Category Archives: Books

Dragging Theory

As she gets ready to celebrate the launch of her new book, Viva MˑAˑC author Andrea Benoit talks Judith Butler, the art of drag – and looks back to that notorious VIVA GLAM ad featuring RuPaul. During the month of June, proceeds from sales of Viva M·A·C will go to Casey House, a stand-alone hospital where people with HIV/AIDS can receive compassionate care without judgment.


Written by guest blogger Andrea Benoit.

Image courtesy of MˑAˑC Cosmetics.

In season 9 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” drag queen Sasha Velour considered performing as philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler for the infamous Snatch Game challenge, which showcases the queens’ best celebrity impersonations in a game show setting. Aside from wondering what that would look like (and we’ll really never know as Sasha decided to perform as Marlene Dietrich instead, I was struck – yet again – at the prevalence of drag and how it’s now considered in wider and more popular contexts since the 1990s, when I talk about the art of drag in my new book, Viva MˑAˑC: AIDS, Fashion, and the Philanthropic Practices of MˑAˑC Cosmetics.

Viva MˑAˑC  is the first cultural history of the originally Canadian cosmetics brand, and uncovers the origins of the company’s corporate philanthropy around HIV/AIDS awareness and fundraising. When MˑAˑC first started raising money through sales of its signature VIVA GLAM lipstick to support local AIDS organizations in 1994, AIDS was still largely a verboten subject for corporations. While many myths about AIDS were beginning to be dispelled, such as how HIV was transmitted, there was still great fear and rampant homophobia surrounding this medical condition.

MˑAˑC chose the relatively unknown drag queen RuPaul to be its first spokesperson for VIVA GLAM and Chairperson of its new charity, the MˑAˑC AIDS Fund. In 1995, RuPaul appeared in the company’s first advertisement, a provocative image that portrayed him spelling out the letters of VIVA GLAM, including the notorious letter “M” that gloriously depicted his legs splayed wide-open. Twenty-five years later, the Fund has raised almost $500 million for AIDS organizations globally. RuPaul’s mantra of “loving yourself,” combined with his entertaining, over-the-top glamour, brought international attention to the MˑAˑC AIDS Fund, and made addressing the AIDS epidemic a bit more palatable to a mass audience. Much has changed since the 1980s and 1990s, when Viva MˑAˑC’s narrative takes place. Folks live with HIV for decades now, as it’s no longer an immediate death sentence, thanks to antiretroviral medications.

And RuPaul is now famous. Back in early 2009, as I was beginning to outline the contours of what would eventually become my book, an intriguing new show called “RuPaul’s Drag Race” appeared on Logo TV, a niche American LGBTQ television channel. Debuting at the height of the reality television phenomenon (itself a subject of scholarly inquiry within my own field of Media Studies), RuPaul offered a completely different take, which promised to reveal “America’s Next Drag Superstar,” riffing on the then-popular “America’s Next Top Model” show to great, if unexpected, success.

Now, Sasha Velour considering performing as Judith Butler on season 9 harkens back to Butler’s own theorizing of drag twenty-five years earlier in Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity  (1990) and later in Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (1993), when Viva MˑAˑCs narrative takes place. Traditionally, a drag performance is a very self-conscious presentation of gender norms, often being a hyper-stylized representation of femininity. Depending on the context, however, such performances offer potential sites for challenge, critique, and action, especially regarding the AIDS epidemic. While Butler did not really consider commercial or media contexts when she described the ways and spaces in which gender performances could be subversive in the 1990s, I argue in Viva MˑAˑC that MˑAˑC’s notorious VIVA GLAM ad featuring RuPaul should also be considered subversive: the very fact of featuring a drag queen “performing” in a beauty ad to promote awareness and fundraising for HIV/AIDS organizations was unheard-of for that time.

We’ve now come full circle: Sasha Velour can invoke Butler, confident that many in the audience would understand the reference. Butler herself responded to Sasha (much to her delight), admiring how “radical and fierce” Sasha was but also pointing out they were both connected in a mutual project that addressed the “struggle for freedom, for self-expression, for political rights, for the ability to walk down the street without being harassed, to be able to move across borders and express one’s political desires and have a form of life in which one can live and breathe and move as one pleases.”

Drag as an art form has evolved in amazingly creative and increasingly diverse and inclusive ways, and it’s now also mainstream entertainment, drag’s underground vernacular and traditions, even its theoretical underpinnings, becoming common parlance, thanks largely to “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” It’s worth remembering, though, and not just during Pride, that drag’s political and activist commitments run deep, wherever they show up: in the bar, on television, or in a lipstick ad. Viva MˑAˑC tells a little of that story.


Andrea Benoit is the Academic Review Officer in the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Media Studies in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. She is the author of Viva MˑAˑC: AIDS, Fashion, and the Philanthropic Practices of MˑAˑC Cosmetics.

Announcing Some of Our Major Award Winners

Congress 2019 is now nearing the finishing line, and we are proud to announce that our authors are taking home some important book awards. So with that in mind, we thought we would pull together a list of some our major award recipients during Congress, and over the past few months. Scroll down to see some of the recipients, as we send out a big congratulations to our authors for their achievements.


Canadian Historical Association

Winner of the CHA 2019 Clio Prairies Book Award

Prairie Fairies: A History of Queer Communities and People in Western Canada, 1930-1985 by Valerie J. Korinek

Prairie Fairies draws upon a wealth of oral, archival, and cultural histories to recover the experiences of queer urban and rural people in the prairies. Focusing on five major urban centres, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, and Calgary, Prairie Fairies explores the regional experiences and activism of queer men and women by looking at the community centres, newsletters, magazines, and organizations that they created from 1930 to 1985.

Also a winner of the 2019 Jennifer Welsh Scholarly Writing Award on behalf of the Saskatchewan Book Awards.


 Winner of the CHA 2019 Clio Ontario Book Award

One Job Town: Work, Belonging, and Betrayal in Northern Ontario by Steven High

There’s a pervasive sense of betrayal in areas scarred by mine, mill, and factory closures. Steven High’s One Job Town delves into the long history of deindustrialization in the paper-making town of Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, located on Canada’s resource periphery. One Job Town approaches deindustrialization as a long term, economic, political, and cultural process, which did not begin and simply end with the closure of the local mill in 2002.

Also a winner of the 2018 OHS Fred Landon Award.


Winner of the CHA 2019 Best Political History Book Prize Award

Selling Out or Buying In?: Debating Consumerism in Vancouver and Victoria, 1945-1985 by Michael Dawson

Selling Out or Buying In? is the first work to illuminate the process by which consumers’ access to goods and services was liberalized and deregulated in Canada in the second half of the twentieth century. Michael Dawson’s engagingly written and detailed exploration of the debates amongst everyday citizens and politicians regarding the pros and cons of expanding shopping opportunities challenges the assumption of inevitability surrounding Canada’s emergence as a consumer society.


Canadian Sociological Association

Winner of the CSA 2019 John Porter Tradition of Excellence Book Award

Regulating Professions: The Emergence of Professional Self-Regulation in Four Canadian Provinces by Tracey L. Adams

In Regulating Professions, Tracey L. Adams explores the emergence of self-regulating professions in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia from Confederation to 1940. Adams’s in-depth research reveals the backstory of those occupations deemed worthy to regulate, such as medicine, law, dentistry, and land surveying, and how they were regulated.


Canadian Association for Work & Labour Studies

Winner of the CAWLS 2019 Book Prize

Working towards Equity: Disability Rights Activism and Employment in Late Twentieth-Century Canada by Dustin Galer

In Working towards Equity, Dustin Galer argues that paid work significantly shaped the experience of disability during the late twentieth century. Using a critical analysis of disability in archival records, personal collections, government publications, and a series of interviews, Galer demonstrates how demands for greater access among disabled people for paid employment stimulated the development of a new discourse of disability in Canada.


Canadian Political Science Association

Loleen Berdahl, Winner of the 2019 CPSA Prize for Teaching Excellence

Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences or Humanities PhD, by Loleen Berdahl and Jonathan Malloy

Work Your Career shows PhD students how to use the unique opportunities of doctoral programs to build successful career outcomes. The authors encourage students to consider both academic and non-academic career options from the outset, and to prepare for both concurrently. The book presents a systematic mentoring program full of practical advice for social sciences and humanities PhD students in Canada.


Other Recent Award Winners

Winner of the 2019 JW Dafoe Book Prize

Power, Politics, and Principles: Mackenzie King and Labour, 1935-1948 by Taylor Hollander

Set against the backdrop of the U.S. experience, Power, Politics, and Principles uses a transnational perspective to understand the passage and long-term implications of a pivotal labour law in Canada. Utilizing a wide array of primary materials and secondary sources, Hollander gets to the root of the policy-making process, revealing how the making of P.C. 1003 in 1944, a wartime order that forced employers to the collective bargaining table, involved real people with conflicting personalities and competing agendas.


Winner of the 2019 Pierre Savard Award for Outstanding Scholarly Monograph in French or English on a Canadian Topic

A Culture of Rights: Law, Literature, and Canada by Benjamin Authers

In A Culture of Rights, Benjamin Authers reads novels by authors including Joy Kogawa, Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley, and Jeanette Armstrong alongside legal texts and key constitutional rights cases, arguing for the need for a more complex, interdisciplinary understanding of the sources of rights in Canada and elsewhere. He suggests that, at present, even when rights are violated, popular insistence on Canada’s rights-driven society remains.


Winner of the 2018 Michelle Kendrick Memorial Book Prize awarded on behalf of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts

Measured Words: Computation and Writing in Renaissance Italy by Arielle Saiber

Measured Words investigates the rich commerce between computation and writing that proliferated in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy. Arielle Saiber explores the relationship between number, shape, and the written word in the works of four exceptional thinkers: Leon Battista Alberti’s treatise on cryptography, Luca Pacioli’s ideal proportions for designing Roman capital letters, Niccolò Tartaglia’s poem embedding his solution to solving cubic equations, and Giambattista Della Porta’s curious study on the elements of geometric curves.


Winner of the 2018 American Association for Ukrainian Studies Book Prize

Imperial Urbanism in the Borderlands: Kyiv, 1800-1905 by Serhiy Bilenky

In Imperial Urbanism in the Borderlands, Serhiy Bilenky examines issues of space, urban planning, socio-spatial form, and the perceptions of change in imperial Kyiv. Combining cultural and social history with urban studies, Bilenky unearths a wide range of unpublished archival materials and argues that the changes experienced by the city prior to the revolution of 1917 were no less dramatic and traumatic than those of the Communist and post-Communist era.


Winner of the 2018 American Association for Ukrainian Studies Book Prize for Translation

My Final Territory: Selected Essays by Yuri Andrukhovych, edited by Michael M. Naydan, and translated by Mark Andryczyk and Michael M. Naydan

My Final Territory is a collection of Andrukhovych’s philosophical, autobiographical, political, and literary essays, which demonstrate his enormous talent as an essayist to the English-speaking world. This volume broadens Andrukhovych’s international audience and will create a dialogue with Anglophone readers throughout the world in a number of fields including philosophy, history, journalism, political science, sociology, and anthropology.


Winner of the 2018 Research Society for American Periodicals Book Prize

American Little Magazines of the Fin de Siecle: Art, Protest, and Cultural Transformation by Kirsten MacLeod

In American Little Magazines of the Fin de Siecle, Kirsten MacLeod examines the rise of a new print media form – the little magazine – and its relationship to the transformation of American cultural life at the turn of the twentieth century. MacLeod’s study challenges conventional understandings of the little magazine as a genre and emphasizes the power of “little” media in a mass-market context.

 

UTP Goes to Congress: Enter Our Twitter Contest!

Our team is on its way to the beautiful University of British Columbia for Congress! Heading to BC? Plan to drop by the UTP display to meet with editors, grab some swag, and enter our contests – and, of course, add a book or two to your reading list.

First up: we’ll be kicking off the week with a Twitter contest. It’s easy: during Congress, follow us @utpress and send out a tweet using the hashtag #UTPGoesToCongress. You’ll be entered to win a prize pack of our top titles in higher ed. Hanging out at Congress and aren’t on Twitter? Stop by the UTP booth and sign up for our newsletter for another chance to win. Never miss an update and you may have some great reads heading your way…

Learn more about our higher ed prize pack:

Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences or Humanities PhD

How do you choose between a non-academic and an academic career? Prepare for both from your first day on campus! Authors Jonathan Malloy and Loleen Berdahl show how your PhD can take you down any number of paths. Filled with practical, no-nonsense advice tailored to you, you’ll want this handy guide beside you every step of the way.


The Craft of University Teaching

How does university instruction look when it’s approached as a craft? In an era of bureaucratic oversight, diminishing budgets, and technological distraction, Peter Lindsay seeks to reclaim teaching as the rewarding endeavor it is.

 


The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy

A must-read for anyone in academia concerned about the frantic pace of contemporary university life. Focusing on individual faculty members and their own professional practice, Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber present both an analysis of the culture of speed in the academy and ways of alleviating stress while improving teaching, research, and collegiality.


Course Correction: A Map for the Distracted University

The university’s business, Paul Gooch writes, is to generate and critique knowledge claims, and to transmit and certify the acquisition of knowledge. Course Correction engages in deliberation about what the twenty-first-century university needs to do in order to re-find its focus as a protected place for unfettered commitment to knowledge, not just as a space for creating employment or economic prosperity.


Kickstarting Your Academic Career: Skills to Succeed in the Social Sciences

An essential primer on the common scholastic demands that social sciences students face upon entering college or university. Based on the challenges that instructors most often find students need help with, Robert Ostergard Jr. and Stacy Fisher offer practical advice and tips on topics such as how to communicate with instructors, take notes, read a textbook, research and write papers, and write successful exams.

 


Contest Rules and Regulations – University of Toronto Press
Open to residents of Canada (excluding the Province of Quebec)

1. CONTEST PERIOD: The 2019 University of Toronto Press Twitter contest commences at 12:00 AM Eastern Time (“ET”) on June 1, 2019, and will end at June 8, 2019 (the “Contest Period”). All times are Eastern Times.

2. RULES: By entering this Contest, entrants agree to abide by these Contest rules and regulations (the “Official Rules”). The decisions of the independent contest organization with respect to all aspects of the Contest are final. These rules are posted at http://blog.utorontopress.com/2019/05/30/utp-congress-twitter-contest

3. ELIGIBILITY: To enter the win the Contest and be eligible to win a Prize (see rule 6), a person (“Entrant”) must, at the time of entry, be a legal resident of Canada (excluding the Province of Quebec) who has reached the age of majority in his/her province or territory of residence. The following individuals and members of such person’s immediate family (including mother, father, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, partner or spouse regardless of where they live) or persons with whom they are domiciled (whether related to the person or not) are not eligible to enter the Contest: employees, officers, directors, shareholders, owners, general and limited partners, agents, representatives, successors.

4. HOW TO ENTER: During the Contest period, follow @utpress on Twitter, and tweet using the hashtag #UTPGoesToCongress that pertains to the Contest. Limit one (1) entry per person per day during the contest Period regardless of method of entry. Any person who is found to have entered in a fashion not sanctioned by these Official Rules will be disqualified.

5. PRIZE: The winner will receive one (1) print copy of each of the following: Course Correction, The Slow Professor, Work Your Career, Kickstarting Your Academic Career, and The Craft of University Teaching.

6. DRAW:

i. The random draw will include all eligible entries, and will take place on June 9, 2019 at 12:00 PM at the University of Toronto Press offices, located at 800 Bay St. Mezzanine, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3A9.

ii. The winner will be contacted via social media, and will be included in the announcement on Twitter. If a selected Entrant cannot be reached via social media within 7 days of the draw, then he/she will be disqualified and another Entrant will be randomly selected until such time as contact is made via social media with a selected Entrant that satisfies the foregoing requirements or there are no more eligible entries, whichever comes first. University of Toronto Press will not be responsible for failed attempts to contact a selected Entrant.

7. CONDITIONS OF ENTRY: By entering the Contest, Entrants (i) confirm compliance with these Official Rules including all eligibility requirements, and (ii) agree to be bound by these Official Rules and by the decisions of University of Toronto Press, made in its sole discretion, which shall be final and binding in all matters relating to this Contest. Entrants who have not complied with these Official Rules are subject to disqualification.

8. CONSENT TO USE PERSONAL INFORMATION: University of Toronto Press respects your right to privacy. The information you provided will only be used for the purpose of administering this Contest and prize fulfillment. For more information regarding University of Toronto Press’s privacy statement, please visit https://utorontopress.com/ca/privacy-policy.

UTP Goes to Congress 2019

With summer fast approaching, that can only mean one thing here at UTP. Yes, we’re packing our bags and heading to Congress 2019 in gorgeous Vancouver, BC. We will be mounting our largest ever display of books in Vancouver, and we’ll be teaming up with our Journals and Distribution divisions to showcase an even wider range of publications.

Whether you are attending your association’s conference or are a member of the Vancouver community, we would love to see you. Don’t miss this opportunity to develop your social network, or maybe add some fabulous UTP books to your home or office library. You can find us at the Congress Expo, located in the Congress Hub. You can also follow us on Twitter throughout the conference for regular updates.

In this blog post, we’ve listed a number of key events throughout the week of Congress that you should mark in your calendars. We hope to see you in Vancouver!


Key Events at Congress

Sunday, June 2, 2019: 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM (AMS Nest – NEST 2301 Expo Event Space)

Book Launch: Amplify

Join us for the book launch of Amplify, where author Norah Bowman will discuss this latest addition in graphic storytelling.

In this highly original text – a collaboration between a college professor, a playwright, and an artist – graphic storytelling offers a unique way for readers to understand and engage with feminism and resistance in a more emotionally resonant way.


Sunday, June 2, 2019: 12:00 PM-1:00 PM (Laserre 102)

CAS Book Celebration

Come and learn about the books that have been published in 2018-19 and meet their authors. Some copies will be available for purchase and/or author signing. Natalie Kononenko will be in attendance to launch her new book Ukrainian Epic and Historical Song, and Erica L. Fraser will be there to celebrate her book Military Masculinity and Postwar Recovery in the Soviet Union.


Monday, June 3, 2019: 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM (Ideas Lounge and Patio)

Reception of the Canadian Committee on Women’s History

Featuring Reading Canadian Women’s and Gender Historyedited by Nancy Janovicek and Carmen Nielson.

Inspired by the question of “what’s next?” in the field of Canadian women’s and gender history, this broadly historiographical volume represents a conversation among established and emerging scholars who share a commitment to understanding the past from intersectional feminist perspectives.


Monday, June 3, 2019: 6:00 PM – 8:25 PM (Wise Hall, 1882 Adanac Street, Vancouver, BC, V5L 2E2)

Marvellous Grounds: Queering Urban Justice

A discussion with the editors of the Marvellous Grounds Collective on queering urban justice and challenging racialized state formations and geographies.

Speakers:
  • Ghaida Moussa, PHD Student York University, PhD Student York University
  • Jin Haritaworn, Professor, York University, Professor, York University
  • Syrus Marcus Ware, PhD Student York University

Tuesday, June 4, 2019: 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM

Book Launch for A Violent History of Benevolence

Following on from the Queer Caucus meeting at noon, The Canadian Association for Social Work Education will be hosting the launch for A Violent History of Benevolence by Chris Chapman and A.J. Withers.

The book traces how normative histories of liberalism, progress, and social work enact and obscure systemic violences.


Tuesday, June 4, 2019: 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM (Dorothy Somerset Studio – Room 101)

Coffee Break and Book Launch: Insecurity

The Canadian Association for Theatre Research will be hosting a book launch for Dr. Jenn Stephenson’s new book Insecurity: Perils and Products of Theatres of the Real.

“This book offers a compelling and timely investigation of the ‘real’, ably and amply illustrated by a diversity of case studies. A must-read addition to scholarship on Canadian theatre and performance.”

Susan Bennett, Department of English, University of Calgary


Wednesday, June 5, 2019: 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM (Buchanan Tower 1197)

Book Launch for Violence, Order, and Unrest

The Canadian Historical Association will be hosting a book launch for Violence, Order, and Unrest edited by Elizabeth Mancke, Jerry Bannister, Denis McKim, and Scott W. See.

This edited collection offers a broad reinterpretation of the origins of Canada. Drawing on cutting-edge research in a number of fields, Violence, Order, and Unrest explores the development of British North America from the mid-eighteenth century through the aftermath of Confederation.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019: 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM (AMS Nest – NEST 2301 Expo Event Space)

Peter Lindsay on The Craft of University Teaching

What does university teaching – as a craft – look like? What changes does a craft perspective suggest for higher education? These questions will be addressed in both a general sense – What does the act of teaching become when treated as a craft? What changes to a professor’s educational philosophy does it require? – and with respect to the practical, everyday tasks of university professors, such as the use and misuse of technology, the handling of academic dishonesty, the assignment of course reading, and the instilling of enthusiasm for learning. Join author Peter Lindsay as he addresses these questions, outlined in his book, The Craft of University Teaching.


Thursday, June 6, 2019: 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM (AMS Nest – NEST 2306)

Work Your Career: How to Strategically Position Yourself for Career Success

How can prospective and recent PhD students best position themselves for rewarding careers? Do you have to choose between preparing for an academic or non-academic career path? Drawing on research and their personal career histories in the nonprofit, government and academic sectors, the speakers will outline tools to: identify current career competencies and networks; create an action plan to increase competitiveness for both academic and non-academic careers simultaneously; and articulate competencies to potential employers. Current and recent PhD students, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate supervisors and chairs in the social sciences and humanities should plan to attend.

Speakers:
  • Loleen Berdahl, Professor and Head, Department of Political Studies, University of Saskatchewan
  • Jonathan Malloy, Professor, Department of Political Science, Carleton University

Thursday, June 6, 2019: 6:00 Pm – 8:00 PM (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre – IRSHDC Main Room)

Genocide, Residential Schools, and the Challenge of [Re]Conciliation: Dialogue and Panel Discussion

Join in a panel discussion and dialogue with Professor David MacDonald (Guelph University) and Dr. Sheryl Lightfoot (University of British Columbia). as they discuss MacDonald’s new book, The Sleeping Giant Awakes: Genocide, Indian Residential Schools and the Challenge of Conciliation.

Speakers:
  • David MacDonald, Guelph University
  • Dr. Sheryl Lightfoot, UBC

Retracing the Steps of Mackenzie King in Nazi-Era Berlin

Mackenzie King reviewing participants in the women’s and men’s tennis events at the German All-German Sports Competitions, 27 July 1937. Front row, left to right: Robert Ley, head of the German Labour Front, Prime Minister King, King’s personal secretary Edward Pickering, and Hans von Tschammer und Osten, Reich Sports Leader.

In 1937, Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King travelled to Nazi Germany in an attempt to prevent a war that, to many observers, seemed inevitable. The men King communed with, including Adolf Hitler, had assured him of the Nazi regime’s peaceful intentions, and King not only found their pledges sincere, but even hoped for personal friendships with many of the regime officials. 

Four Days in Hitler’s Germany addresses how King truly believed that any threat to peace would come only from those individuals who intended to thwart the Nazi agenda, which as King saw it, was concerned primarily with justifiable German territorial and diplomatic readjustments. In this post, author Robert Teigrob shares how walking the city streets of Berlin led him to write his new book.


For the last decade I have taught a summer course in Berlin. For a historian, the city is an endless trove of commemorative spaces, architectural motifs, and museum collections that attest to some of humanity’s darkest, as well as noblest, impulses. It is a built environment perpetually under revision and renewal, a testament to both the destruction and political dismemberment wrought by Hitler’s war, and to a deeply-engaged and increasingly diverse population’s struggle to properly represent and confront the past. This struggle has many outcomes: the demolition of what Germans call “historically burdened buildings,” the preservation of others as historic sites, the repurposing of still others toward more life-affirmative ends, and seemingly on every block, a memorial to the events and people that make up Berlin’s tumultuous history.

Walking the city a few years ago sparked a couple of ideas that became the genesis of my new book, Four Days in Hitler’s Germany: Mackenzie King’s Mission to Avert a Second World War. I recalled a picture from my high school history textbook showing a very jovial Prime Minister Mackenzie King touring a Berlin factory complex in 1937 – the same one I was now passing – escorted by top Nazi officials. I was struck by the contrast between modern Germans’ evident willingness to own up to the mistakes of the past and, on this count, the comparative reticence among Canadians to do the same. For in that same textbook (and as I was to learn, in many other historical accounts), King’s visit was portrayed as a stern warning to the Hitler regime that any Nazi aggression would stimulate a powerful and unified response from the Western powers. I knew this to be something of an oversimplification – King was in fact one of the globe’s foremost advocates of appeasement, and had enthusiastically shepherded a trade agreement with Germany through Parliament just before his visit – but the more I dug into the records, the more stunning the prime minister’s interactions with Nazi officials became. I came to the conclusion that the 1937 visit deserved a sustained, critical analysis.

Roaming Berlin also led me to wonder how future generations of Canadians will judge our relationships with today’s global community. We see intense debates in the House of Commons and the media over how to balance our economic interests with our stated commitment to human rights and international laws and norms: how to square principles with profit-making in the proposed sale of weapons to authoritarian regimes; whether to “constructively engage” or shun potential trading partners that flout the rule of law (and for that matter, how to respond to some of our own companies’ controversial activities abroad – in the mining sector, for instance). Canada and the world wrestled with similar issues in the 1930s, and the recent ascent of regimes and political movements built on ethnic nationalism, militarism, and regressive attitudes toward the multinational international order painstakingly constructed since 1945 gives the story of King’s visit to Germany a decidedly contemporary aura.


Robert Teigrob is a professor in the Department of History at Ryerson University and the author of Four Days in Hitler’s Germany.