Thursday, December 02, 2004

RIP, Pierre Berton

Because I forgot to post this yesterday: Rest in Peace, Pierre Berton.

For the non-Canuck readership of this blog (ha ha...oh...) Berton was a popular history writer who was able to make the opacity of Canadian history presentable to the Canadian public. His work will certainly be missed. I think the first Berton that I read was either Vimy (about Canada and WWI) or The Dionne Years (about the Dionne quintuplets, and one of his best). I would have been about eleven or twelve at the time, and I think it is a testament to the man's skill that I would find those books engrossing at that age, and be able to turn to Marching As to War when writing about the Canadian war experience in a history class at university.

Apparently he was a cat lover with approximately 17 cats. (warning: it's a PDF, but it is worth it.)

I think I like what J.L. Granatstein (from the Globe and Mail article linked above)said best of all:

Mr. Berton approached history very differently from most academic historians, Prof. Granatstein said. "He chose good subjects and wrote them up in a way that people wanted to buy them. The academics, by definition, picked obscure subjects and wrote them terribly, and nobody wanted to read them. It was inevitable that there was a clash between the two."

As the decades passed, the academics looked much more favourably on Mr. Berton's work as a popular historian. "Without Pierre Berton there would scarcely be any Canadian history left," Prof. Granatstein said. "For the last 40 years he has popularized Canadian history in a way that nobody else was doing."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I myself along with the better part of my grade 6,7,8 class (you got to love small town schools) were baptised to Berton with "The Invasion of Canada" and subsequently "Flames Across the Border". Is it any wonder I still carry delusions of invading the United States and burning and sacking the White House to this day? I think not.

- R.