Department of History
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John's, NL A1C 5S7
- BA Wilfrid Laurier University; M.A. Wilfrid Laurier University; Ph.D. University of Western Ontario
Dr. Humphries’ research focuses on the fields of war and health, gender and conflict, and military operations in the First World War era. He believes that military history should be written comparatively within a global or transnational context and that both the battlefield and home fronts should be approached from a war and society perspective. This means employing the methods and frameworks adopted by social, cultural, and intellectual historians to answer new questions about how conflict shapes and is shaped by society. It also means building bridges to the larger historical community and embracing a variety of perspectives and approaches.
Mark has a number of projects on the go which keep him busy. He is co-editor of the seven volume series Germany’s Western Front: Translations from the German Official History of the Great War (WLU Press 2010–Present) which explores German military decision-making and operations in the West from 1914 to 1918. To date, the 1915 volume has been published and the first of two 1914 volumes is at the press. This project grew out of his earlier work on Canadian operations and tactical doctrine during the Great war which led him to conclude that military historians have too often ignored the perspective of ‘the other side’ when evaluating military effectiveness and establishing a causal relationship between ‘learning’ and military success. He is currently working on an article which will challenge the ‘learning curve’ thesis by examining the role of disease in the German Army’s collapse during the summer of 1918.
Mark’s work on disease and warfare began with a study of the role of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in spreading the 1918 influenza pandemic in Canada. This led to his first monograph, which will be published by the University of Toronto Press in spring 2012, titled The Last Plague: Spanish Influenza and the Politics of Public Health. In this book, Humphries examines how federal epidemic disease management strategies developed before the First World War, arguing that the deadliest epidemic in Canadian history ultimately challenged traditional ideas about disease and public health governance. Using federal, provincial, and municipal archival sources, newspapers, and newly discovered military records—as well as original epidemiological studies—this national study situates the flu within a larger social, political, and military context. Mark concludes that the 1918 flu crisis had important long-term consequences at the national level, ushering in the 'modern' era of public health in Canada. Mark’s latest work on influenza is an article which examines the origins of the virus and the way in which global warfare enabled the pandemic to spread around the globe so quickly.
Mark’s current major research interest is the experience of war and how psychological trauma was interpreted by soldiers and military/pension officials and the effect of those experiences on their families up to the 1970s. This project grew out of earlier work on the diagnosis and treatment of shell shocked soldiers during the Great War and a comparative book which he co-authored with Terry Copp on shell shock in Commonwealth forces from the late 19th century to the present. The current project is based in part on a sample of approximately 400 shell shocked soldiers taken from Canadian hospitals in France, Britain, and Canada which will be used to the explore diagnosis, treatment, outcomes, and then long-term effects. This has involved extensive research into newly available files at the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as records that have recently been transferred to Library and Archives Canada. The first article published from this research explored how gender norms and dominant conceptions of masculinity shaped the state’s approach to the shell shock ‘problem’ during and after the war. It was published in the Canadian Historical Review in September 2010 and received the 2010 CHR Prize for the best article published that year in the journal. A book titled War’s Lingering Touch: Shell Shocked Soldiers and their Families will be forthcoming from University of Toronto Press.
Down the road, Mark is planning a synthetic study of the First World War in Canada that will bridge the gap between military studies of the battlefield and social, political, and intellectual developments at home. This book project will aim to challenge traditional nation-building narratives about the war in Canada by focusing on the Canadian role within the British Imperial system and its divisive consequences at home.
History 1013 – Issues in Canadian History: Canadian Military History
History 3050 – History of Warfare to 1789
History 3060 – History of Modern Warfare since 1789
History 1013 – Issues in Canadian History: Canadian Military History
Prospective Graduate Students
Mark is interested in supervising MA and PhD students who want to work on a social or military topic related to the First World War or military history more broadly. He believes that the role of a supervisor is to facilitate and enable the student’s own interests and to work with them closely to publish their findings while gaining experience as a teacher. Mark’s MA and PhD students will also likely have the opportunity in 2012–13 to travel to archives in Canada and internationally as research assistants; they will be encouraged to use these opportunities to support their own theses and major research papers. Prospective students are encouraged to email him or call him to discuss potential areas of supervision and the application process.
Mark Humphries, The Last Plague: Spanish Influenza and the Politics of Public Health. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, forthcoming spring 2012.
Mark Humphries and Terry Copp, Combat Stress in the 20th Century: the Commonwealth Experience. Kingston: Canadian Defence Academy, 2011.
Mark Humphries and John Maker (editors) with a forward by Hew Strachan, Germany’s Western Front: Translations from the German Official History of the Great War, 1915. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2010.
Mark Humphries and John Maker (editors) with a forward by Hew Strachan, Germany’s Western Front: Translations from the German Official History of the Great War, 1914, Part I. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, forthcoming spring 2012.
Mark Humphries (editor), The Selected Papers of Sir Arthur Currie: Diaries, Letters, and Report to the Ministry, 1917–1933. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008.
Select Articles and Book Chapters
‘The Evidenced Based Historian: Terry Copp’s Approach to History,’ in Canada and the Second World War: Essays in Honour of Terry Copp, Geoffrey Hayes, ed. (Waterloo: WLU Press, 2012).
‘The Limits of Necessity: Public Health, Dissent, and the War Effort during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic,’ in Esyllt Jones and Magda Fahrni, eds. The 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic in Canada: New Perspectives on Gender, Race, Class and Region. Vancouver: UBC Press, (In press).
‘War’s Long Shadow: Masculinity, Medicine and the Gendered Politics of Trauma, 1914–1939,’ Canadian Historical Review 91, 3 (September 2010): 503-531 – CHR Prize Winner 2010
(with Kellen Kurchinski) ‘Rest, Relax, and Get Well: Re-Conceptualising Great War Shell Shock Treatment,’ War & Society (Australia) 27, 2 (2008): 89–110.
‘Old Wine in New Bottles: A Comparison of Canadian and British Preparations for the Battle of Arras,’ in Geoff Hayes, Andrew Iarocci and Michael Bechthold, (eds.) Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2007, 65-86.
‘The Horror at Home: the Canadian Military and the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918,’ Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 16 (2005): 231–265.
‘Myth of the Learning Curve: Tactics and Training in the 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 1916–1918,’ Canadian Military History 14: 1 (2005): 15-30.