David A. Wilson named winner of the 2022 C.P. Stacey Award

by | Nov 22, 2023 | C.P. Stacey Award / Prix C.P. Stacey, War and Society

C.P. Stacey Award logo.

2022 Winner:

David A. Wilson

Canadian Spy Story

The C.P. Stacey Award Committee and the Laurier Centre for the Study of Canada (LCSC) have awarded historian David A. Wilson of the University of Toronto the 2022 C.P. Stacey Award for scholarly work in Canadian military history.

Canadian Spy Story: Irish Revolutionaries and the Secret Police (McGill-Queen’s University Press) examines the 19th century Irish revolutionary Fenian movement and its efforts to confront British imperialism in Ireland with armed invasion and insurrection in British North America. In the years just before and after Canadian Confederation, the Fenians were seen as a significant security and military threat. In Wilson’s expert hands, the story of clandestine efforts by Canadian secret police and British authorities to infiltrate and assess Fenian networks in the U.S. and British North America make great history and great reading.

 “This exceptionally well-researched book has plumbed the depths of Canadian, American and British archives, as well as dozens of 19th century newspapers and other publications, thoroughly reconstructing how authorities responded to a revolutionary threat that aimed to strike first at Britain’s North American colonies and then a newly independent Canada,” the C.P. Stacey Award Committee noted. “The Fenian invasions of the 1860s and 1870s are widely recognized as a key factor that led to Canadian Confederation in 1867, and now the secretive efforts to gather the intelligence that gave Canadian and British governments the information needed to appreciate the defence threat posed by the Fenians have been definitively addressed.”

Wilson is a professor in the Celtic Studies program at St. Michael’s College and the Department of History at the University of Toronto, as well as general editor of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. The recipient of many awards and prizes for research and teaching, Wilson is also known for his two-volume biography of Thomas D’Arcy McGee.

Historian C.P. Stacey was brilliant in his ability to contextualize and frame military history in its contemporary political contexts. The award committee collectively found Wilson’s work mirrored this approach, remarking “Canadian Spy Story is a highly readable example of why military history has meaning and relevance for all Canadians. In these pages we can see the origin story of how governments would come to understand Canadian defence requirements in North America and their relationship to the British Empire. The inherent and trilateral Canadian, British, and American dimensions to defence and security are clear. From the political and social persecution faced by Irish Canadian Catholics in the nineteenth century, there are lessons to be learned about civil liberties and how they can be undermined by efforts to ensure state security. Covert surveillance of Fenians in Canada and the United States sometimes led to insightful assessments of military and domestic security threats, and at other times it failed miserably. From Wilson’s extensive research and riveting account, we see how Canadian spies, variously motivated by ideology, religion, and self-interest, often found themselves in incredibly dangerous situations. It is gripping history.”

The award committee was struck by the considerable depth of choice when working to choose the winning book. There are two honorable mentions for the 2022 C.P. Stacey Award:

Terry Copp with Alexander Maavara, produced a richly nuanced view of the First World War as experienced in one of Canada’s most diverse and complex cities in Montreal at War, 1914-1918 (University of Toronto Press). The book is grounded in a deep knowledge and research on the city and on Canada’s military history, combined with a massive dive into English and French newspapers and journals. Their investigation of the words Montrealers used to express their wide-ranging wartime views is weighed alongside government records and military personnel files of the city’s volunteers for overseas service. Their findings deepen, and frequently trouble, the understanding of Montreal’s place in Quebec and Canada during the war and beyond.

Matthew Barrett, in Scandalous Conduct: Canadian Officer Courts Martial, 1915-1945 (UBC Press), provides a detailed study of Canadian officer courts martial and demonstrates how dismissal from the services had an influence on officers’ conduct, while allowing for redemption through service as other ranks.  Including an innovative analysis of class and gentlemanly conduct in his discussion of the treatment of misbehaving officers over a thirty-year period, including the First and Second World Wars, Barrett has brilliantly filled a gap in the historiography.

About the C.P. Stacey Award

The C.P. Stacey Award is named in honour of Charles Perry Stacey, historical officer to the Canadian Army during the Second World War and later a longtime professor of history at the University of Toronto. The award is presented annually to the best book in the field of Canadian military history, broadly defined, including the study of war and society. The award winner receives a $1,000 prize, made possible through the generous support of John and Pattie Cleghorn and family and the Department of History at Wilfrid Laurier University. The LCSC took over administration of the award in 2018 from the Canadian Committee for the History of the Second World War.

The 2022 C.P. Stacey Award Committee consisted of Kevin Spooner (Wilfrid Laurier University; director, LCSC), Isabel Campbell (Directorate of History and Heritage, National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa), and Lee Windsor (University of New Brunswick).

Past Winners

2020-21   |   Irene Gammel, I Can Only Paint: The Story of Battlefield Artist Mary Riter Hamilton(McGill-Queen’s University Press)

2019   |   Bob Bergen, Scattering Chaff: Canadian Air Power and Censorship During the Kosovo War (University of Calgary Press)

2018   |   Jonathan F. Vance, A Township at War (Wilfrid Laurier University Press)

2017   |   Geoffrey Hayes, Crerar’s Lieutenants: Inventing the Canadian Junior Army Officer, 1939-45 (UBC Press)

2016   |   Brock Millman, Polarity, Patriotism and Dissent in Great War Canada, 1914-1919 (University of Toronto Press)

2015   |   Norman Hillmer, O.D. Skelton: A Portrait of Canadian Ambition (University of Toronto Press)

2014   |   Tim Cook, The Necessary War, Volume 1: Canadians Fighting The Second World War: 1939-1943 (Allen Lane)

2014   |   Richard M. Reid, African Canadians in Union Blue: Volunteering for the Cause in the Civil War (UBC Press)

2013   |   Teresa Iacobelli, Death or Deliverance: Canadian Courts Martial in the Great War (UBC Press)

2012   |   Andrew Burtch, Give Me Shelter: The Failure of Canada’s Cold War Civil Defence (UBC Press)

2011   |   Dean Frederick Oliver and Jack Granatstein, The Oxford Companion to Canadian Military History (Oxford University Press)

2009   |   Kevin Spooner, Canada, The Congo Crisis and U.N. Peacekeeping 1960-64 (UBC Press)

2008   |   Paul Douglas Dickson: A Thoroughly Canadian General: A Biography of General H.D.G. Crerar (McGill-Queen’s University Press)

2008   |   Stephen Brumwell, Paths of Glory: The Life and Death of General James Wolfe (McGill-Queen’s University Press)

2006   |   Douglas Delaney, Bert Hoffmeister: The Soldier’s General (UBC Press)

2004   |   Béatrice Richard, La mémoire de Dieppe: Radioscopie d’un mythe (VLB éditeur)

2004   |   Marc Milner, Battle of the Atlantic (Vanwell Publishing Ltd.)

2002   |   Brian Tennyson and Roger Sarty, Guardian of the Gulf: Sydney, Cape Breton and the Atlantic Wars (University of Toronto Press)

2000   |   Tim Cook, No Place to Run: The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World War (UBC Press)

1998   |   Jonathan Vance, Death So Noble: Memory, Meaning and the First World War (UBC Press)

1996   |   George Blackburn, The Guns of Victory (McClelland & Stewart)

1994   |   Desmond Morton, When Your Number’s Up: The Canadian Soldier in the First World War (Vintage Canada)

1992   |   Bill McAndrew and Terry Copp, Battle Exhaustion: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Canadian Army, 1939-1945 (McGill-Queen’s University Press)

1990   |   Robert Vogel and Terry Copp, Maple Leaf Route

1988   |   Norman Hillmer and W. A. B. Douglas, The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Volume II: The Creation of a National Air Force (University of Toronto Press)