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THE WRITING OF CANADIAN HISTORY: ASPECTS OF ENGLISH CANADIAN HISTORICAL WRITING SINCE 1900.

Berger, Carl.

2nd ed. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, c1986. 364pp, paper, ISBN 0-8020-2546-3 (cloth) $35.00, 0-8020-6568-6 (paper) $17.95. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by John Harkness

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May


Carl Berger is a professor of history at the University of Toronto, and is one of Canada's most distinguished historians. In 1976 he published the first edition of The Writing of Canadian History, in which his purpose was to explain the attitude historians brought to the past and to relate historical literature more closely to its context. This first edition won wide acclaim and deservedly a Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction. It became a real boon for students and teachers of Canadian history and historiography.

Now, a decade later, this second edition makes an equally welcome appearance. This volume includes the entire original text, in which, to remind you, Berger deals with the central doctrines of Canada's major twentieth-century historians, such as George Wrong, Adam Shortt, Chester Martin, Harold Innis, Arthur Lower, Frank Underhill, Donald Creighton, and William Morton. However, Berger dispenses with the short conclusion from his original volume and adds instead a long and brilliantly analytical chapter in which he "explains the major trends in contemporary historical writing in English about Canada.

In this new concluding chapter, he deals with the plethora of new writers of history (by 1976 there were nearly one thousand historians in the field, up from 160 ten years earlier) and new approaches to historical study in such areas as women's history, local history, social history, and labour history. He surveys works by authors like Ramsay Cook, Michael Bliss, Pierre Berton, and C.P. Stacey. I was going to try and count the number of writers and books mentioned, but had to give up as the effort was too exhausting. So you will just have to do it yourself; you may do better than I. Whatever happens, you will be abundantly rewarded with a new understanding of the nation's intellectual life and the chain of influences that have directed it.

Berger has also "updated the 'Bibliographical Note' to take into account studies on the tradition of Canadian historical writing that have appeared since 1976." Extensive notes and a useful index make up the last forty pages.


John Harkness, Emery C.I., North York, Ont.
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