CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Morton, Desmond
Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1992. 3rd ed. 317pp, paper, $19.99, ISBN 0-7710-6515-9. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up

Reviewed by Brenda Reed

Volume 20 Number 5
1992 October

The 1985 hardcover edition of this book cost four cents less than this updated paperback edition. If you already have either that first edition or the second edition (McClelland & Stewart, 1987), I don't recommend purchasing this paperback, as there is little new material.

The last chapter has been revised and lengthened to include a couple of pages on Perrin Beatty's stint as defence minister (including reasons why Beatty's white paper was not successful), a paragraph each on the Oka crisis and the 1990-91 Gulf War, and a page on the direction of Canadian defence policy in 1991. The concluding paragraphs have been skillfully expanded to emphasize Morton's message that Canadians should be wary of "old certainties." "In a shrunken world," Morton argues, "Canada's immunity from conflict is one of those vanished certainties." This is not an unexpected message from a military historian who is concluding a book on Canada's war history, but Morton's dismissal of the possibility of our continued peace as "moral fantasies of the 1960s" is somewhat unsettling.

The thrust of Morton's book, then, is that Canada always has been, and most probably always will be, at war with someone, somewhere, if not always on our soil. The book is thoroughly researched, and requires a good knowledge of geography and a familiarity with at least the outline of Canadian history. Yet the book is clearly meant for the general, and not the scholarly, reader, as there is no documentation. There are, however, extensive chapter bibliographies, black-and-white photographs and illustrations, a few black-and-white maps, and an index.

After a few perfunctory words about native warfare, Morton begins with Champlain's defeat of the Iroquois in 1609, arguing that Champlain should not be blamed for making enemies of the Iroquois, or for giving the aboriginal people weapons. The first three chapters are a detailed presentation of Canadian war maneuvers from the early wars of the fur trade up to the early twentieth century. The information, given in 129 pages, is necessarily succinct, and the focus is on what happened. The discussions of the two world wars and the Cold War offer more analysis, and are the best part of the book. I recommend that all high school, public and academic libraries have at least one of the editions of this book. Desmond Morton is a prominent Canadian historian, and the book is a useful summary of Canada's military pursuits.

Brenda Reed is a librarian at Bishop's College School in Lennoxville, Quebec

line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

francaisDigital Collections / Collections Numérisees francais