Scholar Irene Gammel Named 2020-2021 CP Stacey Award Winner for Best Book in Canadian Military History – 71Bait

WATERLOO – The CP Stacey Award Committee and the Laurier Center for the Study of Canada (LCSC) have recognized literary historians, biographers and curators Irene Gammel of the Toronto Metropolitan University with the 2020-2021 CP Stacey Prize for research papers on Canadian military history.

All I Can Paint: The Story of Battlefield Artist Mary Riter Hamilton (McGill-Queen’s University Press) makes an exceptional contribution to this field, breaking new ground as a model for the history of martial artists and the art of war. A superb biography of the tragic Mary Riter Hamilton, this detailed study of her life’s work and commitment to her art is also a superb cultural-military, gender and commemorative story.

“In this beautifully illustrated and innovative volume, Gammel takes the story to another level,” the committee stated when presenting the award. “Not only does she tell the incredible personal story of Mary Riter Hamilton, but she also curates the remarkable body of artwork Riter Hamilton created on site while visiting battlefields immediately after the First World War. The artist rushed to Europe to paint the war-torn landscape before the graphic aftermath of the battle could be erased. Her art, which in her time was greatly overshadowed by the work of official artists, is preserved even by Gammel with lavish illustrations and vivid descriptions.”

Gammel is Professor in the Department of English at Toronto Metropolitan University and Director of the Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre. She holds the Canada Research Chair in Modern Literature and Culture, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and has authored or edited 14 books.

“In this authoritative study of Mary Riter Hamilton, Gammel exhaustively combed through global and local archives to reconstruct her subject’s difficult, complex life experiences,” the committee noted. “Having chronicled Riter Hamilton’s travels and the landscapes the artist visited, Gammel writes with such eloquence and with such gifted prose that her readers can easily imagine the challenging circumstances Riter Hamilton faced in a war-ravaged Europe . Determined to complete her collection as both an artistic and humanitarian endeavor, Riter Hamilton was driven to a nervous breakdown by the sheer experience and pace of painting in the countryside. Through careful and detailed reconstruction of the physical, financial and gender circumstances faced by Riter Hamilton, I can only paint reveals a lot about the military, social and cultural dimensions of artistic production. It is an extremely important contribution to our understanding of the Canadian art of war, the memory and representation of violent armed conflict.”

The awards committee also announced an honorable mention for the 2020-2021 CP Stacey Award, Alex Search‘s War Junk: Munitions Disposal and Post-War Reconstruction in Canada (UBC Press). From an exceptionally strong pool of candidates for the award, Souchen’s work was recognized as innovative, compelling and an important contribution to the field. A comprehensive study of Canada’s post-WWII disposal regime, Souchen demonstrates the complexities of ending the war through reverse logistics and demonstrates an impressive understanding of institutional, industrial, economic, environmental, material culture, and military history.

The CP Stacey Award was named in honor of Charles Perry Stacey, a historical officer in the Canadian Army during World War II and later a longtime professor of history at the University of Toronto.

The CP Stacey Award is presented annually to the best book in the field of Canadian military history in its broadest sense, including exploration of war and society. The winner will receive a $1,000 prize, made possible through the generous support of John and Pattie Cleghorn and the Department of History at Wilfrid Laurier University. The LCSC took over award administration in 2018 from the Canadian Committee for the History of the Second World War.

The award committee consisted of Kevin Spooner (Wilfrid Laurier University; Director, LCSC), Isabel Campbell (Directorate of History and Heritage, National Defense Headquarters, Ottawa) and Serge Durflinger (University of Ottawa). The awards are usually presented at the end of the year in which the eligible books were published. Due to COVID-19, the committee for this year’s award announcement considered books published in both 2020 and 2021. Learn more here.

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