U of C invaded

By Colleen M. Potter

What if they declared a war and no one came?

Though no one really knows the answer, over 400 people converged on the University of Calgary last weekend to argue about it.

From May 24-26, the U of C played host to the annual conference of the Society for Military History, considered a great success by both organizers and participants.

"The conference [was] a means to show a lot of people in the military history community that there are different ways of doing things," said Dr. John Ferris, head of the U of C department of History and the conference program co-ordinator. "I think we succeeded. Our attempt was to get away from topics that focused on the United States civil war, the American Revolution, the Second World War and deal with a wider range of chronological topics and nationalities that don’t normally get dealt with."

The Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, working in partnership with the Department of History, brought a number of new perspectives to the conference. More focus was given to the Canadian military, Latin America and East Asia than in previous years, an accomplishment of note for the organizers.

"I think it has been a great conference," said one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Russell Weigley. "Well-organized, very diverse in its topics, very well attended. It’s to the credit of the university."

Over four days, approximately 430 registered guests from over 14 different countries including Italy, England and the United States participated in 69 panel discussions. Topics ranged from military medicine in pre-modern China, air operations and leadership, military policy making to the ever-controversial Post-Combat Syndrome.

The 2001 conference was only the second held outside of the United States, and was the largest meeting ever hosted by a university. It came to the U of C partly due to its world-renowned military history program, considered on par with such schools as King’s College in London, England.

"There is a large focus on military history in the department here," said participant and U of C honours History student Michelle McCann. "We have all these great [military historians] and I think that helped to bring the conference here."

Weigley agreed.

"For this particular subject, you’ve got one of the best military history programs in the world," he said. "And the society usually meets on the east coast, so having the conference here certainly helps dialogue among military historians by giving the chance to attend to people who otherwise can’t."

The CMSS, although relatively new, has already gained a very positive reputation throughout Canada and the United States.

"The experience of war and of military institutions is a very important experience for human beings," said Ferris. "If you’re looking for events which have shaped human history, certainly major wars would have to rank above a lot of things."

Many U of C professors either spoke or chaired panels at the conference and approximately 30 U of C students were actively involved in organizing and volunteering for the conference.

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