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Franca Iacovetta


The CHA Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History Prize


Franca IacovettaGatekeepers: Reshaping Immigrant Lives in Cold War Canada. Toronto: Between the Lines, 2006.
In this lively, engaged and probing analysis, Iacovetta explores the interaction between immigration agents, social workers, journalists and the range of other Canadians involved in reception work and the European immigrants who arrived here after the second world war. Gatekeepers links the high politics of international events with the personal politics of family, identity and self. It shows how people with authority exercised surveillance, censured and pushed newcomers from a range of post-war situations to become worthy Canadian citizens. It demonstrates how immigrants= stories, their successes and their failures were integrated into the broader context of cold war containment and the promotion of family and a new gendered order in the post-war period. Iacovetta draws deftly and with humanity on a wide range of sources to highlight the costs of war, integration and citizenship that demanded acquiescence to the gatekeepers= agenda. Drawing especially on the Toronto and Ontario situation, Gatekeepers makes a major contribution more generally to the histories of immigration, gender and the post-war period in Canada and beyond.

Honourable Mention:
Robert Bothwell.  Alliance and Illusion Canada and the World, 1945-1984. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2007.

Alliance and Illusion is a superbly written synthesis, rooted in a deep command of broader literature on the post World War Two period, complemented by politicians= and civil servants memoirs and selected primary sources. Bothwell explores the forces within and outside Canada that shaped foreign relations, honouring the talents of key officials, revealing the more than occasional self-deception of a relatively small country flattering itself with an inflated sense of influence and autonomy, and underlining the realities of the constraints that alliances required. This is a book that deserves to become a text book on the period and to provoke engaged debate.

Cynthia Comacchio.  The Dominion of Youth: Adolescence and the Making of a Modern Canada, 1920-50.  Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2006.
The Dominion of Youth links anxieties around youth, generations and growing up in Canada to the growing pains of a young nation, seeking its own identity in the years between the 1920s and 1950. Comacchio suggests that youth and the nation were seeking to be modern. It was the very modernity of youth that worried older generations, and the modern methods of youth watchers that exacerbated worries about adolescence as a period of upheaval. Other scholars have focused on juvenile delinquency, Comacchio breaks new ground in seeking to explore what growing up was like for most Canadian youth, acknowledging differences of class, region and at times ethnicity. Building on a generation of scholarship on adolescence, The Dominion of Youth argues that adolescence took its modern form between the wars, when the meaning of that stage of life was redefined in its relation to other stages, and the state became more involved in nurturing citizens. Adolescents, theorists, experts and policy makers all shaped this process. Extensively researched, largely in Ontario archives and print sources, this book makes an important contribution to the history of youth, to family history, and to Canadian history more broadly.