CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

J. Arthur Lower

2nd edition. Whitby (Ont.), McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1991. 343pp, paper, $17.95
ISBN 0-07-551240-8. CIP

Grades 9 and up/Ages 14 and up
Reviewed by Brenda Reed

Volume 20 Number 1
1992 January

Teachers of Canadian history are probably already familiar with either the 1966 or 1973 version of Lower's outline of Canadian history. The new 1991 second edition includes five new chapters. The last two chapters of the 1973 edition brief­ly discussed Canadian politics, economics and society from the end of World War H to the late 1960s. In the 1991 edition these two chapters have been expanded and updated to mid-1991. The titles of the new chapters give an indication of the new information that is now included: "Return to Normalcy (sic), 1945-1963," "The Trudeau Era, 1963-1984," "Canada in World Affairs," "Social and Economic Changes," and "Canada Under Mulroney."

Since 1966, Lower's Canada: An Outline History has been a popular text because it is a straightforward, succinct history of the country, with a reasonable index. In the new version, chapters 1 to 14 have not been rewritten. There is again a detailed subject index, making this text a useful source for checking facts about Canadian history. If you are looking for a brief, clearly written description of the seigneurial system, Pontiac's Rebellion, or the Selkirk Settlement, this is a good place to look.

This may not, however, be a good place to look for information about Canada's recent history. The last five "new" chapters are not written with the same clarity as the earlier chapters, although I assume that the same author wrote them. Several sentences in the last few chapters make no apparent sense, or are so poorly written that the intended meaning is lost, as in the following example: "La Francophonie now has 41 members of whom two are participating governments (Quebec and New Brunswick)."

In addition to the sometimes awkward writing of the last five chapters, there are a larger than usual number of spelling errors, which have also been introduced into earlier chapters that did not have errors in earlier editions. These errors begin with the table of contents, where "Social and Economic Changes" appears as "Social and Economic Charges," and include, throughout the text, "parallel," "vegetarian" (instead of vegetation!), and "assembly."

Such annoying errors are minor, how­ever, compared to a glaring and unfortu­nate factual error on the fourth-last page of the text. In a discussion of the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, Lower writes that, "In protest, nine MPs from Quebec, led by former Conservative Jacques Parizeau, formed the Bloc Quebecois". The incorrect identification of Jacques Parizeau is combined with such a sweep­ing summary of the facts that too much room is left for misinterpretation. Lucien Bouchard and a few other Quebec MPs resigned before the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, and not precisely in protest of its failure. This careless writing and the sloppy editing call into question the reliability and authority of the expanded edition.

There are a few other annoying features in the expanded edition. Unlike the 1973 edition, which was sewn, the 1991 edition is bound by glue, making it impossible to see the centre of two-page maps. Inevitably, the boundary you want to see is hidden away in the inner recesses of the binding. Secondly, the appendix has been updated to include new graphs, one of which is a pie graph entitled "Immigration to Canada," with various countries, numbers and percentages provided. The reader, however, is left on her own to determine if this is for one year (and if so, which one) or for a period of years. Thirdly, the useful bibliogra­phies that followed each chapter in the 1973 edition have disappeared. The rationale behind this is not explained.

The second edition of Lower's Canada: An Outline History could have provided us with a reliable quick reference source for verifying details about our past. The new summary of 1945-1991 is useful, but I recommend using its facts with caution.

Brenda Reed, Bishop's College School, Lennoxville, Que.
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