Which Historical Books Should Canadian Politicians Read?

25 05 2010

Library of Parliament, Ottawa

Sarah Richardson, a historian at Warwick University who is also involved with the History and Policy website, has some thoughts about what sort of historical books British MPs should read over the summer. Listen to this short interview here. The other person being interviewed is Douglas Hurd, a former British Foreign Secretary, who has written a book about Sir Robert Peel. Prof. Richardson refers to Peter Marsh’s biography of Joseph Chamberlain.

My question to readers of this blog is: which historical books would you recommend to Canadian politicians as summer reading? If you had to give just one historical book to each Canadian MP to read, what would it be? You have an unlimited budget– it can be a paperback book or a $100 hardback– but you need to think about which book is most likely to have a positive influence on MPs that would ultimately translate into better public policy.You also should select a book they are likely to read as opposed to simply leave on the shelf.

I know that some people are tempted to joke that Canadian MPs aren’t as bright as their British counterparts and that maybe we should just assign them some children’s books.  The fact is there are some intellectual people in the Canadian parliament — the Speaker Peter Milliken is one of them. I would appreciate it if people could take this exercise seriously.



5 responses

25 05 2010
Todd Webb

George Dangerfield’s ‘The Strange Death of Liberal England’. It is a brilliantly written book that demonstrates the dangers of political party warfare – and ethnic/nationalist divisions – in parliamentary democracies. It also has some important lessons to teach about the risks of being a centrist party in divisive times.

26 05 2010

Good suggestion. Ignatieff was a historian. Maybe we could hire him to write a book called The Strange Death of the Liberal Party of Canada.

27 05 2010

Macbeth doesn’t count, right?

Wardaugh’s “Mackenzie King and the Prairie West” would certainly help on the “western alienation” phenomenon and the long-term implications of certain policies and politics.

31 05 2010
Christopher Moore

I’m thinking Robert Caro’s Master of the Senate. 900 pages on Lyndon Johnson’s years in the US Senate does not sound promising, but it’s an extraordinary analysis of what a legislature and a legislator can do. If it could provoke a little ambition along those lines in some Canadian politician….

31 05 2010
Looney Canuck

I can think of a few off the top of my head. One is Erik Nielsen’s autobiography, “The House Is Not A Home”, where he describes pretty much stumbling into the office of MP for the Yukon, and only stayed as long as he did because of his loathing of Pierre Trudeau. Another one is ‘Juggernaut’ which was about the power struggle between Jean Chretien and Paul Martin Jr. Also, I would recommend “Wrestling with the Elephant” by Gordon Ritchie for a more non-partisan viewpoint.

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