Victoria author, historian honoured

Local author receives high honour for Canadian history book

A Victoria author has received the prestigious 2014 Pierre Berton Award, recognizing his contribution to raising awareness about Canadian history.

Mark Zuehlke was at Rideau Hall in Ottawa Monday to receive the Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media. Presented by Gov. Gen. David Johnston, the award celebrates those who have brought Canadian history to a wider audience.

The award comes as Zuehlke launches the 11th title in his acclaimed Canadian Battle Series of books last week, Forgotten Victory: First Canadian Army and the Cruel Winter of 1944-45, the untold story of how the Canadian Army paved the way for an Allied victory in Europe in the Second World War through an attack against the Rhineland.

To receive the award bearing Berton’s name and for the body of his contribution, as opposed to a single title, is particularly rewarding.

“I personally think Pierre Berton was a person who truly made is legitimate to write popular history in Canada,” Zuehlke says.

Harbour Publishing describes the bestselling Canadian Battle Series as “the most detailed account of any army during World War II ever written by a single author. The series continues to confirm Zuehlke’s reputation as one of the nation’s leading popular military historians.”

“To me, the whole idea is to take these stories and put them in the hands of the people and be informed by them,” Zuehlke says.

When Zuehlke wrote the first book in what would become the Canadian Battle Series, Ortona, he had no idea of the series to come. Sparked by a group of veterans speaking about their experiences at the long-ago battle, it was one Zuehlke himself hadn’t heard of.

“I thought it was going to be a one-off but it turned out it did quite well,” he says.

Several more titles about the Italian campaign followed, along with books about Juno, Dieppe and other campaigns deserving recognition. His fifth title in the series, Holding Juno, captured the 2006 City of Victoris Butler Book Prize.

“From there I started looking at campaigns that I thought hadn’t been given their due,” Zuehlke says.

While he had no finite end to the series in mind, he anticipates 14 or 15 books in all.

Why are all these stories important?

“I think it’s important because when you look at the generation that went through World War II . . . when they came back, everything they did for the rest of their lives was incredibly pushed forward by these experiences,” Zuehlke says, pointing to the creation of the welfare state as an example. “They had depended on each other for their lives and that kind of bond was an unbreakable one.”

Upon their return, that desire to take care of each other continued.

“And of course, it affected all of us because we were all descended from that generation.”

At the same time, because so many of that generation did not speak about their experiences, it’s the rolls of historians and authors like Zuehlke to share them with those who came after.

The response to the series has been very positive, Zuehlke says. Initially coming from the expected veterans and history community, “readership has shifted,” he notes.

Readers are now 40 to 45 per cent female, many in the 35 to 65-year old group; the male readers fall in a similar demographic. These are people who are interested in their family stories, and learning about the generations that came before, reflective perhaps of a similar upsurge in interest Zuehlke sees in Remembrance Day generally.

“I’m very heartened when I go to the cenotaphs on November 11 and see all these families there with their kids; you didn’t see that 15 years ago,” he says.

 

Book Launch

Join Mark Zuehlke at Munro’s Books beginning at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 26 (doors open at 7 p.m.), to celebrate the launch of Forgotten Victory.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Young deckhands backed out of fatal Arctic Fox II trip just before the fishboat departed

Inexperienced twin brothers had ‘gut feeling’ and bailed before going to open ocean

Police investigating alleged assault on Oak Bay Avenue

Staff at Oak Bay Home Hardware say one person was taken to hospital

VIDEO: Seal pup and mom play and ‘kiss’ in Oak Bay Marina

BRNKL seal cam captures harbour seal growing up in busy harbour

Oak Bay neighbourhoods rocked by blasting activity

Oak Bay seeks new rock blasting bylaw regarding ‘continuous’ noise

Greater Victoria hardly making a dent in greenhouse gas emissions target

One-per-cent drop from 2007 to 2018 a far cry from the 33-per-cent goal for 2020

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Old-growth forest defenders in Campbell River call for B.C. forest minister’s resignation

Protestors outside North Island MLA’s office ask government to stop old-growth logging

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

High-volume littering at Cape Scott draws ire from hiking groups

Popular Vancouver Island hiking spot not closing, but frustration about crowding grows

SFU to drop ‘Clan’ varsity team name

The ‘Clan’ name is shortened from ‘Clansmen,’ and was introduced roughly 55 years ago

New Tory leader must build a strong team in Commons and for the campaign: Scheer

Scheer marked his final day in the House of Commons today as leader of the Opposition

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

Feds commit $305M in additional funds for Indigenous communities during COVID-19

Money can be used to battle food insecurity and support children and mental health

We were a bit tone deaf: Hobo Cannabis renamed Dutch Love after backlash

Hobo Cannabis has various locations in Vancouver, Kelowna and Ottawa

Most Read