Canada and the United States: Ambivalent Allies


387 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-1209-8
DDC 303.48'271073




Reviewed by Olaf Uwe Janzen

Olaf Uwe Janzen is an associate professor of history at Sir Wilfred
Grenfell College at the Memorial University of Newfoundland.


This survey of the Canadian-American relationship from 1775 to 1992
presents a familiar theme with a mildly revisionist approach. The
authors claim that the congeniality and the “special” character of
the relationship has been overstressed, and take as a fundamental maxim
of international relations the position that “nations have no friends,
only interests.” They thus emphasize the one-sidedness of the
Canadian-American relationship, which accounts for general American lack
of interest in Canada (except on those occasions when Canada manages, by
design or accident, to intrude on the American consciousness) as well as
the undercurrent in Canada of fear and resentment toward the United

To develop their interpretation, the authors claim to stress the
context of American domestic and foreign policies. In truth, however,
the focus tends to be on Canada; the profound social, economic, and
political changes in the United States in its first 200 years are less
thoroughly sketched in. Notwithstanding its revisionist tone, this book
is traditional in its approach. Like most survey texts, this one is
organized chronologically and is heavily dependent on secondary
literature. This occasionally leads to the reinforcement of clichés,
rather than a revision; Canada’s contribution to the Battle of the
North Atlantic during World War II and its acquisitiveness toward
Newfoundland are both overstated. The attention given to Ottawa and
Washington is also traditional. Occasionally there are allusions to the
complexities imposed on the national governments by the federal
character of both states (e.g., Alberta’s conflict with Ottawa over
Canada’s energy policies in the 1970s and 1980s, or Jimmy Carter’s
frustration during his single-term presidency by the lack of
Congressional support for his policies). Generally, however, all
developments unfold on a national stage, and the opportunity to analyze
the capacity of individual regions, states, or provinces to affect
national policies is declined. These, however, are minor complaints. As
an undergraduate teaching text that is readable, current,
thought-provoking, and thorough, Canada and the United States:
Ambivalent Allies is excellent.


Thompson, John Herd, and Stephen J. Randall., “Canada and the United States: Ambivalent Allies,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,