Cover: Canada’s Prime Ministers and the Shaping of a National Identity, by Raymond B. Blake. Collage: Set on a light background, a grid of small, circular cutouts reveal fragments of newspaper clippings and close-ups of eight white, middle-aged men.
414 pages, 6 x 9
23 b&w photos
Release Date:15 Jun 2024
Release Date:15 Jun 2024
Release Date:15 Jun 2024

Canada’s Prime Ministers and the Shaping of a National Identity

UBC Press

Since Confederation, Canadian prime ministers have consciously constructed the national story. Each created shared narratives, formulating and reformulating a series of unifying national ideas that served to keep this geographically large, ethnically diverse, and regionalized nation together. This book is about those narratives and stories.

Canada’s Prime Ministers and the Shaping of a National Identity offers a unique telling of Canada’s post–Second World War political history. Raymond B. Blake shows how prime ministers were identity entrepreneurs: regardless of political stripe, they worked to build national unity, forged a citizenship based on inclusion, and defined a place for Canada in the world. They created for citizens an ideal image of what the nation stands for and the path it should follow. Through their differences and similarities, they collectively told a national story of Canada as a modern, progressive, liberal state, and portrayed a strong commitment to inclusion coupled with a deep respect for diversity and difference, and a fundamental belief in universal rights and freedoms.

This definitive analysis of prime ministerial speeches and rhetoric is grounded in meticulous archival, primary document, and secondary literature research, and utilizes the latest theoretical approaches in the study of rhetoric, nationalism, and identity. Ultimately, Raymond Blake provides readers with a new way to see and understand what Canada is, and what holds us together as a nation.

This incredibly thorough analysis of the words of prime ministers will find an appreciative audience among scholars and students in Canadian and political history, and political science and rhetoric studies – and readers of Canadian history will discover a new take on Canada’s development as a nation.

No scholar has come close to delving this deeply into the spoken words of Canada’s post–Second World War heads of government. This book makes a crucial, original contribution to the Canadian scholarly canon. Adam Chapnick, professor, defence studies, Canadian Forces College
This is an excellent and very valuable analysis of prime ministerial rhetoric since 1945. Barbara J. Messamore, professor, history, University of the Fraser Valley

Raymond B. Blake is a professor of history at the University of Regina and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He has held visiting professorships at Philipps-Universität Marburg and University College Dublin, where he has twice held the Craig Dobbin Chair in Canadian Studies. He was formerly the director of the Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy and the director of the Centre for Canadian Studies at Mount Allison University. He has written and edited more than twenty books, most recently Where Once They Stood: Newfoundland’s Rocky Road towards Confederation (with Melvin Baker), which won several awards, including the Pierre Savard Award from the International Council for Canadian Studies.

Foreword / John English


Introduction: Building the National Narrative – Words Matter, Leaders Matter

1 Postwar Beginnings: W.L. Mackenzie King, 1943–48

2 No Ordinary Nation: Louis St-Laurent, 1948–57

3 “My Fellow Canadians”: John Diefenbaker, 1957–63

4 Unity through Cooperation: Lester B. Pearson, 1963–68

5 Toward a Multicultural Just Society: Pierre Trudeau, 1968–84

6 Weaving the Last Threads: Brian Mulroney, 1984–93

7 The Canada We Want: Jean Chrétien, 1993–2005

8 National Values: Stephen Harper, 2006–15

Conclusion: Stories and Narratives Build a Nation

Notes; Bibliography; Index

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