CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Friesen, Gerald.

Toronto, University of Toronto Press, cl984. 524pp, cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-8020-2513-7. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by George Huffman

Volume 13 Number 1
1985 January

The Canadian Prairies: A History is a one-volume history of the prairie west from the age of the glaciers eight thousand years ago to the new west of the 1970s and 1980s. Its author is Gerald Friesen, a historian from the University of Manitoba. It is a masterful synthesis and is the best history of a Canadian region yet published.

There are several examples of new or revisionist interpretations. Here at last considerable attention is given to the natives who are not, as so often in the past, dismissed quickly as noble savages who easily became helpless pawns of the white man. Recent research in native history enables Friesen to offer a refreshingly different account.

As well, the author addresses the question of class relations in prairie society. The research of social and labour historians leads Friesen to conclude that nineteenth- and twentieth-century prairie society was not a classless, egalitarian frontier but rather that a definite social structure existed. This is never lost sight of in the book, and frequent reference is made to it in regard to the rural west and the urban and mining centres that emerged in this century.

There are a number of other things about the book that deserve praise. It is well written and judicious. The maps are excellent, there is a good index, the footnotes are helpful and concise, and a bibliographical essay is included.

This new history of the Canadian prairies should be welcomed by teachers at all levels of our education system. It dispels several myths about the prairie past that continue to be perpetrated in elementary and secondary school curricula. (Certainly this book should be purchased by all school libraries in Canada.) Friesen's work will likely be a widely used textbook in undergraduate classes in prairie history. As well, I would highly recommend it for the general reader.

In conclusion, both author and publisher should be congratulated for this fine piece of work. Students of Canadian history would welcome similar studies of other regions of Canada.

George Huffman, Weyburn C.S., Weyburn, Sask.
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

Young Canada Works