The Force of Culture: Vincent Massey and Canadian Sovereignty

Article excerpt

Karen A. Finlay, The Force of Culture: Vincent Massey and Canadian Sovereignty (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), 334 + xv pp. Cloth. $65. £42. ISBN 0-8020-3624-4.

This interesting study in Canadian cultural history examines the career of Vincent Massey, using a biographical angle of vision to survey a number of wider themes. Finlay examines the impact of Massey's Methodist upbringing, of his travels in Britain and elsewhere, and of his friendship with Canadian artists such as Lawren Harris, on the man's ideas and attitudes towards art, literature, drama, and the media. A wide range of primary sources, drawn from archives in Canada and Britain, are used to illuminate how Massey's views shifted over time. He eventually saw the arts as a means to strengthen and disseminate a sense of Canadian nationality, particularly in the inter-war years. This proved to be of wider significance as Massey undertook numerous commitments as a patron of culture in Canada, as a representative of Canada in London, and ultimately as chairman of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences. The Massey Report, produced by this body in 1951, summarised the conclusions of an individual who played a role in the formation of both the CBC and the Canada Council.

Finlay's study offers a wealth of detail on a number of previously obscure Canadian cultural institutions, and sheds new light on issues such as Massey's friendship with Harris. …