Recasting History

How CBC Television Has Shaped Canada's Past

How the CBC recast Canadian history for television and influenced what we know and how we think about the Canadian past.


Since 1952, CBC television has played a unique role as the primary mass media purveyor of Canadian history. Yet, until now, there have been no comprehensive accounts of Canadian history on television. Monica MacDonald takes us behind the scenes of the major documentaries and docudramas broadcast on the CBC, including Explorations (1956–1964), the series Images of Canada (1972–1976), The National Dream (1974), The Valour and the Horror (1992), and Canada: A People’s History (2000–2002).


"MacDonald shows how, over the decades, professional historians, who once appeared on-screen, have been replaced by journalists, and she questions the wisdom of that development. The one impression Recasting History reinforce(s) is that borders exist not only between nations/countries but also inside them, and remain sources of tension, both creative and destructive. " British Journal of Canadian Studies

"MacDonald's book will be valuable to those interested in the impossibly complicated process of trying to use a public broadcaster to tell stories about Canada's contentious past. " Quill & Quire

"In analyzing fifty years of history on Canadian television sets, Recasting History discerns a pattern in CBC documentaries and docudramas. Since Explorations, these programs have aimed to define Canada as a unified nation, despite some episodic tensions between the French and English, a nation that's unique and separate from the United States, a nation built on the accomplishments of male explorers, military leaders, captains of industry, and dignified politicians. It seems this trend will only continue, at least until ratings and market share stop being the yardsticks by which we measure the value of a TV show. " Literary Review of Canada

"[MacDonald] has deftly outlined the major trends and players in our public broadcaster's treatment of Canadian history. Her treatment suggests CBC Television has, with some success, not only tried to portray a distinctively Canadian identity, but also define a Canadian sensibility. " Winnipeg Free Press

"A detailed, compelling, and thoroughly researched analysis of how media is used to foster nationalism, [. ..] MacDonald's strength as an archival historian is put on display in Recasting History. " Canadian Journal of Film Studies

"Recasting History is a well-researched study that makes a valuable and original contribution to Canadian history. MacDonald interweaves exposition and analysis, each informing the other, with clear and detailed prose. " Donald Wright, University of New Brunswick