. Leeson, and John D. Whyte, 1984. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. Find copies under:  342.71029 R / 342.029 ROM

The authors offer an inside account of the process leading to the patriation of the constitution and the beginning of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They acknowledge that the process and outcomes can be criticized but achieving full independence and constitutional reform are symbolic of Canadians’ resolve to sustain their country.

Recent Prime Ministerial Writings on Hockey History and Foreign Policy

November 5, 2013 | John P. | Comments (0)

If you are Canadian or have an interest in Canadian affairs, you might be interested in reading two new non-fiction titles written by two different Canadian prime ministers (one current and one past) on two different topics: hockey history and foreign policy. Those interested in hockey and its history might find the following title to be worthy of interest and borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


A Great Game The Forgotten Leafs and the Rise of Professional Hockey

A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs and the Rise of Professional Hockey / Stephen J. Harper, 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. Place Hold

Join Canada’s 22nd Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, in his story about the early years of hockey in Canada and Toronto in particular and the advent of professional hockey teams such as the 1908 Toronto Professionals and the 1914 Toronto Blue Shirts each competing for the Stanley Cup (as the precursors to the Toronto Maple Leafs). Compare the similarities of today’s game with yesteryear’s including rough play on the ice, strong loyalties to locally-based teams coupled with similarly-minded news coverage, and yes, owner/team-player contract disputes and liberal remuneration. An added dynamic of the earlier version of the game involved fervent amateurs who played for the love of the game and the rise of the skilled professionals.

Read an excerpt of the book here. Mr. Harper’s proceeds as author “will go to the Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services (CFPFSS). The specific fund that the proceeds will be donated to is the Military Families Fund, which provides emergency financial assistance to military families faced with unforeseen and often immediate needs that have resulted due to conditions of service.” Mr. Harper is an enthusiastic member of the Society for International Hockey Research and worked on the book over some eight years in his spare time. He did hire and personally paid a researcher to assist with the research aspects but the book’s words are Harper’s own as he did not use a ghost writer. Read Jeff Z. Klein’s review in the New York Times here. Click here for Chris Selley’s review in the National Post.


For the foreign policy or political enthusiasts, consider this book by Canada’s 16th Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Charles Joseph (“Joe”) Clark, for loan from Toronto Public Library collections:


How we lead Canada in a century of change

How we lead: Canada in a century of change / Joe Clark, 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. Place Hold

Joe Clark only served briefly as Prime Minister from 1979-1980 (during the Tehran hostage crisis and the exodus of the Vietnamese boat people) but distinguished himself as Minister for External Affairs in Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government in fighting against starvation in Ethiopia and apartheid in South Africa. Clark is concerned that Canada’s diplomatic and humanitarian efforts are being sidelined by a more recent push towards military intervention without sufficient public discourse. Canada still has the opportunity to play an influential leadership role in conjunction with its respected reputation throughout the globe. Read Linda Diebel’s review in the Toronto Star here. Or, see what Peter Robb had to say about the book in the Ottawa Citizen here. Watch CBC Chief Correspondent Peter Mansbridge’s November 2, 2013 interview with the former Prime Minister on the television program Mansbridge: One on One by clicking here.

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