No Ordinary Academics

No Ordinary Academics: Economics and Political Science at the University of Saskatchewan,1910-1960

SHIRLEY SPAFFORD
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442677753
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    No Ordinary Academics
    Book Description:

    Describes the circumstances and people that turned a department in an isolated prairie university into a thriving intellectual community that would nurture some of Canada's best minds.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7775-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 A Workman
    (pp. 3-27)

    Edmund Henry Oliver, the first professor of history and economics at the University of Saskatchewan, had arrived in Saskatoon, a place he had never seen before, on 18 September, just ten days before this scene in the library took place. He had travelled on the Canadian Pacific Railway from Toronto. In those days, the trip to Saskatoon took from Tuesday to Saturday, two nights and a day spent winding through the seemingly endless rocky expanse of northern Ontario and the woodland of Manitoba to Winnipeg, where the passenger had to alight and stay overnight before boarding the next day a...

  5. 2 Bringing the Wisconsin Idea to Saskatchewan
    (pp. 28-42)

    Of all the universities he visited during his tour of American campuses, Murray held none in greater regard than the University of Wisconsin, where the notion of university experts working together with political leaders and others in the community had become known as the Wisconsin Idea.¹ ʹIf we can follow in your footsteps,ʹ he wrote to Charles R. Van Hise, president of the University of Wisconsin, after his visit there in 1908, ʹthis Province will ultimately have a University equal to the best in Canada. We were greatly impressed with the way you have conserved the best of the old...

  6. 3 An Orthodox Economist
    (pp. 43-61)

    ʹI am possibly more anxious about the chair in Economics than any other one, because of the great opportunities there are for the right kind of man,ʹ President Murray wrote to O.D. Skelton in September of 1915. ʹI think the opportunities are greater in the West than anywhere else, and the chances of failure are greater. The outside duties of the Professor of Economics in this country may become so important that the ordinary academic man may fall far short of requirements.ʹ¹ His new professor, he had decided, would have to be better acquainted with western Canadian conditions than the...

  7. 4 Retrenchment
    (pp. 62-77)

    The economic depression struck the Saskatchewan economy with particular ferocity and had profound effects on the university. There could be no thought of new appointments. ʹWe are retrenching in every way possible,ʹ wrote Murray to one rejected applicant in 1932.¹ An arts and library building to be called Haultain Hall, scheduled for construction at an estimated cost of $800,000, was initially approved but never built; at the last moment when it heard of the estimated cost the government refused to sanction the project.² The building was to provide accommodation for classes in arts and science, household science, and education; offices...

  8. 5 Political Science in Search of Itself
    (pp. 78-92)

    Political science was a step behind economics in gaining recognition as an independent academic discipline in Canada. The term itself was first used in university circles in Canada as a rubric for a somewhat heterogeneous collection of studies.¹ In 1889, W. J. Ashley was appointed professor of political economy and constitutional history at the University of Toronto, under an act of the Ontario legislature which authorized teaching at the university in ʹPolitical Science (including Economics, Jurisprudence and Constitutional Law).ʹ² The object in view was the resumption at the university of the teaching of law, which had been earlier interrupted. Ashleyʹs...

  9. 6 A Natural Minoritarian
    (pp. 93-111)

    Frank Hawkins Underhill, the second teacher of political science at Saskatchewan, was born on 26 November 1889 in Stouffville, Ontario, where his father, the son of a cobbler who had emigrated from Britain, carried on a successful shoe-manufacturing business.¹ In Underhillʹs own view, he had always been ʹa natural minoritarian.ʹ ʹI was born a North York Presbyterian Grit,ʹ he wrote when he was seventy. ʹSomething, however, in my heredity or in my environment, whatever it was, did make it certain that I should never belong or want to belong to the Establishment.ʹ² When he was in his twenties, he confessed...

  10. 7 A New Start
    (pp. 112-126)

    Finding someone to replace Frank Underhill – in political science ʹthe ablest man in that field west of the Great Lakes,ʹ according to Duncan MacGibbon of Alberta – turned out to be no easy matter.¹ Political science in 1927 was barely on its feet as an independent field of study in Canada. To recognize that a university teacher of political science should have specialized training in the subject was to narrow down the number of Canadian candidates to a very few, and in any case Murrayʹs experience had been that a good scholar in a sister discipline could handle political...

  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  12. 8 Three Colleagues
    (pp. 127-139)

    A sharp decline in provincial revenues during the 1930s left the university a poor bidder in the academic market-place and forced a change in the composition of its faculty. ʹThe enforced economies of the last few years have entailed serious losses. Because of reduced salaries the University has been unable to retain or attract the best men,ʹ reported President Murray in 1935.¹ There had been a time when the presidentʹs attempts to get the best scholars for his faculty had met with some success. In its first two decades, the university had had available to it some fine young scholars...

  13. 9 Wartime
    (pp. 140-156)

    Walter Murray had guided the university for nearly thirty years. When he stepped down in the summer of 1937, a very personal style of administration came to an end. Others of his generation of university leaders in Canada had already retired. It was a remarkable group: never again would the universities be identified to such a degree with their presidents, and never again would the presidents themselves come together in such a close circle of friendship and accord. ʹIn some sense,ʹ wrote Robert Falconer to one of the circle, A.S. Mackenzie of Dalhousie, ʹwe have made an epoch of our...

  14. 10 Union and the New Members
    (pp. 157-177)

    The new order began when Britnell returned to the university as professor and head of the Department of Political Science in the fall of 1945. He was immediately appointed professor and head of the Department of Economics as well, and the process of joining the two departments was soon under way. The case for union, which was put before W.P. Thompson, dean of arts, and then taken for approval to the university council, rested on the need to curb excessive specialization, especially in economics. ʹThe trend in social sciences,ʹ wrote Britnell, ʹis away from intensive specialization. Modern problems are not...

  15. 11 The Britnell Years
    (pp. 178-202)

    The Britnell years lasted from 1945, when Britnell returned from the Wartime Prices and Trade Board, until his death in 1961. During these sixteen years, the department became known as one of the best in the country. At a jubilee lecture delivered at the University of Saskatchewan on 28 September 1959, Kenneth W. Taylor, the deputy minister of finance, declared that Saskatchewan had established itself in Canada as ʹa third vital centre of economic training and researchʹ – next to Toronto and Queenʹs. Of the twelve to fifteen economists who were leading a new resurgence in Canadian writing in economics,...

  16. 12 Conclusion
    (pp. 203-212)

    When the University of Saskatchewan was founded, in 1907, the basic structure of the state-supported university in North America, with its governing board, president, deans, departmental divisions, professorial ranks, and a budget determined in whole or part by a legislature, was well on its way to assuming its modern form.¹ For a new university, there was a template to follow – a choice of templates, in fact, for among the state-supported universities across the continent were some which were striking out on paths of their own designing. One was the University of Wisconsin, at which, as Walter Murray, the first...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 213-252)
  18. Index
    (pp. 253-272)