Ian McKay (historian)

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This article is about the Canadian historian. For other people of the same name, see Ian McKay (disambiguation).

Ian McKay is a Canadian historian at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, where he has taught since 1988.[1] His primary interests are Canadian cultural and political history; the economic and social history of Atlantic Canada, especially Nova Scotia, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; and theory and historiography, particularly Canada as liberal order. McKay earned his BA and PhD from Dalhousie University under the supervision of Michael Cross. He also holds a Masters degree from the University of Warwick. Born in 1953, he is the younger brother of poet Don McKay. In 2009, McKay's Reasoning Otherwise: Leftists and the People's Enlightenment in Canada, 1890-1920 won the prestigious Sir John A. McDonald Prize, awarded by the Canadian Historical Association for the best book written in Canadian history the previous year.[2]

Liberal Order Framework[edit]

In the December 2000 issue of the Canadian Historical Review, McKay introduced a new framework for interpreting Canadian history. In "The liberal order framework: A prospectus for a reconnaissance of Canadian history" McKay argues that "the category 'Canada' should henceforth denote a historically specific project of rule, rather than either an essence we must defend or an empty homogeneous space we must possess. Canada-as-project can be analyzed as the implantation and expansion over a heterogeneous terrain of a certain politico-economic logic -- to wit, liberalism." However, far from simply charting victories along the road to liberal order, McKay's approach demands meticulous attention to points of resistance and struggle that shaped the particular contours of Canadian liberalism. Called "reconnaissance" in reference to its Gramscian inspiration, the strategy is at once anti-presentist in seeking to reconstruct the past in its own terms, and present-minded in linking historical findings to contemporary political concerns and ongoing struggles. McKay has expanded the approach in the books Rebels, Reds, Radicals: Rethinking Canada's Left History and Reasoning Otherwise: Leftists And The People's Enlightenment In Canada, 1890-1920. According to Carleton University historian A.B. McKillop, McKay's framework has incited "Canadian historians to a degree not witnessed since [J.M.S.] Careless’s “limited identities” article inspired a generation of fledgling social historians in the seventies.".[3] The liberal order framework has already spawned a number critical essays first presented at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada and subsequently published in 2008 as Liberalism and Hegemony: Debating the Canadian Liberal Revolution. The 2009 annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association also saw a panel discussion devoted to the framework.[4]

Selected works[edit]

  • The Craft Transformed: An Essay on the Carpenters of Halifax, 1885-1985 (1985)
  • The Challenge of Modernity: A Reader on Post-Confederation Canada (ed., 1990)
  • The Quest of the Folk: Antimodernism and Cultural Selection in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia (1993)
  • For A Working Class Culture in Canada: A Selection of Colin McKay's Writings on Sociology and Political Economy (ed., 1995)
  • Rebels, Reds, Radicals: Rethinking Canada's Left History (2005) ISBN 978-1-896357-97-3
  • Reasoning Otherwise: Leftists and the People's Enlightenment in Canada, 1890-1920 (2008) ISBN 978-1-897071-49-6
  • In the Province of History: The Making of the Public Past in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia (co-author Robin Bates, 2010) ISBN 978-0-7735-3703-3
  • Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety (2012) ISBN 978-1-926662-77-0

References[edit]