Dr. Ian McKay is a well-known historian, researcher, professor and author who has helped shape the public’s understanding of Canadian history. A Fellow of the Royal Canadian Society of Canada, and one of the country’s most distinguished historians, Dr. McKay has a deep connection with Saint Mary’s University and the Atlantic region.
Dr. McKay began his career as a historian after completing his Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in History from Dalhousie University in 1975. His time spent in Halifax inspired him to base his honours essay on the area, entitled The Working Class of Metropolitan Halifax, 1850-1889. Dr. McKay then pursued graduate studies at the University of Coventry in England and returned to Nova Scotia to complete his PhD, finished in 1983, Work and Community in the Cumberland Coalfields, 1848-1927. He was also instrumental in the creation of the magazine New Maritimes and was an active participant in the Gorsebrook Institute at Saint Mary’s.
Dr. McKay has written four books on the history of the region—The Craft Transformed, For a Working-Class Culture in Canada, The Quest of the Folk, and In The Province of History, and has been a frequent contributor to the regional history Acadiensis. He taught for 27 years at Queen’s University and has become the L.R. Wilson Chair of Canadian History at McMaster University, where he heads the Wilson Institute for Canadian History.
As an author, Dr. McKay has won numerous awards for his works, including the Sir John A. Macdonald Prize, the pre-eminent prize awarded by the Canadian Historical Association for best book each year in Canadian history, for Reasoning Otherwise: Leftists and the People’s Enlightenment in Canada, 1890-1920.
Dr. McKay’s influence on Canadian history has been profound and long lasting. His work is highly anticipated, widely-read and frequently cited by historians and other scholars. Dr. McKay’s work is rooted in his deep knowledge of Canada’s past, his passionate critique of common-sense understanding, and substantive archival work. He is an exemplary scholar who continues to find new ways of engaging his academic colleagues and the broader community in rich debates about Canada’s past.
Saint Mary’s University is honored to bestow a Doctor of Civil Law, Honoris Causa to Dr. Ian McKay.