Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Marriage of Minds: Isabel and Oscar Skelton Reinventing Canada

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Marriage of Minds: Isabel and Oscar Skelton Reinventing Canada

Article excerpt

Terry Crowley, Marriage of Minds: Isabel and Oscar Skelton Reinventing Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), xiii + 328 pp. Cloth. £40 ISBN 0-8020-0932-8. Paper. £ 20. ISBN 0-8020-7902-4.

This is a portrait of a marriage and of the two individuals yoked within it. O.D. Skelton is a name known to students of the evolution of Canadian external policy, but the link is not always made with Isabel Skelton, biographer of D'Arcy McGee and one of the first social historians to attempt to highlight the role of women in the Canadian past. They met at Queen's University, and it was there that Oscar made his early career as an academic, both in History and Political Science. His book on socialism was praised in identical terms, as the best book on the subject by a non-believer, by both Lenin and Sidney Webb. The Skeltons' subsequent move to Ottawa, where he became senior civil servant in External Affairs, was less matrimonially catastrophic than in the parallel case of Marion and Lester Pearson, but it did cause some estrangement between them. This took the form of a row over buying a house: it is ominous when two historians call their home 'Edgehill', the opening battle of the English Civil War.

Crowley's thoughtful study is valuable in suggesting that Skelton was much less of a grey eminence than some have assumed: it was the politicians, notably Mackenzie King, who made the key policy decisions. …

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