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Ampersand Adult Titles Publishing November 2020 (ATLANTIC)

Stories and Lessons from the Halifax Explosion
By (author): T. Joseph Scanlon Edited by: Roger Sarty
T. Joseph Scanlon ,

Edited by :

Roger Sarty


Wilfrid Laurier University Press - Waterloo, ON



Product Form:


Form detail:

Paperback , Trade


General Trade
Nov 27, 2020
$39.99 CAD


9in x 6 x 1.1 in | 680 gr

Page Count:

400 pages


20 illustrations
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
HISTORY / Canada / Post-Confederation (1867-)
History of the Americas|Emergency services|Urban and municipal planning and policy
Canadian Nautical Research Society Keith Matthews Best Book Award 2020, Winner
  • Short Description
On December 6, 1917, the Canadian city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was shattered when a volatile cargo exploded in the bustling wartime harbour. Over 1,600 people were killed and 9,000 injured. At the time, it was the worst man-made disaster in history. This book weaves together the compelling stories and potent lessons learned from this catastrophe.

Catastrophe weaves together compelling stories and potent lessons learned from the calamitous Halifax explosion—the worst non-natural disaster in North America before 9/11.

On December 6, 1917, the Canadian city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was shattered when volatile cargo on the SS Mont-Blanc freighter exploded in the bustling wartime harbour. More than nineteen hundred people were killed and nine thousand injured. Across more than two square kilometres some 1200 homes, factories, schools and churches were obliterated or heavily damaged.

Written from a scholarly perspective but in a journalistic style accessible to the general reader, this book explores how the explosion influenced later emergency planning and disaster theory. Rich in firsthand accounts gathered in decades of research in Canada, the US, the UK, France and Norway, the book examines the disaster from all angles. It delivers an inspiring message: the women and men at “ground zero” responded speedily, courageously, and effectively, fighting fires, rescuing the injured, and sheltering the homeless. The book also shows that the generous assistance that later came from central Canada and the US also brought some unhelpful intrusions by outside authorities. Unable to imagine the horror of the initial crisis, they ignored or even vilified a number of the first responders.

This book will be of particular interest to disaster researchers and emergency planners along with journalists, and scholars of history, Maritime studies, and Canadian studies.

  • 1917 Halifax explosion marked 100th anniversary in December 2017. Worst disaster in North America before 9/11.
  • Challenges the myth that the American response, although welcome, was without problems.
  • Challenges myths about how people react during disasters
  • Looks at all elements of the disaster from a scholarly perspective --women, medical response, military response, American response, roll of rail.
  • Offers a new theory of why explosion happened based on unpublished archival records.
  • Weaves stories and disaster theory in readable fashion.

  • T. Joseph Scanlon was an accomplished Canadian journalist who became renowned internationally as a disaster researcher and scholar. He served as president of the International Research Committee and was awarded the Charles Fritz award for a lifetime contribution to the sociology of disaster. He died in May 2015.

    Roger Sarty, history professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, was in previous careers senior historian at the Department of National Defence and deputy director at the Canadian War Museum. His other books on the Canadian Army in the Maritimes include Saint John Fortifications (2003, with Doug Knight) and Guardian of the Gulf: Sydney Cape Breton and the Atlantic Wars (2012, with Brian Tennyson).

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