150+ Historians Day 34: Historians
Historians like Margaret MacMillan, Desmond Morton, Arthur Manuel contributed to peace by making our shared histories more accessible. #Canada150
Margaret Olwen MacMillan (b. 23 December 1943) is a Canadian historian and professor at the University of Oxford, where she is Warden of St Antony’s College. A leading expert on history and international relations, MacMillan is a commentator in the media. Desmond Dillon Paul Morton is a Canadian historian who specializes in the history of the Canadian military, as well as the history of Canadian political and industrial relations. Peter Brock, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Toronto (d. May 28, 2006) was a Quaker and conscientious objector in Britain during World War II. He was fluent in many languages and the author of 30 books and numerous articles, several about Doukhobors
Her most successful work is Peacemakers: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War, also published as Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World. Peacemakers won the Duff Cooper Prize for outstanding literary work in the field of history, biography or politics; the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History; the prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize for the best work of non-fiction published in the United Kingdom and the 2003 Governor General’s Literary Award in Canada. MacMillan has served on the boards of the Canadian Institute for International Affairs, the Atlantic Council of Canada, the Ontario Heritage Foundation, Historica and the Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy (Canada). She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an Honorary Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford and a Senior Fellow of Massey College, University of Toronto. She has honorary degrees from the University of King’s College, the Royal Military College of Canada and Ryerson University, Toronto. She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in February 2006 which was later upgraded to Companion of the Order of Canada on December 30, 2015.
Desmond Dillon Paul Morton is a Canadian historian who specializes in the history of the Canadian military, as well as the history of Canadian political and industrial relations. He is a graduate of the Collège militaire royal de St-Jean, the Royal Military College of Canada, a Rhodes Scholar, the University of Oxford (where he received his PhD), and the London School of Economics. He spent ten years in the Canadian Army (1954–1964 retiring as a Captain) prior to beginning his teaching career. He was named Honorary Colonel of 8 Wing of the Canadian Air Force at CFB Trenton in 2002. He received the Canadian Forces Decoration in 2004 for 12 years total military service.
He is the author of over thirty-five books on Canada, including the popular A Short History of Canada. Morton has addressed the issue of whether the First World War was indeed a war of independence of Canada. In 1996, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He has been a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada since 1985. He once wrote:
“For Canadians, Vimy Ridge was a nation building experience. For some, then and later, it symbolized the fact that the Great War was also Canada’s war of independence”.
In 2008, however, he published the following remarks: “Canadians are now being told by their government and its friends that we achieved the same joyous state on a snowy April 9, 1917, when four Canadian divisions advanced to capture Vimy Ridge at a cost of about 10,000 dead and wounded – enough to bring on a nationally divisive crisis as the English-Canadian majority tried to conscript the French-speaking minority for a war Quebec had never embraced. This may be Stephen Harper’s version of history, learned in the schools of Ontario. But that would be selling ourselves short.” Morton states that the abandonment of Canada by British troops in 1871 was a much more important event in the emergence of Canada as a separate nationality.
Arthur Manuel (d. January 2017) was a historian who entered the field out of the necessity to better document Indigenous histories of the near past. He first entered the world of Indigenous politics in the 1970s, as president of the Native Youth Association. He went on to serve as chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band near Chase, B.C., and elected chair of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council.
Manuel was the author of Unsettling Canada: A National Wake Up Call, Between the Lines which he co-wrote with Grand Chief Ron Derrickson and was also known internationally, having advocated for Indigenous rights and struggles at the United Nations, The Hague and the World Trade Organization.
Unsettling Canada tells a captivating narrative of activism, identity, and lived experience, tracing Indigenous rights and land claims struggles in this country between the 1960s and 2000s. The book makes an important contribution on this understudied period through everything from the internal debates within the grassroots movement for equity and sovereignty, to how leaders balance the pressures of activism and family life. The book is considered to be highly accessible, with a wide reach in scope as it demonstrates the impact of Indigenous people from Canada had on the global stage and in global activists’ strategies. The book is grounded in Indigenous intellectual traditions and perspectives, and carries the timely message about how bringing justice to Indigenous peoples will also create a more sustainable Canada.
For much of his life, he was active in the Assembly of First Nations and more recently was a spokesman for Defenders of the Land, an organization dedicated to environmental justice.