Embattled Nation


Embattled Nation explores Canada’s tumultuous wartime election of 1917 and the people and issues that made it a pivotal moment in Canadian history.

Embattled Nation explores the drama of Canada’s tumultuous wartime election. Weeks after the Vimy offensive, Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden issued a call for conscription — the forced enrollment of Canada’s men for service in the army. Most Liberals, led by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, opposed the measure, while in Quebec, a new movement emerged to fight the government. Borden resorted to unprecedented measures in order to win.

Using new sources, this book examines the roots of this divisive election. Everyone had an opinion, and an enduring record of voter turnout was recorded in 1917. Dutil and MacKenzie chronicle Prime Minister Borden’s new Union government and the means by which this new party was able to win the election. This was a nightmare election campaign, with English and French Canada bitterly divided over the question of what Canada’s role in the war should be, and, indeed, what Canada’s identity should be. The debate of one hundred years ago still resonates today.


Embattled Nation is a timely re-examination of the hard-fought and bitter election campaign that shaped modern Canada by two exceptional historians, who have spent their careers immersed in the Laurier-Borden era. Presented in breezy and accessible prose, their frenzied account is the first sustained study of Canada’s first wartime election, and taps an extensive range of new private and public sources in its detailed look at the string of blunders and missed-opportunities that put Canada’s national unity on the line in 1917. A sobering reminder that politics matters!

Dr. Greg Donaghy

In this work of deep scholarship and gripping narrative, Dutil and MacKenzie provide new insight into the political battles that raged throughout the country as Canadian soldiers were fighting and dying in Flanders fields.

Tim Cook, C.M.

About the Authors

Patrice Dutil

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014

Patrice Dutil

Patrice Dutil is professor of politics and public administration at Ryerson University and the president of the Champlain Society. He is the author and editor of many books on Canadian politics. He lives in Toronto.