Student Question

What was the impact of Canada's alliances with Britain, France, Russia, and the US in World War I?

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What stands out of most importance regarding the Allies in World War I is that for the first time since the eighteenth century, virtually the entire English-speaking world was united.

From 1775 to 1783, the North American colonies that became the US were severed not only from Great Britain, but also from those parts of the American continent still part of the empire. If anything, the division was exacerbated with the War of 1812 and other diplomatic and territorial crises like the Trent Affair during the US Civil War. Canada, at first largely French-speaking and becoming a British possession in 1763, had relatively little cultural connection to the colonies to the south. It was after the independence of the colonies that many Loyalists resettled in Canada, even in areas where at that time the climate was most inhospitable, because they did not wish to live under the new US government.

Despite their political differences with the new US, these new Canadians were essentially indistinguishable from the Americans in ethnicity, language, and religion. They had less in common culturally with their French-speaking compatriots than with the "Yankees" just south of the border.

Finally, an event occurred in 1914 that brought the former British empire back together—along with France and Russia—against the central powers. It also established an Anglo-French alliance (contrary to what had been the case throughout most of history), meaning that the two linguistic groups of Canada who had (and would continue to have) internal differences of their own were fighting united in a great cause. The Australians and New Zealanders were part of the effort as well, and from April 1917, so was the US. With the whole English-speaking world united in this world conflict, it was almost as if a new empire, a cultural more than political one, was formed, with implications that have continued into our day a century later.

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