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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Price: $39.95

Hardback 452 pp.
8 b/w photos; 2 maps, 6" x 9"



Publication date:
August 2012

Imprint: OUP Canada

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A Biography of Robert Baldwin

The Morning-Star of Memory

Michael S. Cross

Congratulations to Michael S. Cross for his book, A Biography of Robert Baldwin, winner of the John T. Saywell Prize in constitutional history by the Osgoode Society.

Congratulations to Michael S. Cross, winner of the 2013 Lela Common Award for Canadian History for his book
A Biography of Robert Baldwin.

The quest for responsible government took place in turbulent times. The "very strange" personality driving this quest, Robert Baldwin, comprises the stuff of narrative so compelling it seems at times less history than novel. Baldwin's intervention in Canadian history was momentous, and in this account history is intertwined with Baldwin's enigmatic private life.

Decades of research by historian Michael Cross has unearthed new insight into this highly complex, troubled, and exceptional man. In Cross's exploration, Baldwin inhabits an intricate emotional world, entangled with reflections on past and future. Cross' narrative flows with elegant non-linearity, reflecting Baldwin's own fluid psychological chronology; the memory of his wife Eliza, who died comparatively young, haunted Baldwin's often distressed mental landscape. In fact, the first chapter may contain one of the biggest surprises in any recent historical biography - taking place a month after Baldwin's death.

Even so, the book is full of comedy and charm. Cross is a delightfully polished writer, with a remarkable knack for character. Lord Sydenham is a "coxcomb" and a "rake" in the original sense of the words; Lord Elgin is an "unprepossessing little man" but with "steely determination," "a countenance stern in its frame of iron-grey muttonchops"; Louis LaFontaine is "handsome and charming but irritatingly pretentious." Interactions with the deep thinking and duty-bound Baldwin are at times chaotic collisions of markedly different personalities.

The book covers events such as the War of 1812, the 1841 Union of the Canadas, and mass migration of Irish famine refugees; it also contains a detailed chronology, portraits, maps, and paintings. Here is not just a vision of an unsettled Canada that will take many readers aback, but also an encounter with a fascinating, "very strange" personality whose profound influence changed Canadian history forever.

Readership : General trade, upper-level students in history and political science.


  • "Michael Cross knows more about Robert Baldwin than anyone else. This isn't just knowledge. He feels the man. This is an essential biography, as much of the heart as it is of politics."

    --John Ralston Saul, author of Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin

  • "An extraordinary biography."


  • "Michael Cross puts on the table the story of one of the most unusual if not peculiar leaders we've ever had" and "brings Robert Baldwin fully alive."

    --John Ralston Saul

List of Illustrations
1. The Blessed Hour, January 1859
2. Living in Memory
3. I Am Not So Certain of My Future as Others Seem To Be
4. A Better Irishman
5. This Struggle between Good Government and Evil Government
6. The Apple of Discord
7. Home - My Own Dear Home
8. A New Definition of Loyalty
9. An Enthusiast - Almost a Fanatic
10. Leave Those Confounded Politics Alone
11. Turning Everything into Responsible Government
12. There Must Be No Question of Races
13. An Enlarged View Must Be Taken
14. The Phrase or the Content
15. Anglo-Saxons to the Struggle
16. Un Jeu d'Enfants
17. Infidels, Socialists, and Others
18. A Reckless Disregard of First Principles
19. Hanging by a Most Precarious Thread
A Note on Sources
Note Abbreviations

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Michael S. Cross is adjunct professor at Dalhousie University. He has published on Canadian social, labour, and political history.

A Little History of Canada - H. V. Nelles
A History of Canadian Culture - Jonathan F. Vance
A History of the Canadian Peoples - J. M. Bumsted
Interpreting Canada's Past - J.M. Bumsted, Len Kuffert and Michel Ducharme
The Incredible Canadian - The late Bruce Hutchison
Introduction by Vaughn Palmer
The Road to Confederation - The late Donald Creighton and Donald Wright

Special Features

  • Hero of Canadian history. Baldwin courageously led the charge for responsible home government, changing forever the face of Canadian politics.
  • Biographical masterpiece. Author Michael Cross has literally spent decades researching Baldwin's life and times. His developing research influenced the work of other thinkers, including John Ralston Saul.
  • "Very strange" personality. Baldwin is perhaps one of the most eccentric characters in Canadian politics, in any historical period. The book is a compelling examination of a deep-thinking and highly imaginative psychology, preoccupied with the past and future.
  • New material. Archival research turned up a host of previously unknown known facts about Baldwin, his contemporaries, and the changing relationship between Canada and Britain.
  • Psychological study. Cross digs deep into Baldwin's curious mental landscape, exploring the bizarre private life of this exceptional man. Baldwin's eccentric psychology intertwines with the course of Canadian history.
  • Fascinating social history. A Canada at once recognizable to readers and also vastly different: the book reveals a world of unfamiliar travel, communications, clothing, and social class.
  • New illustrative material. Includes early maps, portraits, and paintings.
  • Detailed chronology. Places Baldwin's life in the context of the tumultuous politics around him, from the War of 1812 to the mass immigration of Irish famine refugees.