We often picture life on the Canadian home front as a time of austerity, as a time when women went to work and men went to war. Graham Broad explodes this myth of home front sacrifice by bringing to light the contradictions of consumer society in wartime. Governments pressured Depression-weary citizens to save for the sake of the nation, but Canadians had money in their pockets, and advertisers tempted them with fresh groceries, glamorous movies, and new cars and appliances. Broad reveals that our “greatest generation” was not impervious to temptation but rather embarked on one of the biggest spending booms in our nation’s history.
Graham Broad is a member of the Department of History at King’s University College, Western University.
I encourage neophytes and specialists alike interested in the Canadian home front to read this book. It should not be ignored for anyone interested in this topic.
Both books [Broad’s A Small Price to Pay as well as Food Will Win the War: The Politics, Culture, and Science of Food on Canada’s Home Front by Ian Mosby, UBC Press 2014] are much needed additions to the historiography of Canada’s Second World War Experience. Too often have the daily lives of those on the home front been overlooked in favour of the stories of the men and women who marched away in khaki. Those who remained behind – 90 percent of Canadians – also had their worlds fundamentally transformed by war, as these books demonstrate. Specialists will certainly appreciate these works, but both are accessible and appealing to a general audience as well.
A Small Price To Pay is wry, ironic and wonderfully researched. It is also a dramatic resetting of the record. Far from the media depiction of 1940s Canada as a bleak and downcast place, Broad makes a persuasive case that most people never had it so good ... for young Canadians and even for those who lived it, the war years are immortalized as a black-and-white period of communal misery and sacrifice. A Small Price To Pay reruns the memory reel in brilliant colour punctuated with an astonishing fact: in no year of the war did Canada spend more on the military than it did on shopping.
A Small Price to Pay provides an excellent starting point from which to launch further explorations of the subject area … I encourage neophytes and specialists alike interested in the Canadian home front to read this book. It should not be ignored for anyone interested in the topic.