A Great Period for Historical Political Literature in Canada
The book publishing industry, when it comes to works about political events and figures, seems to have recently become about who can get their book out faster. After the election of Barack Obama, countless works came pouring into book stores all over the world. When Ted Kennedy died, he suddenly began to compete with his brothers in both having books written about him and having those books sell until they were completely out of stock. In Canada, several books suddenly came into print when Stephen Harper became Prime Minister and more still followed after he instigated a Constitutional crisis in 2008. Michael Ignatieff launched his leadership of the federal Liberals with a new book about his Canadian heritage.
The result of all this is that the figures and issues in the modern day political arena, whether in Canada or elsewhere, are finally finding a market, even if sales eventually become fleeting as a new ‘it’ story rears it’s head.
Works on political history, however, have largely stayed unwritten as authors and readers focus on the here and now. In 2010 and 2011, that has changed.
2010 saw the printing of Lawrence Martin’s must read book Harperland. This book has recently been updated to include the victory of the Prime Minister in the 2011 election. The same year, John Boyko released what will likely be known as the official reference on Richard Bennett titled Bennett: The Rebel Who Challenged and Changed a Nation. John Ralston Saul also took up the torch and like Boyko, highlighted two less known figures in Canadian history in his book Louis-Hipppolyte & Robert Baldwin.
2011 has been an improvement even compared to 2010. This year, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the historic 1911 election between heavyweights Laurier and Borden, Patrice Dutil and Davis MacKenzie published Canada 1911. Richard Gwyn released the second half of his bigography on John A. Macdonald titled Nation Maker. Andre Pratte released Wilfrid Laurier, part of John Ralston Saul’s Extraordinary Canadians series. Allan Levine published the first work in years on Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister and titled it King: A Life Guided by the Hand of Destiny. And Last month, Paul Litt released Elusive Destiny, a biography on the political career of John Turner that the former Prime Minister actively cooperated with.
These books follow a decade of biographies about Prime Ministers of Canada as well as memoirs by Prime Ministers Mulroney, Chretien and Martin, released almost back to back to back to one another. This decade has also seen the first half of Richard Gwyn’s work on Macdonald, The Man Who Made Us. Lawrence Martin completed The Defiant Reign of Jean Chretien, a companion piece to a book he original wrote on the Prime Minister in 1995. Andrew Cohen recently wrote Lester Pearson for the Extraordinary Canadian series while Nino Ricci wrote Pierre Trudeau for the same series. John English, biographer of Pearson, wrote a two part series on Pierre Trudeau, Citizen of the World and Just Watch Me.
There is now a great amount of material available, written in just the last decade, that puts a fresh spin on our history or in some cases, sheds light on stories we were never told. My advice is to pick up any number of these books and use this fall to get in touch with Canadian political history.