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Edited by A.W. Rasporich. Calgary, University of Calgary Press, c 1984.231 pp, paper, $10.95, ISBN 0-919813-04-6.

Reviewed by Chris Kempling

Volume 13 Number 6
1985 November

This collection of seventeen essays by scholars and writers, mostly from Canada's western universities, would be suitable as a companion text for a course in western Canadian studies. The Making of the Modern West is the brainchild of Anthony Rasporich, who is a professor of history at the University of Calgary. The collection covers such topic areas as economics, the impact of the oil industry, the development of modern Metis politics, health, art and theatre, and western alienation. The essays are scholarly in tone and, as such, would interest senior-level students of Canadian history, geography, economics, or political science.

The volume is not without some flaws. Tighter editorial control would have been preferred for some writers, who tended to obscure their ideas behind excess verbiage and convoluted sentences. One essayist writing on Metis politics did not have to look very far for his references, he quoted his own book eighteen times. Most of the other writers, however, exhibit thorough research in primary documents.

The most enjoyable piece is an essay entitled "The Impact of Oil on Alberta: Retrospect and Prospect" by John Barr, the director of public affairs for Syncrude. Barr avoids the stuffy academic style and writes with clarity and humour. A sample: "A good part of the province is 'gas-prone,' which is a reservoir condition, not a digestive ailment." The essay is a colourful delineation of the Zeitgeist engendered by Alberta's postwar oil economy. Another excellent piece is B.Y. Card's essay on 'Terspectives on Rural Western Canada in the 1950s." Obviously the product of exhaustive research, Card explores the symbolic meaning of the rural life of three decades ago as well as examining the transition to a more urban society, which was accelerating in this period.

Rasporich's collection will undoubtedly find its way onto university library shelves. With its varied subject areas, The Making of the Modern West should appeal to instructors in several disciplines.

Chris Kempling, Quesnel, B.C.
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