Cold War, Bright Stars: Driven by Military Spending, Canada Took a Lead Role in the Early Space Race

By Chapnick, Adam | Literary Review of Canada, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Cold War, Bright Stars: Driven by Military Spending, Canada Took a Lead Role in the Early Space Race


Chapnick, Adam, Literary Review of Canada


Defence and Discovery: Canada's Military Space Program, 1945-74

Andrew B. Godefroy

University of British Columbia Press

237 pages, hardcover

ISBN 9780774819596

IT HAS BEEN MORE THAN HALF A DECADE SINCE the Liberal government of Paul Martin released its International Policy Statement. As the title of that document made clear, it differed significantly from its predecessors. It marked the first time that a Canadian government had undertaken an international policy review. In the 21st century, the thinking went, global relations could no longer be subdivided into neat files like defence or foreign trade. To understand Canada's place in the world, the IPS implied, Canadians had to look at their relationships with the world more holistically.

When the Harper Conservatives took power in 2006, they quickly removed links to the IPS from the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. But beyond their efforts to erase references to what they perceived to be the Liberal brand, the Tories did little to suggest that they had abandoned the Martin government's basic ideas about world affairs. Indeed, two successive minority Conservative governments championed a similarly comprehensive approach to international problem solving, one that rejected the idea that responsibility could be restricted to a single government department or non-state actor.

Whether such thinking reflected or stimulated similar changes in the academic community is unclear, but there is no question that professional historians and political scientists in Canada have reached similar conclusions. It has become increasingly rare to speak of diplomatic history, for example. International, if not transnational, studies are the new norm in course descriptions, textbook titles and conference themes.

With this shift has come an increasing openness among historians of Canada's international past to welcome less traditional ideas to their understanding of world affairs. The evidence of the potential for new thinking first appeared 30 years ago when John Wendell Holmes, the dean of the study of Canadian foreign relations for much of the Cold War period, argued strongly for the greater integration of scholars of the physical sciences into the international affairs conversation. The scientists had perspectives and backgrounds, Holmes maintained, that were critical to serious discussions of arms control and global environmentalism, among other issues. Nevertheless, it has taken another generation of scholarship for books such as Andrew B. Godefroy's Defence and Discovery: Canada's Military Space Program, 1945-74 to begin to proliferate and take their rightful place as serious contributions to contemporary analyses of Canada's place in the world.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In defence of the many excellent historians of Canadian international relations, I should note that the delay in recognizing the importance of the history and philosophy of scientific discovery is understandable. Much of the research that authors like Godefroy rely upon remains classified, and only those with exceptionally strong willpower and persistence have succeeded in conquering the access-to-information roadblocks that have become far too common in efforts to study these elements of Canada's past Readers of Defence and Discovery are therefore fortunate that, in Godefroy, they have an ideal navigator through what he calls "Canada's role in the exploration and exploitation of the upper atmosphere between the end of the Second World War in 1945 and the ratification of the country's first national space policy in 1974."

Godefroy is a serious, well-published historian; he is a member of the Canadian Forces primary reserve and overseer of the army's primary think tank, the Directorate of Land Concepts and Designs; and he is passionately curious about rockets, satellites and outer space in general. …

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