The Excitement of Canadian History

The Excitement of Canadian History

Posted on April 29 by Larry D. Rose
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One of the most exciting things about writing a book is that you learn so much along the way.  When I started researching Mobilize! I had a rather cartoonish view of former Prime Minister Mackenzie King.  He sounded rather dull but the more I read and studied about him the more I came to respect him.  Yes, he spent hours communing with the dead; yes,  he could be petty; and yes, he drove his staff to distraction with all his demands. He was an impossible boss.  But there is a lot more to him especially the more I began to realize that his top priority was always Canadian unity.  He knew what he was doing.

    Also today there are so many different ways you can find out about someone.   All Mackenzie King’s diaries are on line so you can look up any day at all and read about what he said and did.  Most of it is mundane but if you are looking for particular days, such as the day Canada declared war at the start of the Second World War, you can see what he actually wrote (or, more exactly, what his secretary transcribed).

   I also wondered what Mackenzie King actually sounded like.  So it is great to be able to go to YouTube and hear his voice and see him.  He then became a much more three dimensional figure.  I don’t know why but I thought he would have a British accent but he doesn’t.  He sounds like any ordinary Canadian today.

     Researching my book, I also had the opportunity to meet some Canadians who were part of history, including the Second World War destroyer captain Robert Welland.  I visited him in his home about three years ago and had a long conversation with him. I’m sorry to say he died about a year after we talked.  But I was lucky to have had the opportunity to meet such an outstanding Canadian.  You could see right away what a powerful personality he had.  Ideas just sparked off him, even at the age of 90.

     I am now doing some preliminary work on another project and I continue to find fascinating Canadians to study.  Elsie MacGill, for instance, was known during the Second World War as the “Queen of the Hurricane”.  She was Canada’s first woman aircraft engineer and designer.  Possibly the first in the world.  She helped manage the production of about fourteen hundred Hurricane fighter planes in Canada.  How extraordinary for a woman at that time to achieve what she did.  It is hard to imagine what obstacles she must have overcome, including having been stricken by polio.

    Canadian history is so rich and there are so many extraordinary people to you can learn about when you dive into it. 

Larry D. Rose is the author of Mobilize! Why Canada Was Unprepared for the Second World War, published by Dundurn in 2013.

Larry D. Rose

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
Larry D. Rose photo

Larry D. Rose

Larry D. Rose is the author of Mobilize!: Why Canada Was Unprepared for the Second World War. His articles have appeared in the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and other publications. He lives in Toronto.