Aided by meticulous knowledge of the former Prime Minister’s diary, and with characteristic conciseness and clarity, H. Blair Neatby has written the impressive and long-awaited third volume of the official biography of Mackenzie King. He carefully and judiciously untangles a complexity of issues in Canadian political history to produce definitive accounts of controversies that have engaged the attention of Canadian historians for years. Beginning the story in 1932, this volume treats the depression years when King was first in Opposition and then the years after 1935 when he was once again Prime Minister; it is a masterly analysis of how one of the most enigmatic figures in Canadian history made shrewd and critical political decisions. Attention is paid in turn to his clearly successful tactics as Leader of the Opposition; the election campaign of 1935; a wide range of his domestic policies, including those on unemployment, inflation, relief, and trade; and to a series of international crises – the Ethiopian crisis, the Spanish Civil War, Anschluss, and Munich – that culminated in the Second World War. At all times, King’s overriding concern was to preserve national unity at home and to avoid commitments abroad, either through the British Commonwealth or the League of Nations. We see King in his relations with other Canadian leaders – Aberhart, Pattullo, Hepburn, Duplessis, and Bennett – and with world leaders – Roosevelt, Baldwin, Chamberlain, and Hitler. We also see the personal side of the man, and the link between the private and the public figure. William Lyon Mackenzie King, Volume III is an accomplished piece of historical writing; progressing in a controlled way through a profusion of incident and accident, it brings to completion the outstanding biography of a consummate politician.
William Lyon Mackenzie King, Volume III, 1932-1939 The Prism of Unity