Conrad Black's History of Canada

Conrad Black's latest book, Rise to Greatness: The History of Canada from the Vikings to the Present, is now in stores. I haven't read it, but I did read Black's commentary in this past weekend's National Post, in which he explained the rationale behind the book. As he argues, the history of Canada is rarely situated within the broader international context of "European and Anglo-American relations, and the complexities of international events skilfully navigated by the statesmen who built the country." There is some truth to this. Aside from a few select events that took place at Westminster and a number of wars that are considered fundamental in the shaping of the Canadian state, international affairs are often overlooked. While this may make it sound as if the book is offering something new, the last part of the above quote reveals Black's enduring interest in the Great Man theory of history, which purports that the world is shaped by charismatic leaders. (Conrad Black may be many things, but a social historian he is not.) For more evidence of this, see the quote below, also from his National Post commentary:

To my knowledge, the history of Canada has never been explained before as the inexorable progress from utter obscurity to being one of the 10 or 12 most important countries in the world, not by a series of flukes, though many developments were fortuitous, but by the determined belief of successive leaders, starting with Champlain, that something unique and distinguished should be built in the northern half of this continent. From Champlain’s grand vision of New France to Carleton’s enlightened quest for a bi-cultural British colonial state, to the Baldwin-LaFontaine-Hincks establishment of an autonomous state affiliated to Britain, to the Macdonald-Cartier-Brown creation of what remains history’s only trans-continental, bicultural, parliamentary confederation, and to the present, a magic thread of pragmatic, adaptable determination has created a country that is now important to the world.

You can read the Globe and Mail's review of Rise to Greatness here.