Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

History Post-confederation (1867-)

J.L. Ilsley: A Political Biography

Mackenzie King's frugal finance minister who found the money for Canada's war 1939–1945

by (author) Barry Cahill

Formac Publishing Company Limited
Initial publish date
Nov 2021
Post-Confederation (1867-), Political, Military, World War II, Historical
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2021
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2021
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


A farmer’s son from rural Nova Scotia, J. L. Ilsley (1894–1967) is an almost forgotten figure who played a key role in government during the Second World War, even though he was despised by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. Ilsley was spectacularly successful in cajoling and compelling Canadians to pay for the war. He became a highly regarded national figure. He gradually established his claim to succeed William Lyon Mackenzie King as Prime Minister when the time came. Ultimately, in his devious way, King thwarted Ilsley’s ambition.

Ilsley abandoned politics to take up the post of chief justice in Nova Scotia for 17 years. His place in Canadian political history has been undermined by family members who destroyed his personal papers. Historian and biographer Barry Cahill has pieced together the story of Ilsley’s career for the first time. He used the personal papers of other Ottawa figures of the times, previously secret cabinet records, and glimpses of the man as seen by others in his circle – including, of course, Mackenzie King in his voluminous diaries.


About the author

BARRY CAHILL is an independent historian whose work focuses on Atlantic Canada. He has written numerous historical pieces on the region's legal history and has also written extensively on religious history, with a focus on Canadian Presbyterianism. He is also a former editor of the Nova Scotia Historical Review. Cahill is also a Certified Information Access and Privacy Officer in the Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Department of the Government of Nova Scotia. He was formerly a Corporate Projects Analyst and Senior Archivist in the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management Department of the Government of Nova Scotia. Cahill lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Barry Cahill's profile page

Other titles by Barry Cahill