16 April 2009

Bastards & Boneheads - Will Ferguson

There is a great book entitled "Who killed Canadian history" by J.L. Granatstein. Most of us below the age of 70 would argue that there is not much Canadian history to kill. The history of Canada, to most of us, is a fairly vapid and uninteresting wasteland of boredom, filled with equally insipid and unimaginative characters. I would have agreed with such a statement prior to reading Will Ferguson's biting yet charmingly witty account of Canadian history and her prominent heroes and villains. Quite simply, Canadian history has been lost on our generations - I'm not merely being facetious when I say that Canadian history is a treasure chest of colourful characters and larger than life actors.

Ferguson runs down the list of glorious leaders past and present (as the book is subtitled), classifying them along the way as bastards - those that have shaped our history with a ruthless fist - and boneheads - those whom history has simply pushed around without a whim. He chronicles the failures and successes of all our Prime Ministers, and touches such storied Canadian events such as the Acadian Diaspora, the rebellions of Louis Riel, Canada and the Holocaust, the October Crisis and more recently, the Oka Crisis. Through it all, I came to be proud of our illustrious history, not simply for the outcomes, but simply that we had some form of history at all; something I had heretofore been mostly oblivious to, thanks to the spotlight hogging disinformation monster that lives on our doorstep to the south (yes, USA, I am talking about you). In the end, this is such a particularly Canadian trait, to be proud of simply having a history, even if at times, it is less than stellar. To all Canadians - do yourself a favour and read this book. I promise it will be interesting, witty, and dare I say, fun. Ferguson has a way with words, and your grade 9 history teacher, he is most certainly not.

Of Canada's 20 Prime Ministers (editor's note, this book was written in 1999), past and present, the score now stands at 8 Bastards, 12 Boneheads. This number is deceptive, however, because the Canadian electorate clearly prefers Bastards to Boneheads. Of the 13 prime ministers who were legitimately elected, the score is 8 Bastards, 5 Boneheads. The less being, if you want to succeed in Canadian politics, you should be a bit of a Bastard.


mel said...

Too true. I was lucky enough to have Dr. Granatstein for a history prof in my undergrad - never again would I say that Cdn history is anything less than fascinating. Books by that guy are a good read too.

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