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July 2014

Snapshots in History: July 30: Remembering Fort York’s Beginnings

July 30, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)

Fort York looking east

(Fort York, looking east - March 1952)


Fort York barracks looking w

(Fort York, barracks, looking w., 1934)

Residents of the City of Toronto as well as visitors to the city may have the opportunity to visit Fort York National Historic Site in downtown Toronto. On July 30 and beyond, take a moment to remember Fort York’s beginnings on July 30, 1793 as Upper Canada’s Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe acted upon the survey conducted of the harbour area by Joseph Bouchette and made the decision to establish a military garrison (complete with arsenal), accompanied by a town named York which became the capital of Upper Canada, was captured on April 27, 1813 by American forces during the War of 1812 (after the decision of Major-General Isaac Brock in 1811 to strengthen the garrison in anticipation of war), and eventually was renamed Toronto in 1834.

The British blew up Fort York’s gunpowder magazine in April 1813, killing 250 American invaders including Brigadier-General Zebulon Pike. The Americans had occupied York for six days, looting houses, destroying provisions, and burning Government House and the Parliament Buildings.

The Americans returned briefly in July 1813 to burn barracks and other buildings that they had missed in April 1813. Afterwards, the British rebuilt Fort York that was sufficiently strong to repel another attempted American invasion in August 1814. The British continued to station troops in Fort York following the War of 1812, although most troops were re-located to a new barracks one kilometre to the west of Fort York in 1841. The Dominion of Canada assumed most of the responsibility for Canadian defense in 1870, including Fort York. After the weaponry became obsolete, the Army continued to use Fort York and its facilities for administrative, storage, and training purposes up to the 1930s. A military presence continued at Fort York even during World War Two.

Fort York was opened as a historic site museum on Victoria Day 1934 and operates in a similar capacity today with support from the Friends of Fort York as well as interested community members.

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


Setting a fine table historical desserts and drinks from the officers' kitchens at Fort York

Setting a fine table: historical desserts and drinks from the officers' kitchens at Fort York / Elizabeth Baird and Bridget Wranich

The military does not function with discipline, strategy, tactics, and weapons alone. Soldiers need to be fed. This book includes 30 selected recipes taken from the officers’ kitchen in fort York, from the historic, inaugural recipe to its modern equivalent. The recipes are placed into context with explanations on choice and use of local food sources.


Historic Fort York 1793-1993

Historic Fort York 1793-1993 / Carl Benn

The book was published in Fort York’s bicentennial year. Carl Benn looks back at the important role that Fort York played in the 1790s, the War of 1812, the 1837 Rebellion, the defense of Canada during the American Civil War, and more recently, as a national historic site commemorating the past.

Also available in eBook (Access Online) format.


Structures. Fort York, Show #7, 2006 [1 videodisc] / Structures (Television Program); Rogers Television.

This documentary explores the historic buildings on the Fort York National Historic Site.

Snapshots in History: Remembering the Centenary of the Start of the First World War: June 28 to August 4, 1914

July 29, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)

The summer of 2014 finds humankind looking back a century to the beginning of World War One, one of the deadliest conflicts in history. There were different factors contributing to the beginning of the First World War, even before the trigger events occurred, such as the formation of opposing alliances (the Allies: France, Great Britain (including British Empire colonies such as Canada), Russia, Japan and others (and eventually Italy and the United States) versus the Central Powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria), and the naval arms race between Great Britain and Germany.

The road to war escalated with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his pregnant wife Sophia on June 28, 1914 by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 26, 1914 and invaded that country three days later. Russia began mobilization of its armed forces on July 28, 1914, and was warned by Germany on July 31, 1914 to cease mobilizing its forces; Russia replied that the mobilization was directed against Austria-Hungary only. Germany declared war on Russia on August 1, 1914 and signed a secret alliance treaty with the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The next day, Germany invaded Luxembourg, declared war on France on August 3, 1914 and received Belgium’s refusal to allow German troops and weapons to transit through Belgian territory towards France.

Germany invaded Belgium on August 4, 1914 and Great Britain declared war on Germany, following a protest concerning the violation of Belgian neutrality guaranteed by treaty. Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia on August 6, 1914, and France and Great Britain declared war on Austria-Hungary on August 12, 2014.

Here are some websites that offer chronologies of the First World War (This list is not exhaustive by any means):

WW1 Timeline- A detailed history of the Great War 1914-1918 (The Great War: 1914-1918 – URL: )


World War I Timeline (Portable Document Format (PDF) – URL: - Ministry of Education, Province of Manitoba, Canada)


BBC - Remembrance - World War One Timeline (URL: )


The Great War . Timeline . Pre-1914 | PBS (PBS – The Great War – WW1 Timeline; URL: )


WWI: Timeline - Canada at War (Canada at War – Great War Timeline; URL: )


Timeline of World WarI - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(URL: )


To further explore the origins of World War One, consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections: 


The assassination of the archduke Sarajevo 1914 and the romance that changed the world


The assassination of the archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the romance that changed the world / Greg King and Sue Woolmans, 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 943.60441 FRA KIN

Read the story of the romance of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie (née Chotek) who, marrying against the wishes of the Austrian emperor Franz Josef, were forced into a morganatic marriage in which Sophie was excluded from the privileges of Austrian royal society.  King and Woolmans make a case for the revisionist, though not officially accepted, theory that the Archduke and his wife were sent to Sarajevo by the Austrian court with the knowledge that their lives might be in danger.  

Also available in Audiobook CD, eAudiobook (Access Online), and Talking Book (Restricted to PRINT DISABLED patrons) formats.

Read the review in Kirkus Reviews. Read the review in Publishers Weekly.


  Catastrophe Europe goes to war 1914


Catastrophe: Europe goes to war 1914 / Max Hastings, 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 940.311 HAS

Max Hastings, author of many books on the Second World War, examines the origins of the First World War in great detail, even drawing upon primary sources from ordinary soldiers and government officials to develop the context in which the war began. However, on the issuance of blame for starting the war, Hastings puts the blame squarely on Germany and Austria-Hungary. From an ethical standpoint, Hastings argues that it did matter which side won the war. Hastings does not spare leading military and political leaders from criticism.


Also available in Audiobook CD, eAudiobook (Access Online), eBook (Access Online), and Talking Book (Restricted to PRINT DISABLED patrons) formats.

Read the review in The Guardian. Read the review in the New York Times. Read the review in The Telegraph.


  The First World War

The First World War [1st Vintage Books ed.] / John Keegan, 2000. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 940.3 KEE

The First World War / John Keegan, 1998. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 940.3 KEE

The late military historian John Keegan produced this single volume work on World War One which is a good starting point for a reader wishing to learn more about the events, developments, and horrors of that global conflict. The frenetic developments of 1914 leading to war eventually give way to major conflict and the collapse of the Russian, Ottoman, Hapsburg, and German empires in 1917-1918. Learn about the failure of the German’s Schlieffen Plan, and the interminable spell of trench warfare mixed with technological and social factors.

Alternative formats: Audiobook CD (Abridged) and Talking Book (Abridged – Restricted to PRINT DISABLED patrons).

Read the review in the New York Times. Read the review in Publishers Weekly.


The First World War an illustrated history

The First World War: an illustrated edition [1st American ed.] / John Keegan, 2002. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 940.3 KEE

An abridged repackaging of John Keegan’s history of World War One in a larger format.


George, Nicholas and Wilhelm three Royal cousins and the road to World War I

George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: three Royal cousins and the road to World War I / Miranda Carter, 2010. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 940.3112 CAR

The reader may picture three first cousins (King George V of Great Britain, Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany) whose personal relationships were incorporated into their countries’ foreign policies. A dearth of royal leadership and being out of touch with the realpolitik of the day did not help as Great Britain, Germany, and Russia stumbled into an unnecessary world war.

Also available in eAudiobook (Access Online) format.

Read the review in the Los Angeles Times. Read the review in the New York Times.


July 1914 countdown to war

July 1914: countdown to war / Sean McMeekin, 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 930.311 MACM

For those wishing to look at the start of the First World War from a diplomatic history point of view, McMeekin offers the reader a look at inept Austrian-Hungarian and German diplomatic manoeuvres, and points the finger at the then-Russian foreign minister Sergei Sazonov, and the then-French President Raymond Poincaré as the likely culprits for altering evidence during July 1914. The author does not absolve Germany of responsibility for its part in starting World War One but points out that both France and Russia misinformed Great Britain about the timing of each country’s military mobilizations to show Austria-Hungary and Germany as the belligerent nations. Germany was the last of the great powers to mobilize but its invasion and violation of Belgium’s neutrality led to Great Britain’s declaration of war against Germany.

Also available in eBook (Access Online) format.

Read the review in Times Higher Education. Read the review in the Washington Times.



The lost history of 1914 reconsidering the year the Great War began

The lost history of 1914: reconsidering the year the Great War began [1st U.S. ed.] / Jack Beatty, 2012. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 940.3 BEA

The author challenges the assumption of the inevitability of the First World War if certain events had turned out differently such as a possible military coup in Germany, civil war in Ireland involving Great Britain over the efficacy of Irish Home Rule, and the assassination of Gaston Calmette, editor of Le Figaro newspaper, by Henriette Caillaux, the second wife of the former Prime Minister, Joseph Caillaux, a supporter of peace, over the publication of information damaging to Monsieur Caillaux’s reputation.

Also available in eBook (Access Online) and eBook (Access Online) formats.

Read the review in Kirkus Reviews. Read the review in Open Letters Monthly.


A mad catastrophe the outbreak of World War I and the collapse of the Habsburg Empire

A mad catastrophe: the outbreak of World War I and the collapse of the Habsburg Empire / Geoffrey Wawro, 2014. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 940.414 WAW

The author contends that the problems of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire stemmed from Austria’s defeat in the Austro-Prussian war of 1866, the tenuous establishment of Austria-Hungary and subsequent Hungarian attempts to reduce the influence of the Austrian monarchy, place limits on the size of the military, and frustrate attempts at major decision-making. The betrayal by Colonel Alfred Redl (who sold military secrets to Russia) in addition to incompetent military leadership and untested troops all sought to sow the seeds of the eventual disintegration of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.  

Read the review on . Read the review in Maclean’s magazine.


The origins of the First World War

The origins of the First World War / William Mulligan, 2010. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 940.311 MUL

Mulligan offers an interesting premise that the Great Powers used military strength as a deterrence to war. Nationalism was downplayed and militarism was muted in striking a balance of power (that included arms races and compulsory military service) in the name of defensive patriotism. Although war did occur, there were subsequent attempts to keep the peace between the world wars and during the Cold War following World War Two.

Read the review in Essays in History. Read the review on H-Net (Humanities and Social Sciences Online).



(Credit: TV Ontario – YouTube - Allan Gregg in Conversation with Niall Ferguson - Was World War I the error of modern history? – Uploaded on May 19, 2011 – 27:44)


The pity of war

The pity of war / Niall Ferguson, 1999. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 940.3 FER

Economic historian Ferguson offers the reader a revisionist view on the start of the First World War (with which many will disagree) by placing the blame squarely on Great Britain. Germany had just cause to fear French and Russian militarist action, and Great Britain entering the war on the side of France and Russia increased the scope of the war from continental to global. Ferguson presents his analysis of the war in economic terms, noting that its cost the Allies over three times as much to kill a German soldier in World War One as it cost German forces to kill an Allied soldier. Those readers seeking more information on diplomatic manoeuvres and military strategy will find this book to be wanting.

Read the review on The Atlantic. Read the review in the New York Times.


  The sleepwalkers how Europe went to war in 1914

The sleepwalkers: how Europe went to war in 1914 / Christopher M. Clark, 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 940.311 CLA

History professor Clark asserts that there is sufficient blame to be shared amongst the Great Power for beginning the First World War. The alliances were in place on both sides but there were doubts whether partner nations would come to one’s aid in the event of war. Germany’s hope for a localized, continental conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia (following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand) did not come to pass as Russia assumed the mantle of protector of all Slavic nations. Russia increased the stakes by mobilizing its forces, while Great Britain initially sat on the fence, and Germany acted provocatively by invading Belgium.

Also available in eBook (Access Online) format.

Read the review in Foreign Affairs. Read the review in the London Review of Books. Read the review in the Washington Times.

(Credit: CBC Radio/ Audio – Ideas with Paul Kennedy – June 23, 2014 – Margaret McMillan and World War One – “Margaret McMillan is one of the world’s leading scholars on World War One. She talks with Paul Kennedy about the origins of the war and what we’ve learned – and failed to learn – from it.” – 53:59)



(Credit: Writers Trust of Canada – YouTube - Margaret MacMillan on The War That Ended Peace – Published on April 2, 2014 – 1:41)



(Credit: Politics in Spires – YouTube - Margaret MacMillan: The War That Ended Peace – Published on July 17, 2014 – 15:22)


The war that ended peace: the road to 1914 / Margaret Macmillan, 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 940.28 MACM

Margaret Macmillan, professor of international history at Oxford University, offers to the reader the view that World War One was not inevitable but certain events, institutions, and personalities helped to stoke the likelihood of a war occurring: the British-German naval arms race, the immaturity of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the unlikely alliance of Great Britain with France (a past foe) and Russia, and the pairing of Germany with a weak Austria-Hungary, and the limitations imposed by the nature of the alliance blocs themselves.

Also available in Audiobook CD and eBook (Access Online) formats.

Read the review in The Guardian. Read the review in the New York Times.


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