The Work of the World, 1923-1941
O. D. Skelton: The Work of the World, 1923-1941 is a lively and compelling trip through the letters, diary entries, and official memoranda of O. D. Skelton, one of the most important and influential civil servants in twentieth-century Canada. Skelton was a towering foreign policy advisor to Canada's prime ministers and a lonely advocate for the country's independence from Great Britain. His accounts detail his work as he co-operated and clashed with William Lyon Mackenzie King and R. B. Bennett over Canada's participation in the international arena. Norman Hillmer's selection and assessment of Skelton's writings offer a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the federal government as Skelton systematically built up the Department of External Affairs and the Canadian diplomatic service as instruments of the national interest, confronted the Manchurian, Ethiopian, and Czech crises of the 1930s, aligned himself with senior francophone politicians such as Ernest Lapointe and Raoul Dandurand, and watched in despair as Europe and Asia descended into war. Providing avenues into a time when Canada was struggling to define itself, this collection shows the ways in which O. D. Skelton pushed the country onto the global stage.
“This collection of documents goes beyond the normal External Affairs memoranda to look at foreign policy specifically through Skelton’s writings [and] allows the reader to blend the civil servant and the individual. The real contribution of the work, tho
“Chance, intellectual acuity, and his own industry provided [Skelton] with the means of his ambition, for Canada and for himself. He fit ideally with his era, seized his opportunity and made genuinely historic contributions to our country. This volume is
“One is always cheered when an important historical figure [Skelton] finds the right historian to tell his story with superb insight, deft wit, cautious reserve, and a wide understanding of the interplay between character, circumstance, and society. ” Cana
“Hillmer’s extensive background and expertise in 20th-century Canadian international policy offers a unique opportunity for a thorough and insightful guided tour of Skelton’s professional life in government. ” Canadian Parliamentary Review
“These documents offer privileged insight into the dynamics of Canada’s evolving place within the Empire/Commonwealth, its participation in the League of Nations, and its response to the issues of war and peace. Hillmer’s introduction provides an informative, succinct summary of Skelton’s career as a brilliant and dedicated public servant. ” Carman Miller, Department of History and Classical Studies, McGill University