For a long time historians studying the First World War had to rely on the memoirs of soldiers, but over the last several decades, more and more letters have made their way into the archives as family members inherit and donate the written material of their relatives. These sources have initiated a new wave of scholarship devoted to identifying how civilian relationships were maintained, nurtured and interrupted by the war. But much remains to be learned. While we have long wondered about the psychological effects that war had on fighting men, what about their loved ones at home? After all, a significant number of soldiers left behind a spouse. In Canada alone, over 80,000 women were married to soldiers serving overseas. In this episode of On War & Society, Martha Hanna author of Anxious Days and Tearful Nights: Canadian War Wives during the Great War, discusses the challenges and ethics of working with private correspondence as well as the differences between how Canadian and European wives experienced the Great War at home.
Professor Hanna graduated with a B.A. (Honors) from the University of Winnipeg, an M.A. from the University of Toronto, and a Ph.D. from Georgetown University. She has published two books and several articles on the history of France during the First World War. Her second book, Your Death Would Be Mine: Paul and Marie Pireaud in the Great War (Harvard University Press, 2006), received the Colorado Book Award, the F. Russell Major Prize from the American Historical Association, and the Society for Military History distinguished book award in biography or war memoirs. Your Death Would be Mine was translated into French in 2008. Professor Hanna’s thrid book, Anxious Days and Tearful Nights (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020), examines how Canadian war wives experienced the First World War.