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408 The Canadian Historical Review his career in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, giving us an amusing illustration ofthe capriciol!sness ofpromotion during wartime, and the story of his epic journey across the island to spend a few days home on shore leave. He was involved in the retail trade in an outport during the period in which the truck system gave way to 'modern' consumer capitalism, but says nothing of the social and economic changes that he must have witnessed first hand. With only a little reference to original sources, he gives us a book that adds little to the historical literature one can see on his shelves in the cover photograph. JEFF A. WEBB Memorial University of Newfoundland River Road: Essays on Manitoba and Prairie History. GERALD FRIESEN . Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press 1996. Pp. xviii, 246, illus. $19.95 The publication of Gerald Friesen's Canadian Prairies in 1984 marked a high-water mark in prairie historiography. Not only did the book offer a compelling interpretation of the region's history but it brilliantly synthesized the vast literature about the Canadian prairies that had been published after 1970. Since the mid-198os, however, interest in prairie history has ebbed. Friesen's new book, River Road, consisting of a collection of essays most of which were written after 1984, both reflects this malaise and offers suggestions to revitalize this field of study. These essays consider new viewpoints of the prairie past, using the perspectives of ethnic and cultural history, women's history, labour history, and legal history, and re-establish Friesen as the pre-eminent generalist in the field. Interestingly, in a book of essays focused on Manitoba and the prairies, Friesen has a good deal to say about Canada 's national history. Friesen has an ambitious agenda. The book is aimed at an academic audience, but also seeks to engage a 'lay' readership in a discussion of the construction of the dominant culture, the place of Aboriginal people in prairie society, and the interaction between local, regional, national, and global cultures. To this end, Friesen has divided his book into three parts. The first part is directed at the general reader and consists of articles written in response to recent public issues; the second is directed at an academic readership and consists of more detailed historical studies; and the third contains interpretive essays towards a new synthesis of regional and national history. The first part is the most polemic and, to this reader's mind, the weakest. With the exception of the title piece 'River Road' (co-written Book Reviews 409 with Jean Friesen), these essays examine the issues of bilingualism, the Meech Lake accord, and constitutional politics from a prairie perspective . Friesen goes to some lengths to justify Manitoba's rejection ofthe accord and argues that it was not primarily a blow directed at Quebec. The West, Friesen argues, is not a monolithic entity and there exists no 'western' vision of the nation. Rather, the crucial division within the prairies is between 'conservatives' and 'social democrats.' One gets the impression reading these first essays that they represent not so much a 'prairie' perspective as NDP policy positions. The second part of the book, organized around the theme of the construction of dominant and alternative cultures, includes more detailed essays on the Ma.nitoba Historical Society, J.H. Riddell, and the political thought of Bob Russell. The strongest piece, co-written with Associate Chief Justice A.C. Hamilton and Associate Chief Judge C.M. Sinclair, surveys the interaction of Manitoba's Aboriginal people and 'justice systems' and is a lucid and concise introduction to the topic. The final part alone is worth the price of the book. Here Friesen not only re-examines the prairies as a region and his own work on the subject but provides some suggestions for a new synthesis of prairie and Canadian history. These last essays give a good indication of his changing interests. Although much of Friesen's past work has been framed by the 'limited identities' ofregion, class, and ethnicity, here he openly embraces more comparative approaches to correct the tendency of a narrowing vision. He does...


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