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Francis, R. Douglas.

Toronto, University of Toronto Press, c1986. 219pp. cloth. $27.50. ISBN 0-8020-2545-5. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Thomas F. Chambers

Volume 14 Number 5
1986 September

Frank Underhill was a professor of history at the University of Toronto. At first glance, his life seems an odd subject for a biography. Much of his time was spent preparing lectures, giving tutorials, and marking exams. Such occupations do not make for exciting reading. What makes Underhill's life interesting was the controversy he created. In his lectures, his speeches, and his essays, he challenged the status quo. He was a critic of intellectual laziness and an enemy of academic and political mediocrity.

Underhill was a progressive thinker politically. He helped found the League for Social Reconstruction in 1932. This was based on the British Fabian Society, and included Canada's leading socialists among its members. In the same year, he helped prepare the Regina Manifesto for the founding of the CCF, which later became the New Democratic Party.

Unlike most historians, Unherbill was not known for his writing. He has no major historical work to his credit. His reputation was based on his teaching skills and on his outspoken views on current trendy thinking. He was an inspiring lecturer, who encouraged many fine students to pursue history as a career. He was also a thorn in the side of the establishment.

Francis's biography does justice to Underhill's life. It is well researched and thorough. It is also very well written and a suitable memorial to a man described as "one of English Canada's most important thinkers and writers in the mid-twentieth century."

Thomas F. Chambers, Canadore C.C., North Bay, Ont.
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