2016 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing Finalist

Ian McKay and Jamie Swift The Vimy Trap: Or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War

Ian McKay
and Jamie Swift 
The Vimy Trap: Or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War
Between the Lines

Greg Donaghy

Jury Citation

In recent years, the idea that “Canada became a nation” at the April 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge has practically become an official doctrine of the Canadian state. The Vimy Trap is for those who have nagging instinctive doubts about this. It is an authoritative, sometimes indignant debunking of “Vimyism” that inquires into the truth of the battle, documents its mythologization, and reflects on the legacy of the First World War. McKay and Swift’s book is almost too contrarian and hard-hitting to be Canadian, and almost too well-written for its dual byline to seem possible.

About the Book

Was the Great War a futile imperial debacle? A proud, nation-building milestone? Contending Great War memories have helped to shape how later wars were imagined. The Vimy Trap provides a powerful probe of commemoration cultures. This subtle, fast-paced work of public history—combining scholarly insight with sharp-eyed journalism, and based on primary sources and school textbooks, battlefield visits and war art—explains both how and why peace and war remain contested terrain in ever-changing landscapes of Canadian memory.

About the Authors

Ian McKay is the L.R. Wilson Chair in Canadian History at McMaster University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2009 he won the Sir John A. Macdonald Prize awarded by the Canadian Historical Association for Reasoning Otherwise: Leftists and the People’s Enlightenment in Canada, 1890–1920. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

Jamie Swift is a lecturer at Queen’s University and the author of 11 books, including Persistent Poverty: Voices from the Margins and Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety, which was also co-authored with Ian McKay. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail, the Montreal Gazette, The Kingston Whig-Standard, and Briarpatch Magazine. He lives in Kingston, Ontario.




Woodcock Fund



Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing


June 20 for books published between Jan 1 and June 19, 2018


Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
and Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize


July 18 for books published between May 16 and Sept 30, 2018


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