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King on the campaign trail, 1926


King on the campaign trail, 1926

A Real Companion and Friend:
The diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King

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Increasingly, William Lyon Mackenzie King is viewed as one of Canada's greatest Prime Ministers. However, King's accomplishments are not restricted to the realm of politics. Throughout his entire adult life, King was a dedicated - one might even say driven - writer. Although King was an exceedingly prolific correspondent and the author of numerous books and articles, by far his most important literary project was the ongoing, daily writing of his diary, which began in 1893, while he was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, and ended in 1950, a few days before his death at his beloved Kingsmere Estate. Taken together, the diary texts comprise nearly 30,000 pages (more than 7,500,000 words) and arguably represent one of Canada's greatest literary achievements. According to the noted critic Robert Fulford, King's diary "might turn out to be the only Canadian work of our century that someone will look at in 500 years."

A Real Companion and Friend: The Diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 1893-1950 website serves to introduce King's extensive diary to contemporary readers. This background section of the website is intended to serve as an introduction, exploring these remarkable texts, both as revealing personal narratives and as an invaluable record of Canada's political and social history during six formative and crucial decades. Furthermore, it examines the little-known history of the diary as an archival document, including the decision to save the texts for posterity (contrary to King's stated wishes).

Now that this Canadian archival treasure has been made available in its entirety on the internet, countless readers around the world will be privy to the private thoughts and observations that Mackenzie King religiously confided to his diary. Here one encounters not only the compelling account of a single  -  and singular  -  life, but also the story of Canada in the first half of the twentieth century, and its difficult voyage to nationhood, much of it under the guidance of King's conflicted but canny leadership.

Library and Archives Canada would like to acknowledge the financial assistance of our major partner the Millennium Bureau of Canada, and of the Department of Canadian Heritage, whose ARCHIVED - Canadian Cultural Online Program (CCOP) made this work possible.