Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing Finalist

Nation Maker

Richard Gwyn

Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times; Volume Two: 1867-1891
Published by Random House Canada

Richard Gwyn

Jury Citation

In Nation Maker, Richard Gwyn gives us a politician who was far more shrewd and tough than either the debonair image he himself cultivated, or the caricature imprinted on too much of our history. Gwyn shows how Macdonald built a nation out of a reluctant union of impoverished colonies, and shaped the Canada we know today. He explores the most important episodes of early post-Confederation history, including the construction of a transcontinental railway, the two Riel rebellions, and the periodic eruptions of US-Canada tensions. This is a fully-rounded and compelling portrait of our first prime minister’s public and private life. Gwyn’s subtitle – “His Life, Our Times” – reflects the author’s view that history is about more than the past. Gwyn’s distinctive voice, and his skill in presenting Macdonald’s achievements to contemporary readers, enables us to reflect on this country’s past, present, and future.

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About the Book

This is the second volume of an award-winning biography of Canada’s first and most important prime minister, the man who made Confederation happen and went on to build this country over the next quarter century. Richard Gwyn investigates in detail how Macdonald dealt with Louis Riel's two rebellions and determinedly pursued the construction of the railroad that would link east to west and thereby help to forge a nation. The book also offers personal glimpses of this very public politician’s life, such as his second marriage, the birth of a disabled child, and the assassination of a close friend.

About the Author

The first volume of Richard Gwyn’s biography of Macdonald, John A: The Man Who Made Us, was a finalist for this prize in 2007. It was also named one of the Best Canadian Political Books of the Last 25 Years by the Writers’ Trust of Canada and Samara. Nation Maker was a finalist for last year’s Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and the Governor General’s Literary Award. Gwyn lives in Toronto with the writer Carol Bishop-Gwyn.

Samara Canada sat down with Richard Gwyn for a Q&A about his experience writing Nation Maker. Read the interview here.

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Woodcock Fund



Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
and Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize


May 16 for books published between Mar 14 and May 15, 2018


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