Political History Prize - Best Book
The prize is awarded for an outstanding, well-written book judged to have made an original, significant, and meritorious contribution to the field of Canadian political history.
Paul Litt, Trudeaumania. Vancouver, UBC Press, 2016.
Paul Litt's remarkable book, Trudeaumania, examines the role played by the media in the political ascent of Pierre Elliott Trudeau in the later 1960s. Litt adopts a political culture approach in his analysis of the Trudeaumania phenomenon. Drawing on a rich documentary source base, and developing an analysis that deepens as the ten chapters progress, Litt demonstrates with brilliance and finesse that Trudeaumania was the product of a wide range of factors: the countercultural values of the “baby-boom” generation, the anti-establishment “mod” style that Trudeau appropriated, the sexual revolution that would change the way male politicians could play with sexual codes in public life, the stimulation of Canadian nationalism by the centennial celebrations and particularly Expo 67, the intellectual vocabulary of Canadian liberalism that Trudeau used and shaped, television as a cultural medium projecting images of the “nation”, and the use of political marketing to mold and popularize Trudeau’s image. Skillfully written and visually appealing, this book depicts Trudeaumania as a cynically-used tool, but one that nevertheless had some intellectual substance. It fostered a social project that reshaped the Liberal party and represented the first step in a profound transformation of the Canadian symbolic order.
Mark Kuhlberg, In the Power of the Government: The Rise and Fall of Newsprint in Ontario, 1894-1932. UTP, 2015.
In a forcefully argued study of the relationship between the provincial state and the pulp and paper manufacturing industry in Ontario between 1894 and 1932, Mark Kuhlberg challenges the long-standing thesis of H.Viv Nelles that public ownership of crown resources in Canada led the state to promote rather than regulate development, “thereby sacrificing what could generally be defined as ‘the public interest’” (p.4). The book stands out for the originality of its argument and the truly prodigious amount of research that informs it.
Ian Mosby, Food Will Win the War: the Politics, Culture, and Science of Food on Canada’s Home Front. UBC Press, 2014.
Food Will Win the War is an incredibly rich work that pushes us to rethink the interventionist state during WWII. It is a reconsideration of the home front that touches on everything from the politics of science to gender to changing consumption patterns to the state’s handling of ethnic and racial diversity. Mosby focusses on food production, consumption and regulation during WWII alongside an innovative account of the symbolism and culture of food, marrying the gender politics of food with the wartime policies of the state. That the gender politics of consumption and cooking fuelled that divide is no surprise but the account is beautifully told and rich with detailed evidence. From the beginning, with its magisterial and generous overview of the field, through to the searing postwar consequences and conclusions, the author has produced a mature, sophisticated, and important book.
Suzanne Morton, Wisdom, Justice, & Charity: Canadian Social Welfare Through the Life of Jane B. Wisdom, 1884-1975. University of Toronto Press, 2014.
Wisdom, Justice, & Charity relates the life story and experiences of Jane Wisdom, one of Canada’s first social workers, to a number of important currents in the development of social welfare in Canada. Wisdom worked with the poor in a remarkable variety of settings, and in very different North American contexts of metropolitan and peripheral poverty and struggle. Morton captures the social, cultural, and political mood of each of these locales magnificently. While Wisdom’s ambitions were antithetical to politics for the early part of her life as she believed in private charity rather than unearned state payouts and in apolitical professionalism, practical experience working with the poor taught her to welcome political life and logic. Morton’s book serves as a real parable for our apolitical times: that the value of politics may be learned in practical interaction with people who need help in one form or another at certain periods in their lives.
Dimitry Anastakis, Autonomous State: The Struggle for a Canadian Car Industry from OPEC to Free Trade (UTP, 2013).
Anastakis' study of the Canadian automotive industry in the last third of the twentieth century provides a richly detailed and nuanced examination of the impact of globalization and neo-liberalism on the Canadian state. This is a timely book considering the state of the auto industry in Canada today. By delving into the diverse array of diplomatic and policy tools that Canadian officials used to support the existence of a dynamic car industry, Autonomous State makes a critical contribution to our understanding of the country's economics and political culture. Based on an impressive body of historical research, it makes an important contribution to a growing body of literature that traces the transformation of Canada's economy in the era of free trade and globalization.
Bruce Curtis. Ruling By Schooling Quebec: Conquest to Liberal Governmentality – A Historical Sociology. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012.
David Wilson, Thomas Darcy McGee, Volume 2: The Extreme Moderate, 1857-1868. (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011)
David Wilson’s account of Thomas D’Arcy McGee’s Canadian years examines the character of a man and of a country, culminating in Canada’s birth and McGee’s murder. Wilson’s McGee was a person with a background of extremes who forged a passionate middle ground in his campaign against ethnic particularism and religious extremism in the politics of early Canada, a vision of and a lesson in a tolerant, generous, and diverse society that the author explicitly links to the challenges and dangers of a post-11 September world. Wilson eloquently champions the study of political history as fundamental to an understanding of what it means to be Canadian. He brings to life the thrill, the stench, and the importance of mid-to-late nineteenth century British North American politics. Yet he finds the person amid the politics. Despite the paucity of personal McGee correspondence, Wilson reveals the size of the man and his emphatic humanity, the aching failings as well as the heady successes, effectively and sensitively linking McGee’s private and public worlds. David Wilson’s biography is a triumph of multinational and multidimensional research fused to a wonderful, direct prose that drives the narrative and the reader forward. It is a book for every scholar, and for every Canadian.
Ivana Caccia. Managing the Canadian Mosaic in Wartime: Shaping Citizenship Policy, 1939-1945.Ivana Caccia’s Managing the Canadian Mosaic in Wartime: Shaping Citizenship Policy 1939-1945 stands out for the quality of its scholarship, the suppleness of its arguments, and the contribution it makes to our understanding of the transition towards a broader and more inclusive definition of Canadian citizenship in the mid-20th century. Managing the Canadian Mosaic is a sensitive and effective analysis of public debates regarding the institutional responses to the challenges posed by the growing number of Canadians of non-British or French origin to national unity and a unified Canadian war effort during the Second World War. While acknowledging the nuances, contradictions, and even the ambivalence that characterised official Canadian policy towards ethnocultural minorities during the war, Caccia traces the emergence by the war’s end of a more open and inclusive perception of Canadian identity focused on shared values that challenged earlier definitions of Canadian identity that focused on the country’s Britishness. Clearly written, impeccably researched, and engagingly argued, Managing the Canadian Mosaic makes a significant contribution to ongoing debates about the changing nature of Canadian nationalism and identity in the mid-20th century and is essential reading for scholars interested in modern Canadian political history.