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History and Communication

History and Communication: Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, the Interpretation of History

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 251
  • Book Info
    History and Communication
    Book Description:

    In his challenge to long-standing views, Patterson offers a new way of understanding the work of two key thinkers, and new ways to think about communications theory, Canadian history, historiography, and history as a discipline.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6480-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-22)

    It is generally agreed that the early work of Harold Innis has had a very considerable influence upon Canadian historical thought. Ramsay Cook, rightly arguing that a historiographical ‘Innis revolution’ resulted from it, has contended: ‘The necessary starting-point for any clear understanding of the outlook of contemporary English-Canadian historians is Harold Adams Innis.’¹ No one, however, has argued that the ‘late work’ of Innis has had any such influence. Yet, while contemporary historians of Canada may certainly be understood in terms of Innis, he (most notably in the last decade of his life) cannot fully be understood without some reference...

    (pp. 23-60)

    Harold Innis was once thought to be a careful, thorough scholar of penetrating insight, a thinker of monumental importance in the historiography of Canada. ‘Innis succeeded more than any other writer of the twentieth century,’ observed Donald Creighton, ‘in giving both breadth and depth to Canadian studies in history and the social sciences.’¹ But Innis was also thought to be a quite incompetent writer of English prose.

    When in 1937 he submitted the manuscript ofThe Cod Fisheries(1940) to James T. Shotwell, general editor of the Carnegie series ‘Canada and the United States,’ Shotwell congratulated him upon having made...

    (pp. 61-102)

    In his last years Harold Innis was preoccupied with concepts of time and space as they related to the study of history. The concepts he himself entertained, however, and precisely what he thought about time and space, are sometimes less than clear. ‘History -product of west in terms of linear progress of time,’ he noted in his ‘Idea File,’ ‘Contrast with China. Use of centuries - fingers and toes - distortion of history.’¹* Also somewhat bewildering is the title given to his last book,Changing Concepts of Time.

    The title is curious in that, at first sight, the book’s five...

    (pp. 103-132)

    When Marshall McLuhan with Wilfred Watson publishedFrom Cliché to Archetypein 1970 it was not very widely reviewed and the critics who did consider it were for the most part either hostile or uninformed. One irritated reviewer, the novelist John Fowles, observed that, while it was said that the book had taken ten years to write, it was

    as elegant and lucid as a barrel of tar, it makes one wonder whether Marshall McLuhan’s celebrated doubts over the print medium don’t largely stem from a personal incapacity to handle it. Perhaps the graceless style, the barbarously obscuring jargon, the...

    (pp. 133-170)

    Marshall McLuhan and, according to him, Harold Innis too were fundamentally concerned with what McLuhan termed ‘formal causality.’ This expression had been used by Aristotle who, drawing upon the precedents of even earlier thinkers, distinguished among four different kinds of causes or explanatory principles. ‘These,’ writes Richard Taylor,

    he called the ‘efficient’ cause (causa quod), or that by which some change is wrought; the ‘final’ cause (causa ut), or end or purpose for which a change is produced; the ‘material’ cause, or that in which a change is wrought; and the ‘formal’ cause, or that into which some thing is...

    (pp. 171-208)

    Writing, Harold Innis observed,‘implied a decline in the power of expression and the creation of grooves which determined the channels of thought of readers and later writers.’¹ Delivered in a presidential address to the Royal Society of Canada in 1947, this remark in some ways anticipated Thomas S. Kuhn’sThe Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which was published fifteen years later.² So too did Innis’s attempt at displacing Newtonian mechanical models of actuality with paradigms derived from more recent physics. Kuhn’s book examined the way in which experimental evidence for new scientific theory is accumulated and assimilated to older mistaken, but...

    (pp. 209-226)

    In books like this, writers usually explain their intentions in introductions. This is not the case here; this book has no introduction. Its afterword, however, might well seem to resemble one. For among other things it explains how the book came to be written, how it was written, and what it was intended to accomplish. But it is not an introduction in that it is meant to be read after the arguments in the main body of the text have been examined.

    Some readers might conclude that this afterword, in point of fact, is really an introduction, and that in...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 227-240)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 241-251)