Donald Creighton was for many years one of Canada's foremost historians, a firm believer that history was closer to art than it was to science. Marked by beautiful, carefully crafted prose, The Road to Confederation reflects a style that perhaps no contemporary historian would dare: romantic, suspenseful, fearlessly narrative, and full of unapologetic opinions. If not politically correct and sanitized, it is a fascinating exploration of the personalities, the political logjams, even the debt problems that marked the period leading to Confederation.
The book was also, as Donald Wright's excellent introduction argues, haunted by doubt. Not only had Canada failed to live up to Creighton's vision, Creighton himself was writing from the perspective of a rapidly changing country. Quebec was moving towards a liberal, secular, and nationalist identity; English Canada was embracing bilingualism and diversity; debates about nuclear weapons were raging; and living next to the United States was becoming increasingly uneasy. The road was becoming ever less straightforward. In many respects, The Road to Confederation reveals as much about the 1960s as it does the 1860s.
Can echoes of Creighton's vision be seen even now, as Canada reinserts "Royal" into its military's name and remains entranced by William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the future of the Royal Family?
Donald Creighton (1902-1979) was English Canada's leading historian. A member of the University of Toronto's Department of History, Creighton wrote a dozen books, including The Commercial Empire of the St Lawrence, the two-volume biography of Sir John A. Macdonald, and Canada's First Century. For his outstanding contributions to Canada's intellectual life, he received many awards and honours, including the Tyrrell Medal, the Governor General's Award, the Molson Prize, and honorary degrees from universities across the country. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Companion of the Order of Canada.
Donald Wright is associate professor of political science at the University of New Brunswick. He is a visiting fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge, in 2011-12. His publications include The Professionalization of History in English Canada (Toronto, 2005) and The Canadian Historical Association: A History (Ottawa, 2003).
"Professor Donald Creighton ... is Canada's most distinguished historian. He is not only an excellent historian who digs deep in original material and the archives for his information when he writes on Canada, but is a brilliant and graphic writer."
--London Free Press
"It is a superb job of story-telling, compressing Canada's rather long record into one highly readable volume."
"The essentials emerge with new clarity. This is a handbook to Canada which will serve well the general reader who doesn't know as much of the story as he will find here. And that would include at least 99 per cent of us all."
"An immense pieces of scholarship."
"A model of historical writing. . . . The Road to Confederation, clear and well-written, blending wide general considerations with intimate personal studies and with detailed local knowledge, is an important contribution to the flow of new historical writing which the Centenary has provoked."
--The Historical Journal
"a real page-turner...a fantastic read"
--Canadian Book Review
"A happy, nostalgic celebration of the people and the process that had made Canadian federal union; precisely detailed, wonderfully evocative."
--Globe and Mail
"A beautifully written book."
--Canadian Historical Review