Nov. 22, 2023
For Immediate Release
WATERLOO — 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.”
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:
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). Learn more at LCSC’s War and Society research cluster.
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