Donald Wright. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005; 270 pp; ISBN: 0-8020-3928-6, hardcover $45 ca.
The study of history in Canada has a history of its own, and its development as an academic discipline is a multi-faceted one. The Professionalization of History in English Canada charts the transition of the study of history from a leisurely pastime to that of a full-blown academic career for university-trained scholars — from the mid-nineteenth to the late twentieth century. Donald Wright argues that professionalization was not, in fact, a benign process, nor was it inevitable. It was deliberate. Within two generations, historians saw the creation of a professional association, the Canadian Historical Association, and the rise of an academic journal, the Canadian Historical Review. Professionalization was also gendered. In an effort to raise the status of the profession and protect the academic labour market for men, male historians made a concerted effort to exclude women from the academy. History’s professionalization is best understood as a transition from one way of organizing intellectual life to another. What came before professionalization was not necessarily inferior, but rather, a different perspective of history. As well, Wright argues convincingly that professionalization inadvertently led to a popular inverse: the amateur historian, whose work is often more widely received and appreciated by the general public.
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