I am the host of the Canadian history podcast, 1867 & all that and a professor of Canadian history at Trent University. I have also taught at John F Kennedy Institute for North American Studies in Berlin and at the University of London's Institute for the Study of the Americas.
My most recent book, Unbuttoned: A History of Mackenzie King's Secret Life tells the story of how Canadians got access to this prime minister's secret diary in the 1970s and what it says about Canada's political culture that they let themselves look with such glee. It was a finalist for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize (2018), the J W Dafoe Prize (2018) and the Canada Prize (2018).
Coming soon (spring 2020) is a new co-edited book, No Place for the State: The Omnibus Bill and the Bedrooms of the Nation.
No prime minister's private life has been more exposed than that of Mackenzie King. By the 1970s Weird Willie King had become known as the prime minister who cavorted with prostitutes and communed with ghosts.
With Unbuttoned I delve into the archives to find out why King's diary was released to the public even though his final will seemed to order it destroyed. Along the way I discover stories about a thief in the public archives, stolen copies of King’s diary being sold on the black market, and an RCMP hunt for a missing volume of King's diary linked to Russian spies infiltrating the highest levels of the Canadian government.
I also discover, though, that the most important story of King's secret life has nothing to do with King himself. It is about the Canadians who went looking for his secrets and how they transformed the way we think about what a politician should be.
Unbuttoned is a masterpiece of sophisticated storytelling revealing a broader narrative about the momentous changes in Canadian political culture that occurred over the course of the 20th century.
Jury Citation, Shaughnessy Cohen Prize
... a roller-coaster ride that follows King from peak to valley and back to peak again, when prurient interest is finally exhausted by over-exposure and the realization that his foibles, by today’s standards, were not so weird after all.
Winnipeg Free Press
Dummitt has done more than indulge any voyeuristic tendencies in this lively book. Instead of asking what light King’s weirdness throws on Canada, he explores what Canadian reactions to the King story say about our expectations of political leaders. In other words, this is not just about King; it is about us. And although Dummitt is also making a sophisticated argument about the importance of narrative history, he has done it with punchy elegance rather than impenetrable jargon.... Unbuttoned deserves a broad audience.
Charlotte Gray, Literary Review of Canada
Get in touch with me for more information about my previous publications and upcoming releases.