Patriotism and Camaraderie: Workingmen in a Peacetime Milita Regiment, 1907-1954


  • Christopher J. Anstead


The early twentieth-century militia has been ignored or caricatured by most social historians, especially those studying the working class. At first glance, the militia seems like an obviously repressive organization which focused on breaking strikes and crushing the will out of the workingmen in its ranks. Yet workers continued to join the organization, obviously finding some value in it. A Gramscian interpretation of this phenomenon (based on a detailed study of the Oxford Rifles Regiment, from Woodstock, Ontario) sees the militia as a site of subtle struggle, a place were the dominant culture succeeded in reinforcing "common sense" values such as patriotism or imperialism, while the subordinate groupfound room to express themselves in an atmosphere of camaraderie. Whether the issue was disputing restricted access to sports, or ignoring cultural condemnation of drinking, the peacetime militia provided opportunities for workingmen to forge a masculine fellowship under their own rules.