Sam Hughes: The Public Career of a Controversial Canadian, 1885-1916

by Ronald G. Haycock

Book cover for Sam Hughes: The Public Career of a Controversial Canadian, 1885-1916

This book is based on the public career of a highly controversial Canadian, Sam Hughes 1885–1916. He is one of the most colourful, even bizarre, figures in Canadian history.

Though he died in 1921, his name can still conjure up controversy and not a little misunderstanding. His long career—in so many respects the quintessential story of a poor backwoods Ontario farm boy who made good by his own efforts—continues to exert a fascination that few other Canadian political figures could duplicate.

Even though there has never been a major scholarly study of Sam Hughes, historians and other writers have developed definite opinions about him, and they are held nearly as vigorously as those of his contemporaries. These vary from insisting that Hughes was mentally unbalanced to proclaiming him a genius. Hughes’ defenders have rarely been professional historians. Neither side have not produced an extensive or definitive literature on Hughes in proportion to other figures of a similar public stature.

Whatever side the studies have taken, the assessments are still incomplete because they have not examined the entirety of Sam Hughes’ public life. To a large extent these limitations have allowed the folk image of him to persist. But Hughes had fibre and substance beyond this. Since historical figures must be explained in terms of their environment, this study tries to redress the previous imbalances by examining Hughes’ public career. It is the only way his historical significance can be explained and reasonable judgments made.

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