A Militia History of the Occupation of the Vancouver Island Coalfields

The research, A Militia History of the Occupation of the Vancouver Island Coalfields, August 1913, by way of Daniel Schade seeks to address the accuracy of the historical records that portray the militia and its men as evil and harmful. Furthermore, the article aims at correcting various mistakes of fact, interpretation, and identity found in the histories of great coal strike. However, the article faces main critiques on the accuracy of its findings by the author and proof to support them. Moreover, the organization of the article is questionable.
In the article, Daniel Schade covers the history of the strike having place in Vancouver Island Coalfields in August 1913, with the aim of understanding the incident as a military event. To achieve his objectives, the author resolved to examine the overlooked voices of militiamen such as Walter Bapty, Tom Norris, and Arthur Currie among others (Schade 12). He considers past newspaper stories to be useful in providing accurate information concerning the events. According to the author, the incident of direct military intrusion like the one in Vancouver Island has never undergone serious investigation, considering the intermittent attention it has received from British Columbia historians of the labor movement. He argues that the current narratives concerning the occupation of the militia on the mid-island mining towns are stuck in the local myth or filled with bias in support of the labor forces (Schade 12).

In supporting his arguments, the author considers various findings retrieved from the past newspapers discussing the event, and the information from the people who participated. He criticized the information provided by some people like Jack Kavanagh (union leader) and R.W. Smith (poet) on the same, seeing them as benefiting the miners and ignoring the militia (Schade 12). Therefore, the author decides to embark on the militia, exploring their positive image. It is clear that the militia was deployed in the strike zone to serve the interest of colliery bosses and to make sure the public was safe (Schade 12). However, the author fails to consider if the presence of the militiamen was necessary for the strike zone. He states, “The coal miners had persevered the dangerous working conditions for about four decades, and about 373 workers had succumbed to underground gas explosions” (Schade 13). Furthermore, there was dismissing of some workers from their jobs by the company. Therefore, it was necessary for the employers to provide favorable conditions for the workers and prevent them from further harm. Through such steps, they would not have experienced any form of strike. However, it is also important to consider that everything was out of control and the strike had already begun, with the miners destroying the nearby residence of replacement miners, making families to seek refuge in the forest (Schade 13).

The author considers providing evidence to support his findings. The author views the militiamen as to assist the many families in the violent areas to stay safe. He quotes various dialogue and letters written by the militiamen, expressing their view concerning the ongoing strike. The feedback was positive, with individuals like Dr. Walter Bapty describing an incidence where he saved the life of a sick man, believed to have beset by the strikers (Schade 22). Furthermore, there are incidences where the Victoria militiamen had saved the lives of twenty-four women and children, who were hiding in the cover of surrounding forest. The author considers the relationship between the militiamen and strikers a positive one. He supports such relationships by the letter Norris wrote to her mother to be positive. Norris describes the strikers to be peaceful and supportive (Schade 28). However, the works by men like Bowen and Hinde show that there was a harsh relationship between the militia and the strikers (Schade 27). Such contradictions make the reader doubt the evidence the author has used to support his findings. The author should expand more on the relationship between the militiamen and the strikers, to exhibit them as of more helpful to workers rather than causing harm. The militia had fought back the strikers and sent them away burning down their houses (Schade 28). Such move exhibited the militia to have gone to the coalfields to punish the striking workers other than to protect their rights.

Furthermore, the article is not well-organized. It is good that the author has covered the events that took place during the strike in details but such article, having considered its length, needs subtopics for easier understanding of the content. For instance, the author could have discussed related events under one topic and then the findings, other than continuous events the way they took place. Such step gives the reader a thorough understanding of what the article is all about. Furthermore, the article is more of storytelling other than achieving its objectives.

As much as the author is trying to favor the militia through his article, the findings and evidence given are still not enough to convince the reader that the militiamen are good. We can equally accuse the author of trying to support the militia while ignoring the workers. The article is well-detailed, but it is essential for the author to consider its reorganization, majorly to promote easy reading and understanding.

Works Cited

Schade, Daniel. “A Militia History of the Occupation of the Vancouver Island Coalfields,

August1913.” BC Studies 182 (2014): 11.

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