Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

New National Narrative

Feb 12, 2020

Anyone looking for a new narrative for Canadian history should check out Richard Mackie's latest essay over at the Ormsby Review.

Mackie, who is editor of the Review, prowled the halls of academe before choosing the more perilous path of a freelance historian. He has written several well-regarded books, my own favourites being his two-volume, wonderfully illustrated, history of the Comox Lumber Company on Vancouver Island. What I mean to say is that when he complains about the centrist bias inherent in most Canadian history writing he knows whereof he speaks.

In his essay Mackie resurrects the term the Great Western Peninsula -- i.e. southern Ontario -- and makes the case for giving western Canada a little more elbowroom in the national story. He also argues for the importance of the fur trade and its lingering influence on the country. "Most of Canada has roots -- and DNA -- in the fur trade," he writes, "not in Upper Canada" (i.e. Ontario).

As a onetime fur-trade historian myself, Mackie's essay makes a lot of sense to me.