Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Book Notes: Wilson on them Fenians


Went downtown yesterday to join the launch --

-- how pleasant to be able to write that again! Haven't been to an in-person book launch since probably the fall of 2019, and it feels too long --

-- of my friend David Wilson's Canadian Spy Story: Irish Revolutionaries and the Secret Police, newly out in a handsome edition from McGill-Queen's.  Among the speakers was David's friend and mentor Donald Harmon Akenson, who made the case for David being among the half-dozen best historians in the country. He also declared this book is not "definitive," because definitive means a subject is wrapped up and all further interest in it will cease.  

Apparently Canadian Spy Story is not that. I haven't read much beyond the acknowledgments yet, but 'tseems part of the argument is that Fenianism was not just a few American-based raids across the border, but a deeply Canadian movement with many adherents in many places.  

It's clear from the acknowledgments that he has mastered the mature scholar's strength -- deploying an army of loyal graduate students out to research scores of knotty problems that arise in the course of a big complicated book project.  

David admitted that the book appeared somewhat behind schedule. He said the fact that he has been general editor of the Dictionary of the Canadian Biography while writing it might have been a factor in that. (Ya think?) 

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