The Hamilton Spectator and Its Archive
During the Second World War, the staff of the century-old The Hamilton
Spectator kept its own monumental record of the war. It included
news stories and editorials from newspapers documenting virtually
every aspect of the war, with subject files on each participating
country, each armed force and each major campaign, as well as information
on the political, economic and social life of Canada. It is hard
to imagine a more penetrating or interesting way into Canada's war.
The materials come not only from the The Hamilton Spectator, but
also from the Toronto newspapers, The Globe and Mail,
The Toronto Telegram and The Toronto Daily Star and
from foreign newspapers such as The New York Times.
There is almost no French language material.
The Hamilton Spectator gave the archive to the Army Historical Section
of the Department of National Defence in 1952 and it was subsequently
transferred to the Canadian War Museum, its present home.
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Research and The Hamilton Spectator
The Hamilton Spectator newspaper morgue offers wonderful
opportunities for research into Second World War topics. Nowhere
else can such a wealth of newspaper coverage be found so conveniently
grouped by subject. All the major news stories are there, as well
as many smaller ones which can be revealing nevertheless. There
are also a wide variety of editorial opinions from The Hamilton Spectator
and other newspapers.
But there are some pitfalls. The collection consists chiefly of
the Toronto and Hamilton papers, giving English Canadian, urban
points of view. There is little to reflect the thinking of Quebec,
of the rural population or of Canadians who were not from the half
of the population which the national census called "British."
In addition, censorship and propaganda often prevented a full or
candid account of events and gave an overly-optimistic flavour to
news stories. Keep in mind, then, that the media was chock full
of propaganda generated to help win the war. Censorship and propaganda
put a premium on the positive.
Newspapers, moreover, are "of the moment." They report
and react. They do not usually reflect deep thought and analysis,
or a broad perspective. Occasionally, it is true, today's readers
will discover a story or editorial which seems to demonstrate surprisingly
deep wisdom about a war topic, but there are many more articles
which now can be seen as completely wrong. Use the archive with
caution, keeping in mind the limitations of newspaper articles produced
in a particular time and place without the benefit of hindsight
or the long view. Read this newspaper coverage in combination with
other parts of the historical record, such as books and articles,
public and private documents, and other material of the kind that
can be found in museums, from clothing to military equipment to
the perspectives of Canada's adversaries in the war.