The Bitter Harvest of War: New Brunswick and the Conscription Crisis of 1917


122 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-86492-511-4
DDC 971.5'103




Reviewed by Richard Wilbur

Randall White is the author of Voice of Region: On the Long Journey to
Senate Reform in Canada, Too Good to Be True: Toronto in the 1920s, and
Global Spin: Probing the Globalization Debate.


Andrew Theobald and the New Brunswick Military Heritage project are to be commended for tackling a familiar topic—The Great War—and giving it a New Brunswick spin. The author has done a thorough research job, and by glancing through his bibliography, most readers can deduce the source of his quotes. Also, his photographic selection was judiciously chosen and placed.

Without suggesting that New Brunswick troops played a special role in the various battles he has described, Theobald manages to keep the New Brunswick theme and its particular responses to the increasingly frenetic war hysteria. Non–New Brunswick readers should find chapter 1 very helpful, thanks to excellent graphs and two maps showing the ethnic and religious distributions. This is the longest of the three chapters (33 pages), and by outlining the views of the Acadians in the north and the Irish concentrated in the city of Saint John, he deftly sets the stage for people’s reactions described in the other two shorter chapters, “Vimy Ridge and Conscription” and “The Crisis Manifest.”

Theobald concludes that “in the end, opposition to military service … among New Brunswick’s large locally-born and predominantly rural population had more to do with occupational factors than ethnic ones”—an astute statement that most historians would support. As for the war ending “the traditional two-party political system,” I would disagree. While the province has seen brief appearances of third parties like the United Farmers in 1918, the New Democrats in the 1980s and 1990s, and the short-lived anti-French Confederation of Regions party in the early 1990s, the two old parties, the Grits and the Tories, remain very much in control as they exchange roles every second election. In summary, a neat and readable account showing that New Brunswick with its old British roots, plus even older First Nations and Acadian traditions, remains a unique and distinct part of the Canadian mosaic, a society that displayed its own particular responses to the obscene and senseless slaughter that was World War I.


Theobald, Andrew, “The Bitter Harvest of War: New Brunswick and the Conscription Crisis of 1917,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024,