John W. Dafoe was a dominant figure in western Canadian political history during the first half of the twentieth century. As editor of the Winnipeg Free Press from 1901 to 1944, he gained an international reputation for his perceptive analysis of the issues facing Canada and the world. He was at the centre of almost every major political development of his time: he advised prime ministers, was deeply involved in organizing the Progressive party, and was a member of the crucial Rowell-Sirois Commission on federal-provincial relations. His influence was enormous, and at the time of his death he was widely regarded as the nation's most distinguished editor. This book is a study at close quarters of Dafoe, the man of politics.
It focuses on the Dafoe who read and studied and the Dafoe who observed men and events; on Dafoe in his centre of operation and at the Free Press and Dafoe moving watchfully about the country and abroad when critical decisions were in the making; on the ideas confided in letters to friends and the ideas delivered in public speeches; on contributions made to conferences and commissions and advice given to political figures. The book is not intended as a complete biography of Dafoe in all his aspects, but it is even less an abstract treatise in the field of political theory. It is the biography of a political mind. The impression is of a mind recalled to its full vigour, for no prejudgments have been made about it and no restraints upon it.
Ramsay Cook treats his subject with candour, but also with understanding and a sense of humour. He has ordered his material with extraordinary skill, so that his book is enjoyable reading as well as a valuable source of information about a distinguished Canadian and a momentous period in Canadian history.
"Mr Cook has used [his sources] with utmost skill, never allowing the reader to feel burdened by his research, to produce a book which tells us more about Dafoe than we know about any other Canadian political mind of this century."
"... an excellent book, scholarly, informed and judicious ... . The author and the press have made a distinguished contribution both to the content and the quality of historical scholarship in Canada."
"The author has dexterously separated the essential from the non-essential, and he presents the essence of Dafoe with a directness of style and an economy of language which cannot be commended too highly. Other students will write complete biographies of Dafoe, but none will add much more that is significant to an understanding of his basic stock of ideas."
"... a fascinating look at the Canadian political scene."
"... an admirable study."
"Skilfully organized, tightly written, readable, and illuminating, it is fair to Dafoe without being uncritical ... . All in all Professor Cook has made an important and welcome contribution to the historiography of twentieth-century Canadian politics."
"This book is magnificently and tightly written, the best study of a political mind I have ever seen in Canada, documented, reasonable, and fair."