William Lyon Mackenzie King was Canada’s 10th Prime Minister and longest serving from 1921 to 1930 (less a few months in 1926 when parliament was dissolved) and then again from 1935 to 1948. Mackenzie King lacked charisma, but had a keen eye for what the Canadian people wanted from their government. King had many eccentric views, including his use of mediums to stay in contact with his mother and other departed associates. During his tenure as Prime Minister, Mackenzie King increased Canada’s autonomy from Britain and helped lead Canada’s role as world peacekeepers. King kept diaries for most of his life, in his biography on King, C.P. Stacey called them “the most important single political document in twentieth-century Canadian history.” Now Allan Levine has used them as a key source for his book, . Donald Benham of the Winnipeg Free Press reviews Levine’s book.
“Not necessarily conscription, but conscription if necessary,” King kept repeating during the crisis over drafting Canadians into the army during the Second World War.
Winnipeg author Allan Levine gave himself the mission of turning this dull but eccentric Canadian into a subject worthy of contemporary discussion.
He succeeds, bringing to life the inner thoughts of his subject as best anyone can.
King’s diaries are the key source. Their unexpected release after King’s death provided a treasure trove for Canadian scholars. Levine wants to make them accessible to a new generation of Canadians.
Levine, a history teacher at St. John’s Ravenscourt in Winnipeg, is one of those rare writers equally adept at fiction and non-fiction, helpful in the King case where the two realms seem to blend.
His historical mysteries include Sins of the Suffragette; his seven previous non-fiction books include Scrum Wars: The Prime Ministers and the Media.
King was no dummy.
He got his PhD from Harvard, wrote a textbook on labour relations, established the Labour Department, was its first deputy minister, became an MP and the first labour minister. He became prime minister in 1921 and retired in 1948, with only two breaks in his hold on power.