Originally from Vernon, BC, Megan Hamilton is a social historian of twentieth century Canada. She has a Bachelor of Arts Honours in History from Wilfrid Laurier University, where she was a Research Assistant at the Laurier Centre for the Study of Canada (LCSC). She is currently completing a Master of Arts at the University of Waterloo. Her SSHRC-funded research studies the Canadian experience of the Second World War, specifically the Vernon Military Camp.
This year, she won the Tri-University History Program’s top essay prize for a master’s students with her paper entitled “Liberal Intentions and a Colonial Mindset: The Imperial War Graves Commission in East Africa.” Megan has been awarded a SSHRC fellowship to conduct research for two months in the United Kingdom in summer 2022. Her work has been published in The Northern Mariner, Okanagan History, Waterloo Historical Review, Minerva, and on LCSC’s academic blog. In the fall, she will begin a second master’s degree at Carleton University with a focus on public history and the Canadian War Museum.
What field of Canadian history are you most interested in and how has this influenced your research topic?
My interest lies in Canadian military history and the study of war and society, particularly the World Wars. Thus, my current focus on the Canadian experience of the Second World War stems from a desire to ensure that the Canadian perspective of the war continues to be enriched. My secondary interests include war and memory and public history.
What inspired you to write about your research topic and what contribution do you hope to make to your area of research?
I have two projects on the go at the moment. The first is the study of mail and morale for the Canadian Army, which was inspired by my reading of My Father’s Son by Farley Mowat and by my work with Dr. Geoff Hayes on the topic of morale. With this research I hope to broaden the approach taken in the study of mail and encourage further study of mundane topics.
My second project is a study of the Vernon Military Camp during the Second World War. Growing up in Vernon, the camp was a common landmark that I knew little about. And in fact, there is little written on it. So with my research I hope to fill a portion of that gap in the historiography.
What part of your argument changed most during the writing process, and how has this impacted how you think about the final project?
My answer to this question applies to both of my current projects. My biggest realization in the past year has been the fact that not all Canadian soldiers adapted well to military life. They were first and foremost citizens, and their behaviour varied. This knowledge has come from the study of morale using various primary sources and forced both of my projects to consider that not all participants were willing or enthusiastic.
What research and writing tips do you find have helped you the most during your studies?
In putting together a paper, I always create an outline that provides an overview of the project. This reminds me of the bigger picture and keeps me on track. I have also found it useful to explore how I work best. For example, part of my process is to sort out my ideas verbally, even if the person listening doesn’t have a clue what I am talking about!
What activities or hobbies have best helped you destress after a long day of writing?
Exercise is one of the best ways to destress for me, so I thoroughly enjoy going for a walk or teaching group fitness classes. Listening to music while cooking always helps, as does a good TV series.
What advice do you have for others who are also working on history research?
Network and apply! Firstly, reaching out to other historians has very rarely been a negative experience, and I have learned so much from connections that I have made. This has been especially beneficial as a young graduate student learning to navigate the academy. Secondly, always apply. The unique experiences that I have had in the last few years have come from putting myself out there and taking chances. Without them, my personal and academic growth would be nowhere near what it is today.
Off the Cuff is an interview-style series hosted by Kyle Pritchard which explores the research of early-career academics with ties to the Laurier Centre for the Study of Canada. The series allows scholars the opportunity to present their research to a wider online audience and to express the goals and challenges that they see in the field of Canadian History today.