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Shirley Tillotson

Shirley Tillotson

The François-Xavier Garneau Prize


Shirley TillotsonGive and Take: The Citizen-Taxpayer and the Rise of Canadian Democracy. UBC Press, 2017.

Often the news exposes the social relevance of historical work. Such is the case with Shirley Tillotson’s Give and Take: The Citizen-Taxpayer and the Rise of Canadian Democracy published by UBC Press. At a time when the state is supporting citizens in a period of unprecedented crisis this enlightening and lively social and cultural history of the tax system in Canada poses fundamental questions about the links between taxation and democracy. Tillotson recounts with remarkable lucidity and balance fundamental developments in fiscal and social policy. By targeting a pivotal period, 1917 to 1972, she identifies the important questions that arise from the conversation between taxpayers and policy makers. It takes into account the regional, gender, ethnic, and social particularities that emerge from this dialogue. A conversation punctuated by resistance, collaboration, coercion, but a conversation that puts individuals at the forefront.

In the hands of a less skilful and insightful historian and writer, the subject could be occluded by technical or judgmental discourses. Taxation is the supporting core, but world events impinging on Canadian fiscal affairs and contemporary debates on state finances from Canadians across political and social spectra are all part of a remarkably seamless and forthright narrative. Tax can be fun, taxes can be funny, and Tillotson writes with such a deft handling of policy-making and politics, presenting a new examination of national history, that she affirms a distinctly Canadian experience within an international setting.  At the same time, she urges us to reconsider some of our most sacred assumptions, particularly over how we like to differentiate ourselves from our neighbour to the south. Her accessible and often witty style complements a drive to achieve even-handedness without sacrificing reasoned opinions.

Give and Take has already established itself as a major contribution to the historiography of contemporary Canada through the questions it poses, the approach taken, and the elegance of the writing. It is a work that offers both fresh and original insights into Canada’s recent history and does so in an engaging and disarming way. It is a study that makes you rethink Canadian history.

Shortlisted books

E.A HeamanTax, Order, and Good Government: A New Political History of Canada. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017.
Susan HillThe Clay We Are Made Of, Haudenosaunee Land Tenure on the Grand River. University of Manitoba Press, 2017.
Mario MimeaultL’Exode québécois, 1852-1925. Septentrion, 2013.
Adele PerryColonial Relations: the Douglas-Connolly Family and the Nineteenth-Century Imperial World. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
Robert C.HSweenyWhy Did We Choose to Industrialize? Montreal, 1819-1849. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015.
Brian YoungPatrician Families and the Making of Quebec. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014.