Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book notes

A few recent history titles that have come to our attention:
  • The Osgoode Society presents Ian Kyer's Lawyers, Families, and Business: The Shaping of a Bay Street Law Firm, Faskens 1863-1963.  Kyer started in computer science studies, then completed a Ph.D in medieval history, then went to law school, and then had a career as a tech lawyer with the Toronto firm Faskens. In as much spare time as a leading downtown lawyer has, he kept his historical interests alive over thirty years or so working on the 19th century origins of his firm -- then totally unknown to everyone else in the firm.  He's now retired, and here's the book -- as much about the Toronto families involved as about the law practice,  and all the stronger for it.
  • Baraka Books, the Montreal publisher that is developing a line in translations of Quebec historical works, presents Peter McCambridge's translation of Paul AndrĂ© Linteau's The History of Montreal -- more a readable short account than the definitive word on the subject, but from the historian who knows the subject.
      • This one is recent only to me, but after his Creighton Lecture, I started reading David Cannadine's The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy (1990), and was surprised to discover that one of the factors that brought 'em down was ... the Canadian prairies. Once efficient and productive agriculture and fast shipping from the US, Argentina, etc., as well as Canada, hit world markets, global prices of foodstuffs plunged. Suddenly the political economy of most of rural Britain -- territories supporting a thousand farm families plus one aristocratic family collecting rents equivalent to what the other thousand families earned -- could not support that luxury superstructure. There's more to it than that (it's a long book), but I must say I'm kinda chuffed to learn that all those hardscrabble Saskatchewan farmers had a key role in throwing the bastards out.
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