Manliness and Militarism: Educating Young Boys in Ontario for War


216 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-19-541594-9
DDC 306.2'7'09713





Reviewed by Clint MacNeil

Clint MacNeil teaches history, geography, and world religion at St.
Charles College in Sudbury, Ontario.


In this thoughtful and carefully documented book, Mark Moss examines
some of the pervasive conceptions about war that existed in Ontario in
the years 1867–1914. Increased urbanization, immigration,
industrialization, and an expanding women’s movement, he notes, gave
rise to the perception that the masculinity of young males was at risk.
Young boys, it was widely believed, lacked the discipline, morality, and
physical vigor that had characterized previous generations. The response
to this weakness, which was thought to threaten both the security of
Canada as a nation and its place within the British Empire, was
militarism. There was a systematic organization on the part of the upper
and middle classes to inculcate in Ontario boys patriotic and
nationalistic virtues.

The “social control” Moss describes came from the government,
school, church, literature, newspapers, war monuments, and even
children’s toys. On every front, young boys were immersed in a
military culture that encouraged them to be physically active, brave,
loyal to the Crown, and eager for adventure. Numerous outlets, including
the Boy Scouts, Cadets, YMCA, and amateur sports, provided young boys
with a means of demonstrating their manliness. The objective was to
produce disciplined young men who understood the virtues of their state
and were prepared, as the final rite of passage, to die valiantly for
them in war.

In this balanced and lucidly written study, Moss cites such notable
historians as Ramsay Cook, J.L. Granatstein, Eric Hobsbawn, A.R.M.
Lower, Desmond Morton, and E.P. Thompson. Although the author’s heavy
reliance on secondary material and the occasional repetition of
information weaken the book’s impact, Manliness and Militarism
broadens our understanding of war in a way that few other books have


Moss, Mark., “Manliness and Militarism: Educating Young Boys in Ontario for War,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 13, 2024,