Peter Way has spent more than 17 years researching, thinking and writing abount an 18th century war that took less than half that time to fight, so receiving an award that acknowledges his painstaking efforts seems more than fitting.
“It’s a nice reassurance of the worth of the work,” says Dr. Way, a history professor who, along with Ram Balachandar in civil and environmental engineering, will receive an established scholar/researcher award at this afternoon’s Celebration of Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity.
Originally from Belleville, Ontario, Way came to Windsor in 2006 after a stint as history department head at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Prior to that, he spent a number of years at the University of Sussex in England.
In between administrative appointments and teaching duties, he’s always found time for his research on the Seven Years’ War, which focuses on the often brutal experiences of common British soldiers. Rather than relying solely – as most military historians do – on the documents kept by upper echelon generals on the larger strategy and outcomes of war, he’s paying particular attention to the experience of soldiers as labourers, and specifically, how they were savagely oppressed.
“A lot of the work that I do is specifically about the atrocities,” he says.
According to his research – which is based on court martial records, archival records of officers, and journals kept by the soldiers – many of them were forced to enlist due to harsh economic conditions in England. While many officers presented a picture of stability and control, desertion rates were “sky high,” despite the possibility of 2,000 lashes or execution for such an offence. In going into battle they were exposed not only to the muskets and canon of European warfare but also the scalping knife of First Nations peoples allied with the French, Way said.
Currently in the process of finalizing a book on the subject, Way’s research has taken him to archives in Britain, California, Massachusetts and Michigan. He said most of the actual research was done by 2001, and since then, he’s published a number of scholarly articles on the subject. The real “hard core” writing process for the book began in earnest around 2010. He hopes to have it out within the next two years, but thinks he may need to split in to two volumes because he has so much material.
History department head Miriam Wright said she’s thrilled Way is receiving the award.
“Peter is an internationally-known, award-winning scholar who has been highly influential in the field of labour and working class history,” she said. “He has brought new perspectives to the field of military history and we’re privileged to have a historian of his calibre and reputation as a faculty member. He has greatly enriched the research environment in the department and is highly deserving of recognition for his contributions.”
The awards ceremony takes place at 4:30 p.m. today in the Ambassador Auditorium of the CAW Student Centre.