Of Balance Wheels and Bodies Politic: Arthur Lower and the Liberal Vision of Canadian History


  • Scott Fleming Queen's University


Arthur Lower, Nationalism, Nation-Building, Liberalism, Historiography, Canada, Identity, Twentieth Century, Culture, Intellectual, Scott Fleming, HIC, 2012, 2013


Arthur Lower was one of the most prominent historians of Canada in the middle of the twentieth century. Throughout his illustrious career, he presented a narrative of Canadian history that emphasized evolution, growth, and progress, despite the appearance of several obstacles and setbacks in the general plot. But what underlying assumptions structured the manner in which he fashioned the narrative? This paper challenges the predominant understandings of Canadian liberal historiography by dissecting the thought of one of its most prominent spokespersons. At its core, his vision of Canada reflected a set of deterministic interpretations of social and political change. For Lower, history unfolded according to a series of natural laws and forces that acted upon the body politic; deviation from these inevitably led to social ruin. The following pages trace the implications of this theoretical framework upon the manner in which Lower conceived of the Canadian past.

Author Biography

Scott Fleming, Queen's University

Scott Fleming 11sdf3@queensu.ca is a doctoral candidate at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He completed his Master’s degree at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s in 2008. His research encompasses the themes of nation-building in the twentieth century, historiography, liberalism, and questions of national identity.