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Military and Oral History Conference:

Between Memory and History


Marc-André Hémond

University of Manitoba

Paper Abstract

Canadian Military Law and Courts Martial During the Great War.

This paper addresses the significance of military legal history as oral history, as well as the problems presented in studying this field due to the quality of the material available. The courts-martial documents of Canadian trials during the Great War were micro-filmed from 1950-1954, consisting of 46 reels held at Library and Archives Canada. The files contain various documents regarding a trial, specifically the summaries of evidence and trial transcripts. Both offer oral accounts of the crime being investigated and were transcribed at the time of the testimony. The preservation of these documents allows for a novel area of study which has yet to be done within Canadian historiography: the oral history of crimes and trials of Canadian soldiers during the Great War.

            However, there are difficulties which arise from attempting such a study caused by the process of micro-filming: the quality of micro-filming is particularly poor. Furthermore, the micro-films themselves lack organization. Library and Archives Canada provides an index which a researcher can consult to find the reel on which a particular case can be found. However, the index lists the files by file number, which is lacking on nearly all of the files contained in the reels. What then can a scholarly researcher reconstruct about Canadian military case law during the Great War?



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