Donald Creighton: A Life in History

By Donald Wright

© 2015

A member of the same intellectual generation as Harold Innis, Northrop Frye, and George Grant, Donald Creighton (1902–1979) was English Canada’s first great historian. The author of eleven books, including The Commercial Empire of the St. Lawrence and a two-volume biography of John A. Macdonald, Creighton wrote history as if it “had happened,” he said, “the day before yesterday.” And as a public intellectual, he advised the prime minister of Canada, the premier of Ontario, and – at least on one occasion – the British government.

Yet he was, as Donald Wright shows, also profoundly out of step with his times. As the nation was re-imagined along bilingual and later multicultural lines in the 1960s and 1970s, Creighton defended a British definition of Canada at the same time as he began to fear that he would be remembered only “as a pessimist, a bigot, and a violent Tory partisan.”

Through his virtuoso research into Creighton’s own voluminous papers, Wright paints a sensitive portrait of a brilliant but difficult man. Ultimately, Donald Creighton captures the twentieth-century transformation of English Canada through the life and times of one of its leading intellectuals.

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  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 496 pages
  • Illustrations: 41
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.2in x 9.0in
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Quick Overview

Through his virtuoso research into Creighton’s own voluminous papers, Donald Creighton captures the twentieth-century transformation of English Canada through the life and times of one of its leading intellectuals.

Donald Creighton: A Life in History

By Donald Wright

© 2015

A member of the same intellectual generation as Harold Innis, Northrop Frye, and George Grant, Donald Creighton (1902–1979) was English Canada’s first great historian. The author of eleven books, including The Commercial Empire of the St. Lawrence and a two-volume biography of John A. Macdonald, Creighton wrote history as if it “had happened,” he said, “the day before yesterday.” And as a public intellectual, he advised the prime minister of Canada, the premier of Ontario, and – at least on one occasion – the British government.

Yet he was, as Donald Wright shows, also profoundly out of step with his times. As the nation was re-imagined along bilingual and later multicultural lines in the 1960s and 1970s, Creighton defended a British definition of Canada at the same time as he began to fear that he would be remembered only “as a pessimist, a bigot, and a violent Tory partisan.”

Through his virtuoso research into Creighton’s own voluminous papers, Wright paints a sensitive portrait of a brilliant but difficult man. Ultimately, Donald Creighton captures the twentieth-century transformation of English Canada through the life and times of one of its leading intellectuals.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 496 pages
  • Illustrations: 41
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.2in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    ‘Wright has not only written the definitive biography of one of Canada’s most important historians but provided us with a model of how a biography ought to be done.’


    Phillip A. Buckner
    The Dorchester Review Autumn/Winter 2015

    ‘Wright very self-consciously places his own biography within the romantic conventions of Creightonian history and romantic art, very appropriately joining together these two heroes. The great Canadian historian created the first hero; his biographer has created the second.’


    William Westfall
    Historical Studies in Education Spring 2016

    ’Donald Creighton is a beautifully written biography, easily the most ambitious biography I have read in a number of years. And its attention to the psychology of the man, to the whole personality and life of its subject, is commendable.’


    Christopher Dummitt
    Acadiensis , vol 45:01:2016

    ‘Wright gives Creighton his due as an undeniably salient figure in Canada’s intellectual history. In the process, he has created an invaluable guide for anyone who seeks to read and to understand Canada’s preeminent historian.’


    Kevin Boatright
    Canada's History December 2016- January 2017

    ‘Donald Wright has provided an admirably full and balanced account of the historian and the man… A powerful study of high art, flawed humanity, and the vicissitudes of reputation.’


    A.B. McKillop
    Canadian Historical Review vol 97:03:2016

    “Lyrical and richly orchestrated with swelling undertones of disillusionment, torment, and fury, Donald Wright has crafted a Creightonian biography of Creighton.”
    H.V. Nelles, L.R. Wilson Professor of Canadian History, McMaster University

    Donald Creighton: A Life in History is an impressive biography of one of English Canada’s greatest historian. Wright’s fine research has taken a multitude of facts and transformed them into a vivid and informative narrative that treats all aspects of Creighton’s life.”
    Don Smith, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Calgary

    “Accessible, well written, and balanced between Creighton’s private life and his professional activities, Donald Creighton is an excellent book, and one that I read with great interest.”
    Marcel Martel, Avie Bennett Historica Chair in Canadian History, York University
  • Author Information

    Donald Wright is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of New Brunswick

  • Table of contents

    Introduction

    I: Spring

    1. Family Tree

    2. Childhood and Adolescence

    3. Vic

    4. Oxford and Paris

    II: Summer

    5. Historian

    6. Professor

    7. Mid-Career

    8. Macdonald

    III: Fall

    9. Chairman

    10. Decolonization

    11. Confederation

    IV: Winter

    12. Despair

    13. Endings

    Appendix 1: Donald Creighton: Selected Bibliography
    Appendix 2: Donald Creighton’s Doctoral Students

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