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Desmond Dillon Paul Morton
Born 1937
Place of birth Calgary, Alberta
Allegiance Canada
Service/branch Canadian Army
Years of service 1954-1964
Rank Captain / Honorary Colonel 8 Wing Trenton
Awards Order of Canada
Other work Professor of Canadian History

Desmond Dillon Paul Morton, OC, FRSC, CD (born 1937) is a Canadian historian who specializes in the history of the Canadian military, as well as the history of Canadian political and industrial relations.

Born in Calgary, Alberta, Morton is the son of a Brigadier General, and the grandson of General Sir William Dillon Otter. He is a graduate of the Collège militaire royal de St-Jean, the Royal Military College of Canada, a Rhodes Scholar, the University of Oxford (where he received his PhD), and the London School of Economics.[1] He spent ten years in the Canadian Army (1954-1964 retiring as a Captain) prior to beginning his teaching career.[1] He was named Honorary Colonel of 8 Wing of the Canadian Air Force at CFB Trenton in 2002. He received the Canadian Forces Decoration in 2004 for 12 years total military service.[1]

Morton is the Hiram Mills professor of History at McGill University, as well as the past director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, in Montreal, Quebec.[2] As of fall 2011, he continues to serve at McGill as a professor emeritus.[2] Prior to that, he was Principal of Erindale College, University of Toronto, from 1986 to 1994. Before beginning his teaching career, Morton served as an advisor to Tommy Douglas of the New Democratic Party. In the 1980s he informally advised Brian Mulroney of the Progressive Conservatives. From 1964 to 1966, he served as assistant secretary of the Ontario New Democratic Party. After the success of the famous 1964 NDP Riverdale by-election, Morton wrote and published The Riverdale Story, which detailed how the party organizing and canvassing which changed the way campaigns in Canada are run. In the 1970s he worked with David Lewis, Stephen Lewis and other party leaders to oppose The Waffle, a left wing faction within the NDP.[3]

Morton received his doctorate from the University of London.[2] He is the author of over thirty-five books on Canada, including the popular A Short History of Canada ISBN 0-7710-6509-4.

In 1996, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.[4] He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada since 1985.[2] He is also known for jokingly defining a BA as "it means that you can read and write in a professional manner".

While Morton is widely regarded as an expert in all areas of Canadian history, he specializes in Canadian military and industrial history as well as nationalisms in Canada. He is noted as one of the few remaining historians who personally interviewed and studied veterans from the militia sent to the North-West Rebellion of 1885.

Views on Canadians' social memory of the First World War

Morton has addressed the issue of whether the First World War was indeed a war of independence of Canada. He once wrote: "For Canadians, Vimy Ridge was a nation building experience. For some, then and later, it symbolized the fact that the Great War was also Canada's war of independence...."[5] In 2008, however, he published the following remarks: "Canadians are now being told by their government and its friends that we achieved the same joyous state on a snowy April 9, 1917, when four Canadian divisions advanced to capture Vimy Ridge at a cost of about 10,000 dead and wounded – enough to bring on a nationally divisive crisis as the English-Canadian majority tried to conscript the French-speaking minority for a war Quebec had never embraced. This may be Stephen Harper's version of history, learned in the schools of Ontario. But that would be selling ourselves short." Morton states that the abandonment of Canada by British troops in 1871 was a much more important event in the emergence of Canada as a separate nationality.[6]

Published works

  • "French Canada and the Canadian militia, 1868–1914," Histoire sociale / Social History 3 (June 1969): 32–50
  • "Des Canadiens Errants: French Canadian Troops in the North-West Campaign of 1885," Journal of Canadian Studies 5, no. 3 (Aug. 1970): 28–39
  • "Aid to the Civil Power: The Canadian Militia in Support of Social Order, 1867–1914," Canadian Historical Review 52, no. 4 (Dec. 1970): 407–25.
  • Ministers and Generals: Politics and the Canadian Militia, 1868–1904 ISBN 0-8020-5228-2, (1970)
  • The Last War Drum: The North West Campaign of 1885 (1972)
  • with R.H. Roy, eds., Telegrams of the North-West Campaign of 1885 (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1972).
  • "The Supreme Penalty: Canadian Deaths by Firing Squad in the First World War," Queen’s Quarterly, 79, no. 2 (Autumn 1972): 345–52
  • Mayor Howland: The Citizens' Candidate (1973)
  • The Canadian General Sir William Otter (1974)
  • NDP The Dream of Power (1974)
  • The Queen Versus Louis Riel ISBN 0-8020-6232-6, (1974)
  • Critical Years 1857–1873 (1977)
  • "Kicking and Complaining: Demobilization Riots in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1918–1919," Canadian Historical Review 61, no. 3 (Sept. 1980): 334–60
  • Rebellions in Canada ISBN 0-531-00449-X (1980)
  • The Supreme Penalty: Canadian Deaths by Firing Squad in the First World War (1980)
  • Canada and War: A Military and Political History ISBN 0-409-85240-6, (1981)
  • Labour in Canada (1982)
  • A Peculiar Kind of Politics: Canada's Overseas Ministry in the First World War ISBN 0-8020-5586-9, (1982)
  • Years of Conflict: 1911–1921 (1983)
  • New France and War ISBN 0-531-04804-7, (1984)
  • Working People ISBN 0-88879-040-6, (1980) (rev. 1984, 1990, 2003)
  • The New Democrats 1961–1986: The Politics of Change (1986)
  • Winning the Second Battle: Canadian Veterans and the Return to Civilian Life, 1915–30 ISBN 0-8020-6634-8, (1987) (with Glenn T. Wright)
  • Towards Tomorrow: Canada in a Changing World History ISBN 0-7747-1281-3, (1988)
  • Marching to Armageddon: Canadians and the Great War 1914–1919 ISBN 0-88619-211-0, (1989) (2nd Ed 1992) (With J. L. Granatstein)
  • A Military History of Canada ISBN 0-7710-6515-9, (1992) (2nd Ed. 1999)
  • Morgentaler vs Borowski ISBN 0-7710-6513-2, (1992)
  • Silent Battle: Canadian Prisoners of War in Germany, 1914–1919 ISBN 1-895555-17-5, (1992)
  • When Your Number's Up: The Canadian Soldier in the First World War ISBN 0-394-22388-8, (1994)
  • Shaping a Nation: A Short History of Canada's Constitution ISBN 1-895642-10-8, (1996)
  • The United Nations: Its History and the Canadians Who Shaped It ISBN 1-55074-222-1, (1995)
  • Our Canada: The Heritage of Her People 0-8886-6643-8, (1996)
  • Victory 1945: Canadians from War to Peace ISBN 0-00-255069-5, (1996) (with J. L. Granatstein)
  • Wheels:The Car in Canada ISBN 1-895642-03-5, (1998)
  • Who Speaks for Canada? ISBN 0-7710-6502-7, (1998) (2nd Ed. 2001) (with Morton Weinfeld)
  • Working People: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Labour Movement (1998)
  • Canada: A Millennium Portrait ISBN 0-88866-647-0, (1999)
  • Understanding Canadian Defence (2000)
  • A Short History of Canada ISBN 0-7710-6509-4,(2001)
  • Bloody Victory : Canadians And The D-Day Campaign 1944 ISBN 1-895555-56-6, (2002)
  • They Were So Young: Montrealers Remember WWII (2002)
  • Canada and the Two World Wars ISBN 1-55263-509-0, (2003) (with J.L. Granatstein)
  • Understanding Canadian Defence (2003)
  • Fight or Pay' ISBN 0-7748-1108-0, (2004)
  • The Mystery of Frankenberg's Canadian Airman ISBN 1-55028-884-9, (2005)
  • Billet Pour le Front (Ticket for the Front) ISBN 2-922865-40-1, (2005) (French)
  • "Is History Another Word for Experience?: Morton’s Confessions," The Canadian Historical Review Volume 92, Number 4, December 2011 in Project MUSE


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "MISC Instructurors: Desmond Morton". McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. Montreal: McGill University. 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-10-30. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Desmond Morton". History and Classical Studies. Montreal: McGill University. 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-10-30. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  3. Ottawa Bureau (1971-04-21). "NDP 'unity' group is out to crush party's Wafflers". Toronto. p. 10. 
  4. "Desmond D.P. Morton, O.C., C.D., Ph.D. , F.R.S.C.". It's an Honour, Order of Canada. Governor General of Canada. 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  5. Desmond Morton, A Military History of Canada. From Champlain to Kosovo, Canada, McClelland and Stewart, 1999 (1985), p.145.
  6. Desmond Morton, "Yes, think of November 11 – but 1871, not 1918" Globe and Mail, 10 November 2008

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