This week, my course on the history of the Canadian West since 1885 is looking at the 1919 general strike in Winnipeg. We spent a lot of time going into the various factors that led to such discontent among Winnipeg’s working class, especially those related to wartime conditions between 1914 and 1918.
I also made use of some very compelling arguments from Esyllt W. Jones’ book Influenza 1918: Disease, Death, and Struggle in Winnipeg in which she provides evidence of the impact that the devastating influenza epidemic had on solidarity and community bonds among Winnipeg’s working-class communities in 1918 and 1919. This book offers a new take on the development of Winnipeg’s labour movement and class consciousness in the months before the general strike that Canadian historians have previously not explored. I hope that Jones’ evidence will make its way into more Canadian history textbooks about the strike because, as she says, “it is possible to read this history and have no idea at all that during the winter of 1918-1919, when working-class Winnipeg was ‘poised to explode,’ working people were simultaneously confronting a devastating disease.”
For my lecture this week, I found an amazing collection of resources at 1919 The Winnipeg General Strike: A Blog. This is a superb example of very comprehensive digital curation and a very fine case of historical blogging. The blog has a robust collection of photographs, video, primary source documents, and secondary source article references relating to the strike. If you’re looking for good online sources about the Winnipeg general strike of 1919, start here.