Bourassa’s War: Henri Bourassa and the First World War
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This dissertation examines the perspective of French Canadian nationalist Henri Bourassa during the First World War from 1914-1918. Bourassa was one of the best-known voices rejecting the war’s purpose and value in Canada. He consistently offered detailed and in-depth analytical critiques of the war. He first accepted Canadian participation from August 1914 to January 1916, but his position gradually shifted from cautious support to outright rejection. This dissertation argues that Henri Bourassa has traditionally been understood as a domestic commentator in Canada, but during the war years he wrote in the pages of his newspaper Le Devoir to address a wide variety of international issues. He was one of a few Canadians who looked out to the world and interpreted global events for his readers. Historians have already recounted in detail his thoughts about the Ontario bilingual schools crisis, conscription, the December 1917 election, and the Easter Riots of 1918. This work examines Bourassa’s thoughts on diplomacy between the belligerent nations and that of Pope Benedict XV, international events like the Easter Rising in Ireland and the American entry into the war. It re-examines his domestic commentary concerning the Canadian home front in light of his position on international issues, especially his growing anxiety over militarism and the deterioration of Canadian democracy. He believed that the war, which was ostensibly fought for democracy and liberty, was drastically changing the Allied nations and transforming them into the sort of autocratic states against which they fought. This thesis concludes that Bourassa adopted an intellectual approach to the war that deconstructed its impact at home and abroad, and stands as one of Canada’s foremost thinkers during the war years.