Cover: People, Politics, and Purpose: Biography and Canadian Political History, edited by Greg Donaghy and Whitney Lackenbauer. Photos: three images of people - Gerda Munsinger, Lester B. Pearson, and James Gladstone - appear inside the “O”s in the words “People,” “Politics,” and “Purpose.”
274 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 Oct 2023
Release Date:15 Feb 2023
Release Date:15 Feb 2023
Release Date:15 Feb 2023

People, Politics, and Purpose

Biography and Canadian Political History

UBC Press

Biography is “not on the periphery of history but in the middle of it,” historian Peter Waite astutely remarked. And individual lives can be observed not only as they were actually lived but also as they were self-constructed or constructed by contemporaries and later historians.

People, Politics, and Purpose brings the historian’s myriad tools to bear on Canadians, from prime ministers to lumberjacks to Indigenous political leaders. Drawing on the rich details of biography – the what – the contributors also address the larger questions of motivation – the so what – that drive academic history. In the process, they prove the value of analyzing both macro- and micro-dynamics within Canadian politics and society to illuminate the roles and reputations of political actors and draw conclusions about Canada’s place in the world. These perceptive new contributions to Canadian political historiography demonstrate the ongoing relevance of discerning individual character traits, impulses, and justifications for action, along with a careful respect for robust historical context.

As such, the biographies in People, Politics, and Purpose are not simply stories about the lives of individuals but critical reflections on subjects who are directly involved in, and affected by, politics in Canada. This book makes for lively reading that stimulates fresh thinking about political biography and the direction of political history more generally.

Beyond readers interested in Canadian political history and political biography, this fine collection will also attract the attention of scholars working in political science, international relations, and public policy studies.

Readers of People, Politics, and Purpose will likely be academics — the book surely won’t make any holiday bestsellers list — but it is an entertaining and informative collection of portraits in Canadian leadership. In this way, it would be of interest to even non-specialists. Daniel Woolf, Literary Review of Canada
In the tradition of the careful scholarship, intelligent analysis, and elegant prose of their friend, John English, the essayists here brilliantly demonstrate how well-informed biography enlivens and enhances an appreciation and understanding of Canadian political and diplomatic history. Patricia E. Roy, professor emerita, Department of History, University of Victoria
This volume brilliantly rescues from obscurity the Canadians who shaped the country's politics from the 1940s to the 1980s. All the portraits are as compelling as they are original and enlightening. Patrice Dutil, editor of The Unexpected Louis St-Laurent: Politics and Policies for a Modern

The late Greg Donaghy was the director of the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History at the University of Toronto. His publications include Grit: The Life and Politics of Paul Martin Sr and Tolerant Allies: Canada and the United States, 1963–1968. P. Whitney Lackenbauer is a professor and Canada Research Chair in the Study of the Canadian North at Trent University. Among his more than fifty books are The Canadian Rangers: A Living History; Breaking Through? Understanding Sovereignty and Security in the Circumpolar Arctic; and China’s Arctic Ambitions and What They Mean for Canada.

Contributors: Stephen Azzi, Jennifer Levin Bonder, Robert Bothwell, P.E. Bryden, Norman Hillmer, Galen Roger Perras, Asa McKercher, John Milloy, Angelika Sauer, Ryan Touhey.

Introduction / P. Whitney Lackenbauer and Greg Donaghy

1 Canada’s Diplomatic Autobiographers and the Burden of History, 1928–84 / Robert Bothwell and Norman Hillmer

2 That Bouncy Man: Americans and Lester B. Pearson / Galen Roger Perras and Asa McKercher

3 The Lumberjack Wars 1943–44: Canadian-American Relations at the Border and the Lives of Ordinary People / Angelika Sauer

4 Competing Biographies: How James Gladstone Became Canada’s First Indigenous Senator / P. Whitney Lackenbauer

5 Prime Minister Lester Pearson: A Leadership Biography / Stephen Azzi

6 Scandal and the Decentring of Canadian Biography: The Case of Gerda Munsinger / P.E. Bryden

7 Herb Gray and the founding of the Foreign Investment Review Agency / Jennifer Levin Bonder

8 The Fine Balance Intended: Allan J. MacEachen and Canadian Diplomacy in the Middle East, 1974–84 / Greg Donaghy

9 A Journey Without Maps: John Hadwen in India 1979–83 / Ryan Touhey

Conclusion: The Academic as Activist / John Milloy

Contributors; Index

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