In the years from 1930 to 1945, Herbert Norman and most of humankind witnessed cataclysmic events that altered their worlds. For millions of people, the era was a parade of catastrophes – grinding poverty in one decade followed by mass destruction in the next. Untold millions suffered as a result of the first calamity, the Depression. At least 50 million died in the second, World War Two.

The eminent Canadian historian Donald Creighton has observed that “History is the record of an encounter between character and circumstances.” The documents in this section speak to the interaction between Herbert Norman and the momentous events of the years from 1930 to 1945. Some of the documents present snapshots of Norman’s personal development at specific moments. Others speak to the objective conditions in which Norman found himself. They are intended to provide insight into how Norman was influenced by and reacted to objective conditions in this period of historical transformation.