Broken promises

A History of Conscription in Canada

281 pages • 6 x 9 • Paper • ISBN-13: 978-1-77244-013-3 • Include new Preface by the author • Updated bibliographic essay • Select Bibliography
​November 2015
$24.95 (list)

J.L. Granatstein, OC, FRSC, was awarded the J.B. Tyrell medal in 1992 for “outstanding work in Canadian history” and the Vimy Award in 1996. His recent publications include The Greatest Victory: Canada’s One Hundred Days, 1918, and The Best Little Army in the World: The Canadians in Northwest Europe, 1944–45. 

J.L.Granatstein


​Compulsory military service has always been a controversial issue, and nowhere more so than in Canada. 

Award-winning historian J.L Granatstein considers the thorny questions it raises: “is it worthwhile to impose conscription if by so doing you threaten to destroy the nation and the national unity that the men at the front are presumably fighting to preserve?” 

This new edition of Granatstein’s classic account begins with a reflection about why he has changed his mind since first writing this book over thirty years ago. It remains the only history of conscription in Canada.


When Britain declared war on Germany in 1914, Canada sent a volunteer force. As the war progressed, however, reinforcements were needed. Quebec resisted, for demographic reasons, but there were larger questions as well: “To speak of defending French civilization in Europe while harrying it in America seems to us an absurd inconsistency,” wrote Henri Bourassa in August 1916. Bitterness and division were the product of poor government handling. Granatstein also explores how conscription did not go away following World War 1, but became an issue again in World War 2, the Korean War, and the Cold War.


Also by J.L. Granatstein: