The prize is awarded for an outstanding, well-written book judged to have made an original, significant, and meritorious contribution to the field of Canadian political history.
The 2021 prize competition is now closed. The prize will be attributed at the CHA Annual Meeting in June 2021.
Tina Loo. Moved by the State, Forced Relocation and Making a Good Life in Postwar Canada. UBC Press, 2019.
Moved by the State is a masterful work. It is as impressive in scope as it is in the intellectual heft of its argument. Drawing on case studies from the Arctic to the Atlantic, to the Pacific and points in between, Loo gives us a history of forced relocations in Canada that shows Canadian connections to global histories of social and economic development. She highlights how race, gender, class, and the urban/rural divide informed these relocations. In the process, she pays sensitive attention to the conflicts both within communities and between the state and those whose homes were marked for removal. Loo respects the hope-filled attempts to use public resources to help people and to build participatory democracy, but she is also unfailingly alert to both the limits and the unexpected consequences of these efforts. Those who were targeted for relocation found in “citizen participation” new channels for speaking back to power. In many ways, they defined “the good life” on their own terms, at odds with those of the modernizers. In its exploration of the complex connections between development, democracy, and empowerment, Moved by the State shows us the origins of political problems we still face today. It is an important and inspiring investigation of Canada’s liberal order in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Sarah A. Nickel. Assembling Unity: Indigenous Politics, Gender and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. UBC Press, 2019.
Assembling Unity is a fascinating account of Indigenous political history. Drawing on oral history, Indigenous theory, and gender analysis, Nickel situates the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) in the longer history of Indigenous political organization, as well as global movements of anti-colonial resistance. She explores how ‘unity’ was understood and deployed by diverse political actors. In this vein, she discusses the political impact of Indigenous women, both as individuals and through organizations such as the British Columbia Indian Homemakers’ Association. She also brings an Indigenous feminist analysis to the images and practices of Indigenous political activists. By centering Indigenous voices and political organization, Assembling Unity offers a new perspective on the political and constitutional debates of the 1970s and 1980s. Nickel goes beyond relations between the UBCIC and settler governments to unpack the complex interplay between and within the grassroots, Indigenous communities, and the organization. All told, the book stands as an invaluable contribution to the history of Indigenous politics in their own right and to understanding settler-Indigenous relations in the long 1970s.
Michael Dawson, Selling Out or Buying In?: Debating Consumerism in Vancouver and Victoria, 1945-1985
Buying In or Selling Out? is a short book on an apparently small topic that has something big to say about the historical origins of our contemporary politics. Dawson’s topic is the prolonged struggle over shopping hours from the 1940s to the 1980s, but his subject is how the relation between state and society has changed. The changes he describes there are, in microcosm, the changes in the public sphere during these years of Cold War and democratization. He shows populism taking its modern form, along with the complex debates over the regulatory state, amid a suite of changes in meanings of class, gender, and religion. Both the courts and politicians figure as agents of the state. As for political actors, aldermen appear as one voice among many, but mayors and provincial politicians figure in a distinctive role as leaders who try but fail to steer the ship, overwhelmed by the complexity of the publics to which they must respond. Dawson deftly and sympathetically describes that complexity, and so renders vivid the genuine challenges of making policy for plural, highly engaged publics. Shopping is revealed as not merely a trivial matter of local politics. It is a battleground on which competing interests and values play out in relation to political leadership, to work and leisure, and to property rights and consumer rights. The claim of this book to a prize for political history rests especially on its sharp understanding of the importance of municipal and provincial politics as a place where citizens’ experience of the state and of political leadership is shaped. The lessons learned in the shopping hours struggle left a legacy for contemporary national politics.
E.A. Heaman, Tax, Order, and Good Government: A New Political History of Canada, 1867-1917. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017.
This book makes an original and compelling contribution to our knowledge of how the Canadian fiscal regime was created, reformed, and received by the State, one both framing and framed by the complex interplay of diverse sets of interests, ideas, and principles. While challenging previous notions of liberalism, founding ideals, nation-building, and federalism, this book enriches our understanding of how historical actors and ordinary people thought about property, poverty, and wealth. Heaman employs a comprehensive methodology informed by official documents from all levels of government as well as private correspondence, and periodical and other print media. Her analysis brings together the disparate regional visions of the new Dominion and highlights Canada’s transition from a fiscal imperial to a fiscal welfare state, a fundamental shift previously little explored. A social history of politics grounded in the history of knowledge, this innovative, pragmatic, and thorough study will long be a reference for historians and students of modern Canada.
Paul Litt, Trudeaumania. Vancouver, UBC Press, 2016.
Paul Litt's remarkable book, Trudeaumania, examines the role played by the media in the political ascent of Pierre Elliott Trudeau in the later 1960s. Litt adopts a political culture approach in his analysis of the Trudeaumania phenomenon. Drawing on a rich documentary source base, and developing an analysis that deepens as the ten chapters progress, Litt demonstrates with brilliance and finesse that Trudeaumania was the product of a wide range of factors: the countercultural values of the “baby-boom” generation, the anti-establishment “mod” style that Trudeau appropriated, the sexual revolution that would change the way male politicians could play with sexual codes in public life, the stimulation of Canadian nationalism by the centennial celebrations and particularly Expo 67, the intellectual vocabulary of Canadian liberalism that Trudeau used and shaped, television as a cultural medium projecting images of the “nation”, and the use of political marketing to mold and popularize Trudeau’s image. Skillfully written and visually appealing, this book depicts Trudeaumania as a cynically-used tool, but one that nevertheless had some intellectual substance. It fostered a social project that reshaped the Liberal party and represented the first step in a profound transformation of the Canadian symbolic order.
Mark Kuhlberg, In the Power of the Government: The Rise and Fall of Newsprint in Ontario, 1894-1932. UTP, 2015.
In a forcefully argued study of the relationship between the provincial state and the pulp and paper manufacturing industry in Ontario between 1894 and 1932, Mark Kuhlberg challenges the long-standing thesis of H.Viv Nelles that public ownership of crown resources in Canada led the state to promote rather than regulate development, “thereby sacrificing what could generally be defined as ‘the public interest’” (p.4). The book stands out for the originality of its argument and the truly prodigious amount of research that informs it.
Ian Mosby, Food Will Win the War: the Politics, Culture, and Science of Food on Canada’s Home Front. UBC Press, 2014.
Food Will Win the War is an incredibly rich work that pushes us to rethink the interventionist state during WWII. It is a reconsideration of the home front that touches on everything from the politics of science to gender to changing consumption patterns to the state’s handling of ethnic and racial diversity. Mosby focusses on food production, consumption and regulation during WWII alongside an innovative account of the symbolism and culture of food, marrying the gender politics of food with the wartime policies of the state. That the gender politics of consumption and cooking fuelled that divide is no surprise but the account is beautifully told and rich with detailed evidence. From the beginning, with its magisterial and generous overview of the field, through to the searing postwar consequences and conclusions, the author has produced a mature, sophisticated, and important book.
Suzanne Morton, Wisdom, Justice, & Charity: Canadian Social Welfare Through the Life of Jane B. Wisdom, 1884-1975. University of Toronto Press, 2014.
Wisdom, Justice, & Charity relates the life story and experiences of Jane Wisdom, one of Canada’s first social workers, to a number of important currents in the development of social welfare in Canada. Wisdom worked with the poor in a remarkable variety of settings, and in very different North American contexts of metropolitan and peripheral poverty and struggle. Morton captures the social, cultural, and political mood of each of these locales magnificently. While Wisdom’s ambitions were antithetical to politics for the early part of her life as she believed in private charity rather than unearned state payouts and in apolitical professionalism, practical experience working with the poor taught her to welcome political life and logic. Morton’s book serves as a real parable for our apolitical times: that the value of politics may be learned in practical interaction with people who need help in one form or another at certain periods in their lives.
Dimitry Anastakis, Autonomous State: The Struggle for a Canadian Car Industry from OPEC to Free Trade (UTP, 2013).
Anastakis' study of the Canadian automotive industry in the last third of the twentieth century provides a richly detailed and nuanced examination of the impact of globalization and neo-liberalism on the Canadian state. This is a timely book considering the state of the auto industry in Canada today. By delving into the diverse array of diplomatic and policy tools that Canadian officials used to support the existence of a dynamic car industry, Autonomous State makes a critical contribution to our understanding of the country's economics and political culture. Based on an impressive body of historical research, it makes an important contribution to a growing body of literature that traces the transformation of Canada's economy in the era of free trade and globalization.
Bruce Curtis. Ruling By Schooling Quebec: Conquest to Liberal Governmentality – A Historical Sociology. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012.
Ruling by Schooling Quebec is an innovative and forceful examination of the links between education, power, and governance from 1759 to 1841. Meticulously and exhaustively researched, it examines the attempts of colonial administrators and their local allies to introduce structures and modes of liberal government in Quebec and Lower Canada through schooling the population. As one prize committee member described it, “this book is a tour de force of creativity, breadth, and flair” and is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the contested history of liberal governance and education in Quebec in the 19th century.
David Wilson, Thomas Darcy McGee, Volume 2: The Extreme Moderate, 1857-1868. (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011).
David Wilson’s account of Thomas D’Arcy McGee’s Canadian years examines the character of a man and of a country, culminating in Canada’s birth and McGee’s murder. Wilson’s McGee was a person with a background of extremes who forged a passionate middle ground in his campaign against ethnic particularism and religious extremism in the politics of early Canada, a vision of and a lesson in a tolerant, generous, and diverse society that the author explicitly links to the challenges and dangers of a post-11 September world. Wilson eloquently champions the study of political history as fundamental to an understanding of what it means to be Canadian. He brings to life the thrill, the stench, and the importance of mid-to-late nineteenth century British North American politics. Yet he finds the person amid the politics. Despite the paucity of personal McGee correspondence, Wilson reveals the size of the man and his emphatic humanity, the aching failings as well as the heady successes, effectively and sensitively linking McGee’s private and public worlds. David Wilson’s biography is a triumph of multinational and multidimensional research fused to a wonderful, direct prose that drives the narrative and the reader forward. It is a book for every scholar, and for every Canadian.
Ivana Caccia. Managing the Canadian Mosaic in Wartime: Shaping Citizenship Policy, 1939-1945 (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010).
Ivana Caccia’s Managing the Canadian Mosaic in Wartime: Shaping Citizenship Policy 1939-1945 stands out for the quality of its scholarship, the suppleness of its arguments, and the contribution it makes to our understanding of the transition towards a broader and more inclusive definition of Canadian citizenship in the mid-20th century. Managing the Canadian Mosaic is a sensitive and effective analysis of public debates regarding the institutional responses to the challenges posed by the growing number of Canadians of non-British or French origin to national unity and a unified Canadian war effort during the Second World War. While acknowledging the nuances, contradictions, and even the ambivalence that characterised official Canadian policy towards ethnocultural minorities during the war, Caccia traces the emergence by the war’s end of a more open and inclusive perception of Canadian identity focused on shared values that challenged earlier definitions of Canadian identity that focused on the country’s Britishness. Clearly written, impeccably researched, and engagingly argued, Managing the Canadian Mosaic makes a significant contribution to ongoing debates about the changing nature of Canadian nationalism and identity in the mid-20th century and is essential reading for scholars interested in modern Canadian political history.
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