The latest Cundill History Prize finalists
January | February 2024
Note: Due to an imposition mistake on press, page 14 of this review was incorrectly printed in the January/February issue. (The online and tablet versions were unaffected.) The magazine regrets the error and will include a reprinted version of the review with physical copies of the March 2024 issue.
There is no court of appeal for book…
The latest Cundill History Prize finalists
Has anyone noticed how women are driving so much innovation in the writing of history these days? For five years in succession, a woman has won the Cundill History Prize, awarded annually by an international jury of scholars gathered by McGill University to honour “the best history writing in English.”
These five women deserve their…
With the Cundill Prize finalists
January | February 2022
Recently, Paul Krugman, the Nobel laureate and New York Times opinion writer, took a break from questions of global trade and inflation and devoted one of his columns to Denis Villeneuve’s film Dune. It was not just that he loved the movie; he identified with its project. “Good science fiction involves building imaginary worlds that are different from the world we know,” he…
On the Cundill Prize short list
It is no easy thing to run a global book prize from Canada, far from the great publishing empires and the kingmakers of literary fashion, but the Cundill History Prize works at it. Funded by the bequest of a Montreal investor and mostly administered through McGill University, the Cundill seeks recognition by spending a lot — $75,000 (U.S.) to each year’s…
The upper chamber is finally doing what it’s supposed to do
Senate reform never seemed deader than in 2014, when the Supreme Court of Canada told Parliament that almost any change to the upper house would be a substantial change, and that all substantial changes require constitutional amendments with broad or unanimous consent from the provinces.
Five years later, all the talk is of the new…
Can America’s least loved president be rehabilitated?
They say there are no dull subjects, only dull readers. So, accepting that Herbert Hoover, the subject of Kenneth Whyte’s seven-hundred-page biography, is not a dull subject, where, exactly, does his relevance for readers lie?
There are two ways to go here. Do we follow the logic of “no dull subjects”—every human life is worthy of attention—and immerse ourselves in the life of Herbert Hoover for its own…
Can a microscopically small-ball approach accomplish political reform?
Triple E Senate? Dead. Electoral Reform? Moribund. Referendums? Post-Brexit, probably a fool’s errand. Constitutional amendments? Pretty much impossible. Breaking up the country? Never so unlikely in 50 years. Are changes to Canadian governance possible at all?
Maybe. Now that all the big plays have failed, perhaps space has opened up for small ball, even for arguments that the big plays were always a bad…
How a students’ campaign on an isolated reserve overcame years of official neglect
We are all treaty people, the Cree remind us. We debate what Canada is bound to by those treaties with First Nations that gave us Canada, but the educational promise at least seems plain: “to pay such salaries of teachers to instruct the children of said Indians, and also to provide such school buildings and educational equipment as may seem advisable.”
Canadians do it differently from most—and quite possibly not as well
Not a leader? Who looks like a leader? Where is the leadership today? Who do you know in the leader’s office?
Today leadership is what Canadian political culture amounts to; the rest is window dressing. So what could be more useful than a tough, data-driven analysis of how Canadian political leadership systems stand up to international…
Why do we downplay the seminal moment in Canadian democracy?
The colleague who brings the cups of coffee to our table has been reading John Ralston Saul’s elegant double biography, Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin, and she is perplexed. She seeks historical guidance. She sees that in his entwined lives of these 19th-century parliamentarians, Saul is asserting large claims about the meaning of…
What B.C. can teach Ontario about land claims
Can Ontario take the confrontation at Douglas Creek Estates seriously?
No one, I think, denies the seriousness of the armed confrontation outside Caledonia in the Grand River valley of southern Ontario. For four years armed gunmen known as the Mohawk Warriors have occupied a ten-house real estate development on the edge of the reserve of the Six Nations of the Grand…
Do we display too much deference to authority—or not enough?
When I met a group of Australian visitors to Canada recently, they observed that Canada has long flown its own distinctive national flag. Why then, they asked, has Canada not had a national debate on becoming a republic? Australia still uses one of those variants on the Union Jack, but it held a referendum on the monarchy almost a decade…
The Canadian copyright debate takes some strange metaphysical turns
The consultant specialized in young people and how to sell to them. He was funny and fast, and he impressed this audience of boomer-age publishers and media people. Don’t even talk about convergence, he told them; what else have kids ever known? He evoked that world where your kids Facebook their friends, Google the school…