Boneheads and Bastards

a book review

authorWill Ferguson
date reviewed2001.07.15

Hooray for Canadian history!

Hooray for Canadian history? Yup! This is one of the most captivating books I've read in years, and it's about nothing more or less than Canada's murky history.

The author's motivation in writing this excellent book seems to be that Canadians know little and care less about Canadian history, except when it serves the political agenda of the day. He therefore turns the dry, disinteresting telling we encounter in school right on its ear. This book delves into the personalities involved in Canadian history, from the pre-European era to the present day. Through focussing on the people involved (Amusingly, all of the major characters are labelled a Bastard or a Bonehead), the important matters of the day are brought to life in a captivating way. I burned through the entire history contained herein within a few days.

Another objective of the book seems to be to dispel the myth that Canada is a inherently nice place. The author explores the our past in a somewhat less than rose-tinted fashion, delving into the ethnic cleansings, pointless wars, uprisings, stand-offs, revolutions, great betrayals, bad deals, and botched religious movements that made the country what it was. More-over, important characters such as the dynamic Anglo/Quebecois pair of MacDonald and Cartier, who brought real government to Canada (and ultimately would have one of our deadliest highways named in the honour) are championed while supposedly great leaders such as former Prime Ministers King (a racist, powermongering Bastard) and Pearson (borderline Bonehead) are put in their places.

All the while, the author maintains a sense of humour (well, perhaps not when discussing McKenzie King's seeming collaboration with the Nazis in exterminating Jews, or dealing with the nightmares of World War I) and perspective. He also is unafraid to include personal perspectives (and peppers the work with similar first-hand commentary from the past). This takes all the effort out of historical reading, of course. It's an easy read, and quite enjoyable.

👍🏼 recommended

rand()m quote

Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

—Abraham Lincoln