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The National Dream: The Great Railway, 1871-1881 Paperback – Aug 14 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • The National Dream: The Great Railway, 1871-1881
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  • The Last Spike: The Great Railway, 1881-1885
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  • The Promised Land: Settling the West 1896-1914
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Canada; 1 edition (Aug. 14 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385658400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385658409
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #100,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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Pierre Berton's The National Dream is the perfect antidote to recommend to anyone who thinks history, especially Canada's history, is boring. Canada's best-known historian takes the seemingly unexciting story of the building of a railroad and tells it with the colour and humour of a master yarn-spinner. The National Dream and its sequel, The Last Spike, published in 1970 and 1971, were two of Canada's biggest best-selling books and were turned into an eight-part series on CBC-TV watched by more people than any other dramatic program in the network's history to that date. The Last Spike won for Berton his third Governor General's Award for non-fiction.

The story he tells has no end of crazy and bizarre characters: sleazy politicians, robber baron-style railroad tycoons, corrupt newspaper publishers, many of them considered the political and economic founders of Canada. Somehow, in a few short years, this band of misfits managed to build the world's longest railway across a vast, unforgiving land, much of which was unknown to non-Natives. The project left a mixed legacy. Opposition politicians denounced it as "insane" and "reckless," accurately predicting that the massive spending would lead to a flood of corruption. It almost bankrupted the country and provoked the displacement of the Native peoples of the Prairies from their ancestral lands. The railroad became the spine of an empire, an imperial highway linking Britain with Asia, conveniently paid for by the Canadian public. On the other hand, the railway dream is also credited with binding together a fledgling nation with a steel ribbon. "The dream," wrote Berton, "would be the filling up of the empty spaces and the dawn of a new Canada." --Alex Roslin

Review

"Pierre Berton is a chronicler of the first order who has brought photographic clarity to the great and the corrupt, to the zealots and the dreamers associated with Canada's first great vision of linking steel threads to the nation's fabric."
Montreal Star

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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Pierre Berton is Canada's favourite historian and this book remains the definitive history of the railroad that ensured Canada would grow all the way to the Pacific coast. The National Dream is the first of two chronicles. It recounts the preparations to the actual construction work, which is covered in the second volume "The Last Spike".
We read of the political negotiations with British Columbia, which at first only wanted a wagon trail. We witness the fighting between the surveyors of different routes through the Rockies. I was surprised to discover that the greatest political difficulty was getting the railroad to go through Ontario, over the desolate granit of the Canadian shield, so that it avoid going south of the lakes, through the US. The Pacific railway had to be an all-Canadian venture. Still in politics, Berton describes the money politics of 1870's and ends by putting us in the House of Commons during the CPR debates of December 1880.
Canada today is a country stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, capping the lower 48 of the United States. At Confederation in 1867, Canada ended at the Great Lakes; west of there but not part of Canada was the Hudson's Bay Company's land, the Red River colony (today Manitoba) and British Columbia. Canadian visionaries correctly saw the railway as the only way to ensure Canada survived American expansion. The CPR was a ridiculous undertaking. Imagine a country the size of New Zealand deciding that survival meant a space program and you get the picture.
The CPR was an instance of a particularly Canadian National Policy whose purpose is to keep Canada whole. The price we had to pay then was that expensive all Canadian route.
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If you are from western Canada and only have time to read just one of Pierre Berton's outstanding contributions to Canadian history, this book is for you. It is the best history book that I've read, from ANY country's past!
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Format: Kindle Edition
An interesting side note ... much of the research done for this book was done by Norm Kelly, the Toronto Alderman who replaced Rob Ford in Toronto as the 'acting' mayor after Ford was stripped of much of his power. Mr. Kelly was given the option of either a cheque for his efforts researching the book or a portion of the royalties. Unfortunately for Kelly, he took the cheque.
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Format: Paperback
This and its companion, The National Dream are must reads for adult Canadians. Beautifully and lovingly written. No one but Pierre Berton could have told these stories.
If you are an adult Canadian, you should read this slice of our history.
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