Since 1952, CBC television has played a unique role as the primary mass media purveyor of Canadian history. Yet until now, there have been no comprehensive accounts of Canadian history on television. Monica MacDonald takes us behind the scenes of the major documentaries and docudramas broadcast on the CBC, including in Explorations (1956–64) and the series Images of Canada (1972–76), The National Dream (1974), The Valour and the Horror (1992), and Canada: A People's History (2000–02). Drawing on a wide range of sources, MacDonald explores how producers struggled to represent the Canadian past under a range of external and internal pressures. Despite dramatic shifts in the writing of history over this period, she determines that television themes and interpretations largely remained the same. The greater change was in the production and presentation, particularly in the role of professional historians, as journalists emerged not only as the new producers of Canadian history on CBC television, but also as the new content authorities. A critique of public history through the lens of political economy, Recasting History reveals the conflicts, compromises, and controversies that have shaped the CBC version of the Canadian past.
Monica MacDonald is a specialist in public history and holds a PhD in communication and culture from York University.