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Biography & Autobiography Editors, Journalists, Publishers

Arthur Irwin

A Biography

by (author) David MacKenzie

University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Initial publish date
Dec 1993
Editors, Journalists, Publishers, Nationalism, Literary
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    Publish Date
    Dec 1993
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From 1925 to 1950, Arthur Irwin was the driving force behind the success of Maclean's Magazine, first as an associate editor, then managing editor, and, finally, as an editor. He had strong views on what it meant to be Canadian, and under his direction Maclean's was moulded into 'Canada's National Magazine,' mirroring the development of Canada as an independent nation in the twentieth century. In the years before the outbreak of the Second World War, he was at the centre of the Maclean Company’s investigation of the Department of National Defence's system of defence contracting, or what has become known as the 'Bren Gun Scandal.' In the 1940s Irwin actively sought out writers of talent and potential and gradually added to the magazine's staff many Canadian writers who went on to distinguished careers, including Ralph Allen, Pierre Berton, Blair Fraser, and Scott Young.
After leaving Maclean's in 1950, Irwin was appointed film commissioner at the National Film Board, during a time when the board's survival was in doubt because of allegations of espionage and subversion. Irwin was the man called in to deal with the NFB's 'red scare,' and, afterwards, he reorganized the board and moved its operations from Ottawa to Montreal. Irwin subsequently went on to a career as a diplomat: he was appointed high commissioner in Australia, and ambassador to Brazil and Mexico. In his last professional position he was publisher of a Victoria newspaper.
This book, in describing a man who was profoundly representative of his times, and whose presence in major Canadian institutions was influential, captures the mood of Irwin's period, and raises important questions about the roots of present-day Canadian nationalism and cultural identity.

About the author

David MacKenzie is a professor of history at Ryerson University and the author of several books on Canadian history and international relations. He is also the editor of Canada and the First World War. He lives in Toronto.

David MacKenzie's profile page

Other titles by David MacKenzie