Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

The Old Curmudgeon

Jan 18, 2016


When I first began studying Canadian history back in the 1970s, Donald Creighton, the old curmudgeon of Canadian historiography, was past his prime. He was already being criticized for being anti-Quebec, deaf to Aboriginal issues, blind to the social history that had moved to centre stage.

All of which was true. Yet when I first read them, I was gobsmacked by Creighton's early books: The Commercial Empire of the St Lawrence (1937) and the two volumes of John A. Macdonald biography, The Young Politician (1952) and The Old Chieftain (1955). They seemed to offer a way to write about Canadian history that avoided the dry, constitutional approach favoured by his predecessors, and some of his contemporaries.

A new biography of Creighton has appeared, by Donald Wright, and I discuss it in my books column in the latest issue of Geist magazine (#99 if you're counting) which is making it way to newsstands right now. Check it out.

UPDATE: The column is now online here.