I did projects on Champlain coming up the St. Lawrence River and on Henry Hudson cast adrift in the bay that now bears his name. And I read dozens of historical novels: Rosemary Sutcliff on Roman Britain and G. A. Henty on British heroes, though my all-time favourite was Ronald Welch's 'Knight Crusader.'
In the 19th century, we didn't much like the loud annexationist voices south of the border or American support for Sinn Fein adventurers who thought, by seizing the Canadian colonies, they could force Britain out of Ireland.
The cubism of Braque or Picasso, the dissonant compositions of Schoenberg or Stravinsky, the free-flowing and often erotic choreography of Isadora Duncan and Nijinsky - these were acts of rebellion against the certainties and traditions of the old world.
It is true that large parts of the world have not had to endure state-to-state wars for decades. The majority of the world's nations have also been spared the scourge of civil wars, although many have known violence from revolutionary insurrection.
History is about great forces, yes, but also about contingency.
By the start of August 1914, it was dawning on the British that a major war was about to break out on mainland Europe. Public opinion and, crucially, the cabinet was deeply divided on whether to intervene or stay out.
Many in the English-speaking world came to agree with the Germans that the Treaty of Versailles, and the reparations in particular, were unjust, and that Lloyd George had capitulated to the vengeful French.
An apology offered and, equally important, received is a step towards reconciliation and, sometimes, recompense. Without that process, hurts can rankle and fester and erupt into their own hatreds and wrongdoings.
The Canadian government has had a field day apologising for past policies towards a series of ethnic groups: Italian, Ukrainian, Sikh, Chinese, Japanese and Jews.
How can even the best novelist or playwright invent someone like Augustus Caesar or Catherine the Great, Galileo or Florence Nightingale? How can screenwriters create better action stories or human dramas than exist, thousand upon thousand, throughout the many centuries of recorded history?
The passion for the past is clearly about more than market forces or government policies. History responds to a variety of needs, from greater understanding of ourselves and our world to answers about what to do.
The Great War was nobody's fault - or everybody's.
How curious that such an outsize man, in physique as well as personality, should be remembered today mainly for giving his name to a small fish. For the 19th century, Bismarck was no herring but a leviathan. Between 1862 and 1890, he created Germany, seeing off first the Austrian empire and then France.
If you read about millions of people doing this and millions of people doing that, history seems remote and inaccessible.
Theodore Roosevelt's policy to build a two-ocean navy confirmed that the old-style isolationism of the founders had not survived the modern, increasingly globalized world.
I think what we should do as historians is understand. And we can have our own views about how things turned out, but I think, in making judgements, we're getting into tricky territory.
Poor little Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, or whatever her name is. It must be incredible at that age to be surrounded by people telling you you're wonderful.
The range of weapons at the disposal of military powers is terrifying in its capacity to damage the world and its inhabitants, perhaps even to bring humanity's long story to its end.
Nuclear proliferation has never entirely been brought under control, and the arsenals of nuclear powers contain bombs far more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I wish we could see understanding the First World War as a European issue, or even a global one, and not a nationalistic one.