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A Short History of Canada [Paperback]

Desmond Morton
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 13.04 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

20 Jun 2006
Most of us know bits and pieces of our history but would like to be more sure of how it all fits together. The trick is to find a history that is so absorbing you will want to read it from beginning to end. With this book, Desmond Morton, one of Canada’s most noted and highly respected historians, shows how the choices we can make at the dawn of the 21st century have been shaped by history.

Morton is keenly aware of the links connecting our present, our past, and our future, and in one compact and engrossing volume he pulls off the remarkable feat of bringing it all together – from the First Nations before the arrival of the Europeans to the failure of the Charlottetown accord and Jean Chretien’s third term as prime minister. His acute observations on the Diefenbaker era, the effects of the post-war influx of immigrants, the flag debate, the baby boom, the Trudeau years and the constitutional crisis, the Quebec referendum, and the rise of the Canadian Alliance all provide an invaluable background to understanding the way Canada works today.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart; 6 edition (20 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771064802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771064807
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 14.2 x 3.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 483,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.0 out of 5 stars A good review of Canadian History 2 Oct 2013
By alapper
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Many people thing Canada hasn't got much history but this book tries to show that what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. It is pretty readable but gets a bit turgid at times when it goes on and on about endless politicians making oblique references to their unmemorable past behaviour which makes it difficult to follow.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "A Short History of Ottawa" to be more precise 4 Dec 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Morton is tackling a tough task for sure, attempting to cover the entire history of a complex nation in only 350 (or so) pages. However, this does not forgive some very significant oversights. Morton dedicates an extraordinarily large portion of his work to discussing Canadian politics and politicians. While politics represents a very significant part of any country's history, it is only part of the story. I was disappointed to find little more than an occasional paragraph dedicated to non-political events: social movements, trade issues, non-political figures, etc.
In addition, I think Morton tries to tackle too much in such a short text. At times, I felt that I was merely reading a chronology of events rather than an engaging, well-woven narrative. The back cover touts Morton's abilities as a "storyteller" - I found few "stories" but a lot of straightforward "this is what happened, then this is what happened next, etc."
Although I was mostly disappointed, this book does convey a tremendous amount of knowledge about Canada - I know much more about the great nation to the north than I did before I read the book. But, I'd have a hard time recommending this book to other "weekend historians" such as myself.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1867 and all that 1 Dec 2002
By Bruce Conron - Published on Amazon.com
Morton achieves very well what he sets out to do - to write a short history for someone with only a small commitment to the subject, a reader looking for the once-over lightly in order to grasp the major moments and recognize the greatest actors. Over 70 per cent of the book concerns events after 1867. There are no footnotes or bibliography. He doesn't implicate any fellow historians in the foreword. He is writing it from the perspective of the students he has encountered in the large urban universities he has worked in. Morton's style is breezy and witty. He refers to Louis St. Laurent as being "used only one more time" in the 1957 federal election, as if he were a piece of old furniture, which is figuratively not far off the mark. Regarding John Diefenbaker's opposition to arming Canadian missiles with nuclear warheads in 1962, claiming they were just as effective without them, Morton observes that "only the innocent and the resolutely unmilitary could believe him. In Canada, such people were numerous."
I found one error of fact in my edition: the GST was "awkwardly in place" by January 1, 1991, not in 1990 as stated in the 3rd revised edition (1997).
Overall, A Short History of Canada will give readers many good reasons to want to explore the dynamic story of our country in more depth when they have more time.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Recommend Roger Riendeau's book instead 14 Aug 2000
By Russil Wvong - Published on Amazon.com
For a one-volume history of Canada, I'd recommend Roger Riendeau's "A Brief History of Canada" instead. Desmond Morton seems to be attempting to tell the history of Canada as a single narrative, but it's simply too long and multifaceted to be coherent. I found the colorful writing and light tone (e.g. introducing some historical figure by describing him as a "short, stout Scotsman") more annoying than engaging -- I was looking for facts and explanations, not amusing details. Finally, the book doesn't so much end as trail off.
I don't want to say that it's a bad book (Desmond Morton is a well-known and respected historian, and there were several glowing blurbs on the book cover), but it wasn't what I was looking for. Perhaps it might be more interesting for teenagers.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good book for those already familiar but a poor introduction book 29 Dec 2011
By CAteach - Published on Amazon.com
When I see the title, " A short history of....", I tend to think of a book that will encompass the basic political, social and economic aspects while making things clear for the reader. Desmond Morton does a fine job of the former but a terrible job of the latter.

If you already know what Upper and Lower Canada consist, what seignoralism is or where Prince Edward Island lies, you'll probably have no problem deciphering parts of this book, but if you have never studied Canadian history you will be lost.

A few examples: On page 62, Morton states, "beyond the mouth of the St. Lawrence lay four proudly self-reliant British colonies." Yet he does not clarify which four. He speaks of Newfoundland, and then goes on to talk about the Acadians while explaining their history in one sentence. Are the New Brunswickers part of these four? I assume Halifax and Nova Scotia are part of the four, but Morton never makes this clear.

On page 90 Morton talks of a man named MacDonald, but uses the last name as a first reference three times before making it clear who the man is on the fourth reference, It is assumed that the reader remembered the first reference of John Sandfield MacDonald on page 60. This is a basic rule of journalism: first name on first reference. There are four MacDonalds' listed in the book. The reader is just supposed to know that Morton is referencing this particular MacDonald? There are similar examples like this throughout the book.

It's not that Morton is a poor writer or that it is a poor book: It's actually interesting at certain points and definitely informative. I just wanted to warn other readers to not make the same mistake that I made and read this as one of your first introductions to Canadian history. This book assumes you know the geography well (two very simple, and poor maps are the only ones included), and that you already know some of the major players.

I teach intro history in community college; I would recommend this book for a 300 or up class, or for people who already have studied Canadian history but absolutely not for beginners or introductory courses...
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, Concise History of Canada 1 Jan 2010
By Eric Mayforth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Many Americans know little about the history of their northern neighbour (for example, how many of you knew that Newfoundland was a British protectorate until 1949?). This volume shows how Canadian history transpired from the nineteenth century to the turn of the twenty-first century. The author examines economic, political, and social events, as well as foreign policy--he presents a Canadian perspective on the U.S. Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. Morton goes into detail about Canadian elections down to the breakdown of seats by party in Parliament, and the author shows how many of the social trends in America in the latter half of the 20th century also took place in Canada. Those who wish to get a basic understanding of Canadian history would do well to read Desmond Morton's informative history.
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