Friday, May 11, 2012

Terry Copp Keynote 2012 LCMSDS Conference Huron College

Terry Copp's keynote address to the annual Canadian Military History Colloquium was a sneak peak into his article for the Canadian Historical Review, which gives a retrospective on his career.  He joins Desmond Morton and Margaret Conrad on the list of heavy-hitting historians examining their own pasts in recent CHR articles.  One must be slightly wary when asked to write one of these "career in hindsight" pieces, as the inference is that you are not only learned, but aged!

Cleghorn 2010- Langemark German War Grave Cemetery

 Copp sees the light at the end of the tunnel?  Canadian military historians certainly hope not!

"Cleghorn 2010- Langemark German War Grave Cemetery" by Nick Lachance

Copp's address noted that after a rocky high school career he was mentored as a young scholar in Montreal by Robert Vogel.  Copp's early social history was inspired in part by a late 1950s stint teaching junior high school in Montreal and his exposure to the conditions at Weredale House, where some of his students resided. His experience there shaped his attitudes against E.P. Thompson's  celebratory approach towards working class culture.  Copp assumed most working people would prefer to be upwardly mobile!


A visit to the Leopold canal inspired Copp to begin questioning interpretations of the Canadian Army in the Second World War.  In the 1980s, military history was a perversion in the academy, but Copp soldiered on.  Fortunately the students were not as anti-war as the professoriate.


The Maple Leaf Route series, co-written with Vogel, was hard-core operational military history, and received a cool reception in the book-world.  To all intents and purposes the first instalment in the series was self-published.  Explanation of the difficulties co-authoring Battle Exhaustion with William McAndrew gave an insider's view to an important book in the field.

Copp eventually got around to addressing the history of Brigadier Bill Megill,which his keynote nominally took for its subject.  He used the controversies over Megill's reputation, inflamed by the Valour and the Horror CBC series, to emphasize his own methodology.  No one  minded that Megill took a sideshow to Copp's autobiography, and the release of a festschrift dedicated to the speaker was announced by the Laurier Centre after his excellent keynote.


The theme for this year's conference was pedagogy, and numerous digital additions to the classroom were debated.  The Laurier Centre seem as committed to solid history teaching as they are to their impressive web presence.  


The 21st Military History Colloquium - April 29th to The 21st Military History Colloquium -10

"April 29th to The 21st Military History Colloquium -10" Nick Lachance photo

An old podcast is available for Copp's 2011 keynote which addresses the capture of Walchern Island by the First Canadian Army.  That talk embodied a sober strategic and operational analysis of the combined assault on the Island.  They also have a great blog which features the text to Copp's 2010 keynote on the Italian Campaign. His methodology has a healthy respect for operational research, and like C.P. Stacey, favours message logs as the best sources to build "logical answers to clear questions."

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