Browse Exhibits (27 total)

"Brief Vodka Honeymoons": Strategic Canadian Estimations from Moscow, 1943-1946

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Canada often appears as little more than a footnote to studies of the shifting international order between world war and Cold War. As an emerging middle power, Canada neither played nor had any expectations of playing a central role in world affairs. With Britain in decline and the United State on the rise, Canada sought to reconcile its increasing autonomy with persistent hemispherical and ideological polarization. Nonetheless, Canada quietly crafted its own identity in international affairs, albeit always cognizant that the Canadian position would bear some relation to the policies of the United States and United Kingdom. 

Relative to the historiography of British or American foreign policy in this era, the history of Canada’s early Cold War foreign policy is limited. This, in turn, might appear to indicate a lack of relevance and worth. This is not quite right, or not totally right. Part of it can be explained by the methods by which Canada practised its diplomacy in this period: by thoughtful and analytic observation. The Canadian Embassy in Kuibyshev, and later Moscow, sought to inform the Department of External Affairs (DEA) of what was happening in the Soviet Union, but also how other states approached the USSR.

It is well known that Canada maintained close relations with both the United States and the United Kingdom and was influenced by their respective Soviet policies. What this narrative implies, however, is that Canadian diplomats in Moscow blindly followed the dominant opinions propounded by their larger allies. The documents in this collection show that this is not the case. The Canadian dispatches from 1943-46, chiefly written by Dana L. Wilgress, demonstrate a distinct shift in policy recommendations throughout the period. Though initially opposed to the hardline American approach, when it came time to choose, the Canadians could no longer support their “firm yet fair” policy and instead had to join the “tough school.”[1] Though they were willing members of the Western camp, the Canadians were swept along with the commanding American current of Soviet policy as the Cold War took on a more tangible form. 

Studies of Canadian early Cold War policy and foreign relations have generally neglected to answer how Canadian diplomats perceived US and British policies toward the Soviet Union, and how these in turn influenced Canadian interpretations and policy recommendations. The story of Canadian diplomatic circles in the early Cold War is rich and sheds light on Canada’s development as an international power in the 1940s. 

The documents in this collection have been selected to demonstrate the shift in Canadian diplomats’ Soviet policy recommendations from 1943-46. The Canadian Embassy to the Soviet Union was established in Kuibyshev in 1943, headed by Dana L. Wilgress, Ambassador to the Soviet Union. From 1940-42, Canada relied on British documents to be informed of Soviet policy, and so there was little Canadian analysis on location in the Soviet Union in this period.[2] The most compelling documents of the collection are written by Wilgress, whose perceptive analyses and recommendations illuminate the shifting Canadian position on Soviet policy from 1943-46. Wilgress’ opinions were highly regarded in Ottawa,[3] and further, the DEA was virtually the only ministry that was well-informed about foreign policy.[4] Mackenzie King was focused on domestic policy,[5] and hence the Canadian Foreign Service in the Soviet Union was virtually the Canadian government’s only direct contact with the Soviets.[6] Primary documents are invaluable for understanding how Canadian diplomats in the field understood the nature of the unfolding conflict in relation to Canada’s increasing autonomy, restructured Anglo-American relations, and shifting Anglo-American perceptions and Soviet policy from 1943-46.

[1]Moscow to Ottawa no. 368, 5 Sept. 1945, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), RG 25, series 2-AE(S), vol. 1. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

[2]Lawrence Aronsen, "Preparing for Armageddon: JIC 1 (Final) and the Soviet Attack on Canada," Intelligence and National Security 19, no. 3 (2004): 493.

[3]John W. Holmes, The Shaping of Peace: Canada and the Search for World Order, 1943-1957 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), 17.

[4]Denis Smith, Diplomacy of Fear: Canada and the Cold War, 1941-1948 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), 4.

[5]Robert Bothwell, The Big Chill: Canada and the Cold War (Toronto: Canadian Institute of International Affairs, 1998), 22.

[6]Lawrence Aronsen and Martin Kitchen, The Origins of the Cold War in Comparative Perspective: American, British and Canadian Relations with the Soviet Union, 1941-48 (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1988), 152.

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Canada-US Integration of Atomic Capabilities — Authorization and Consultation, 1964

     Following discussions in 1963, the United States agreed to make nuclear warheads available for Canadian forces in North America as well as Europe. In March 1964, President Johnson wrote to Prime Minister Pearson to follow up on the matter. The President wanted to establish the authorization procedures for the operational use of nuclear weapons by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). This type of effective coordination would be essential in the case of a strategic attack against North America.

        The Canadian government took this opportunity to draft an agreement with the US concerning NORAD and nuclear weapons. As the documents illustrate, it was in the Canadian interest to improve intergovernmental consultation and to ensure Canadian decision-making power. As drafts and comments were sent between the Canadian Embassy in Washington and the Department of External Affairs in Ottawa, it was clear that Canadian officials wanted their American counterparts to understand that NORAD was a joint, and not simply American, command structure. Never again, this logic went, would the Americans fail to inform their NORAD partner of a potential security threat in North America, as was the case during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

        At the most basic level, the draft agreement set up a process whereby the US President could release nuclear weapons to Canadian NORAD forces, and concurrent authorization from both countries would subsequently lead to their deployment in the case of a strategic attack against North America. In emergency circumstances, however, Commander in Chief of North American Aerospace Defense Command (CINCNORAD) would have prior authorization from both governments to launch nuclear weapons. The documents reveal that one of the main sources of tension was “whether the agreement should be restricted to NORAD forces in Canada or whether it should cover forces in the NORAD region as a whole.”[1] This was essentially a Canadian effort to ensure as much consultation as possible in the North American theatre, even if the threat did not involve a Soviet attack through Canadian airspace. The Department of External Affairs was against Washington having “joint control in Canada only while retaining national control in the US.”[2] There was also tension over the issue of CINCNORAD’s emergency powers, with the US advocating for broader discretionary authority.

        By July 1964, a general consensus had been reached on the draft agreement. The State Department clarified some points, and efforts began moving towards a meeting between the President and Prime Minister in order to confirm how the agreement would work in practice. At this point, the Canadians had already begun another draft agreement on authorization to employ nuclear weapons by Canadian forces in Europe.

        The documents of this brief period shed light on interesting logistics regarding the potential for the deployment of nuclear weapons from Canada. However, the documents ultimately highlight a Canadian government that took the initiative to draft agreements regarding the deployment of nuclear weapons, that granted prior authorization to NORAD to launch these weapons from Canada under certain circumstances, and that advocated for improved consultation and cooperation within NORAD on matters that did not even directly relate to threats against Canada. In the mid-1960s, therefore, Canada had significant skin in the Cold War game.


[1] Message from External Affairs to Washington No. 2099, 10 June 1964, RG 25-B-2 File no. 3-2-2-11-2, pt. 1, LAC.

[2] Message from External Affairs to Washington (Priority), 23 June 1964, RG 25-B-2 File no. 3-2-2-11-2, pt. 1, LAC.

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Canada, NATO, and Global Strategy, 1952-1953


Faced with a deteriorating economy and over-extended military obligations, the British Government released a paper outlining its new Global Strategy in 1952. A “fresh analysis of the problems facing the free world,” the British document suggested that the new atomic capabilities developed by the United States would be sufficient to replace some existing ground forces in Europe.1 This strategy would not only be more economical but would also be the best way to address what the British believed was a reduced threat of hot war from the Soviets. There was another central tenet to Britain’s plan—a unified global plan between allied states. The British believed that many states had spread their commitments throughout various regional bodies and personal military pursuits, and that it was necessary for these plans to be coordinated to form a stronger defence against the USSR.

The Americans, however, had reservations. They believed that Britain’s new plan was “dictated more by the UK (sic) slim pocket-book than real strategic consideration.”2 The US government did not believe that atomic weapons would affect the numbers of troops needed on the ground until 1956, nor did they believe that the Soviet threat had diminished. Any reduction in forces or military expenditures had the potential to give the Soviets the upper hand, a risk which the US was not willing to take. These opposing views on the capabilities of new weapons and the risk presented by the USSR encompassed the main considerations of whether and how a global strategy should be formed, and whether or not NATO was a suitable entity for carrying out that strategy.

The Canadian position was generally in line with the American assessment, though Canada wanted to “[reconcile the] UK and US views.”3 Canada believed that the distinction between global strategy and planning was crucial, as strategy entailed “military policy” while planning was “the means to implement that policy.”4 Canada generally supported global strategy but was concerned that participation in global planning would overextend its resources and commitments, especially as France demanded more support from NATO’s North American members. Canada also worried that an extension of NATO’s involvement outside of the North Atlantic would indicate “aggressive intentions” and may actually increase the risk of conflict.5 Based on these concerns, as well as Canada’s limited global interests, the Canadian government resolved not to push for membership in any global planning body. Canada insisted on being kept informed of decisions and consulted when matters directly affected its interests but did not feel the need to be directly involved. The documents included in this briefing book reveal that the Canadians were keenly aware of their role in NATO and the limits of their participation within the organization. Global strategy and planning had serious implications for Canada’s own security and policy. Though these considerations of NATO and global strategy seem removed from Canada’s domestic interests, they illustrate that Canadian strategy and planning was not in isolation from issues raised by its NATO allies.


1 Privy Council Office memorandum for the Prime Minister, 25 Jun. 1952, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), RG 2, vol. 223, file no. I-60-1.

2 Privy Council Office memorandum, "Notes on Discussion with General Bradley held in Ottawa," 10 Sept. 1952, LAC, RG 2, vol. 223, file no. I-60-1. 

3 Chiefs of Staff Committee minutes, 17 Sept. 1952, LAC, RG 2, vol. 223, file no. I-60-1.

4 Permament Representative of Canada to the North Atlantic Council to the Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs letter D-65, 2 Feb. 1953, LAC, RG 25, vol. 4903, file no. 50115-P-40, part 2. 

5 Department of External Affairs draft memorandum, "Memorandum on Global Strategy and Organization of Security in the Pacific Ocean Area," 28 Feb. 1953, LAC, RG 25, vol. 4903, file no. 50115-P-40, part 2. 

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Canada’s Oldest Profession: Sex Work and Bawdy House Legislation

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"Discrimination on the basis of class, race, ethnic origin and sex," writes legal historian Constance Backhouse, has been "a hallmark of the Canadian legal response to prostitution." Long before the Canadian government's passage of Bill C-36 in 2014, numerous laws have attempted to end "the world's oldest profession" in Canada. Beyond stopping the exchange of money for sex, however, these laws have also frequently been used to police a range of communities based on hierarchies of race, class, gender and sexuality.


Moral reformer (right) harassing a sex worker (left) in a red light district

This digital exhibit complements and expands upon the exhibition, Canada's Oldest Profession: Sex Work and Bawdy House Legislation, on display in Robarts Library, 1st floor exhibition space, from March 8th to June 1st, 2016. It includes material featured in the exhibit and additional information related to the topic of the history of sex work and bawdy house legislation in Canada. The exhibit is sponsored by the University of Toronto Libraries, the Departments of History, and Sexual Diversity Studies. 

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Canadian Law and Canadian Identity

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This Exhibit explores the intersection between Canadian law and Canadian identity (understood broadly to include dimensions such as culture, language, geography, race, ethnicity, and religion).  We consider how Canadian law has shaped conceptions of what Canada is and what a Canadian looks like, thinks, and says.  We also consider how Canada's history, geography, culture, and demographics have shaped Canadian law.

As Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we offer you a tangled set of stories about how law has shaped a country and how a country and its people have shaped law. We are unable to say with any certainty or authority what it means to be "Canadian". Perhaps the most important pattern to note is a general willingness in this country to have difficult conversations and to leave room for disagreement, even disagreements about what it means to be Canadian. 

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Canadian music publishing and the war effort


The University of Toronto Music Library's Canadian Sheet Music Collection highlights the Toronto music publishers’ responses to the Great War. The sheet music included in this exhibit comes straight from our archival vault and was published between 1914 and 1918.  


The incredible cover art and inset photos of military personnel aside, the intense and frequently heartfelt lyric of these pieces speak to the ways in which everyday people on the home front responded to the war, whether through wholehearted support, or recognition of longing, loss and death. The outpouring of human emotion imbued in these texts provides a direct window into the mindset of people from 100 years ago, when considerable anxiety gripped the public at large as everyday people struggled with the personal costs brought about through the wholescale devastation and slaughter.


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Concept of Operations in the Event of Unlimited Nuclear War, 1957-1963

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In response to the growing threat of nuclear war, the Canadian government needed to prepare for a Soviet attack. Although the government already had a paper detailing the strategy for the immediate aftermath of a nuclear war, it required a blueprint for operations after this initial phase.

The Joint Planning Committee (JPC), a subcommittee of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CSC), wrote a persuasive paper addressing this concern, initially titled the “Concept of Operations Following the Initial Phase of Hostilities.” The paper (referred to in this briefing book as the “Concept document”) outlined the main threats faced by Canada in case of nuclear war and the roles each branch of the military would play should a nuclear war take place.

As the CSC considered and edited the paper, content was added, documents were merged, and contentious debates took place. One of these earlier debates concerned the threat of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). While earlier drafts of the Concept document stated that ICBMs would “not be in use operationally by either side,” this position was reversed after additional information was passed along by the Defence Research Board (DRB) and further discussions took place on the topic within the CSC.

Over two years after the first draft of the Concept document, the JPC set up a Working Group to revise the paper. The JPC and the working group resolved to rewrite the former paper as a CSC Directive, including new content such as “Emergency Defence and Survival.” Like its predecessor, the lengthy document raised issues for debate within the government. The working group and the JPC disagreed about the predictability of nuclear war—the JPC argued that predictions could be made about the nature of nuclear war, while the working group did not. This culminated in the group at one point ignoring JPC’s direction to revise a section on the unpredictability of war. Eventually, this tension was resolved and a final draft was reached after another round of edits.

The Concept document offers interesting insight into Canadian plans in the case of “unlimited nuclear war,” and the urgency with which Canadian officials grappled with this concept is shown in these documents. To prepare for the “panic, looting, rioting, apathy, and even anarchy” that would ensue in a nuclear war, officials wanted the Concept document to be completed in short order and kept up to date as the nuclear threat evolved.

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Crime and Punishment at 150: Global Contexts




The year 2016 marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Fyodor M. Dostoevsky’s seminal novel, Crime and Punishment (1866). A revelation when it first appeared in Moscow on the pages of the journal Russian Messenger, it continues to provide readers unparalleled insight into the individual’s role and moral responsibility in society. Following the murderous aspirations of the novel’s protagonist, former student Raskolnikov, we are confronted with the struggle of reconciling rationalist action with the human conscience, and witness one of Russia’s greatest artists at the peak of his success.

To commemorate Crime and Punishment’s resounding triumph and influence, a two month exhibition was held at John P. Robarts Research Library, University of Toronto, from October 3-November 30, 2016. Through the theme of “Global Contexts” it sought to celebrate the novel’s international reception and propagation, highlighting the rich variety of the collection held by the University of Toronto Libraries and the relevance of the holdings to interdisciplinary research and teaching.

This online exhibition offers an interactive platform through which to engage with the materials showcased, and support the continuing study of the novel across the boundaries of nation, language, and media. Over twenty countries are represented, and each category of materials offers a different genre in which to appreciate the novel: translation; art and illustration; belles-lettres and popular fiction; film, stage, and music; and literary criticism. Each item symbolizes the interminable relevance of Dostoevsky’s work, and emphasizes key threads of his thought that hold special significance for the development of culture world-wide.

The Robarts Library exhibition formed part of a SSHRC funded outreach project, Crime and Punishment at 150. Sponsors include the Petro Jacyk Central & East European Resource Centre, and the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. The original exhibition was curated by Professor Kate Holland and Ph.D. candidate Barnabas Kirk. This online platform was developed by Barnabas Kirk in conjunction with University of Toronto Libraries.


The curators would like to thank the following individuals at the University of Toronto Libraries for their cooperation: Ksenya Kiebuzinski for coordinating the planning, installation, and publicity for the exhibition; Jack Leong and members of the International and Community Outreach Coordinating Group for logistical support; Maureen Morin for creating the exhibition poster; Fabiano Rocha, Hana Kim, Miguel Torrens, Jihae Chun, Helen Tang, and Alex Averbuch for acquiring and/or describing several items on display; Wasyl Sydorenko for editorial and design assistance; Leslie Barnes for her technical assistance with the virtual display; and Megan Campbell and Milena Djokic for organizing the opening reception. Particular thanks is also owed to Dostoevsky scholars from across the globe for their valuable guidance, including Stefano Aloe (University of Verona, Italy), Sharon Lubkemann Allen (State University of New York, USA), and Bruno Barreto Gomide (University of São Paulo, Brazil)

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Dentistry Library 120th Anniversary


The Dentistry Library celebrates its 120th year in 2017.

From rare books, to e-books, to dental artifacts, the Dentistry Library offers a unique look at the profession, past and present. Explore our collections and history here. In this space you will find a brief description of what the library collection was like in 1897 and what it is today. In addition, on the left hand side there are brief biographies of the faculty members in charge of overseeing the library's collections prior to the hiring of the first dental librarian, Ms. Phyllis Smith, in 1954. 

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