The Technological Imperative in Canada: An Intellectual History.


342 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-7748-1651-9
DDC 601





Reviewed by Jeffrey Moon

Jeff Moon is head of the Maps, Data, and Government Information Centre
at Queen’s University.


The Technological Imperative in Canada – An Intellectual History traces the role of technology in Canadian society. Drawing upon Canadian and international writers, R. Douglas Francis successfully distills and presents a vast body of thought and theory. Francis looks at the transformative effects of everything from the railroad to radio, and from the industrial revolution to computers.

The parallels over time are fascinating. Take, for instance: “Here is an enormous, an incalculable force practically let loose suddenly upon mankind; exercising all sorts of influences, social, moral, and political…the most tremendous and far-reaching engine of social change which has ever either blessed or cursed mankind.” One could be forgiven for thinking this is a passionate commentary on the Internet, but in fact, Charles Francis Adams wrote this in 1868 regarding the impact of railways on society.

This example only emphasizes the importance of taking the long view when scrutinizing technology and society. To achieve this, the author frames his discussion around the works of a wide range of notable technological thinkers, past and present. Historical authors include Alexander Graham Bell, Marshall McLuhan, and Harold Innis. Less obvious perhaps are authors such as William Lyon Mackenzie King and Stephen Leacock. More contemporary authors include Heather Menzies and Ursula M. Franklin.

Francis synthesizes these varied points of view into a highly readable and insightful work. The narrative in this book is distinctly Canadian, with reference to American and international influences as needed. Thorough chapter notes and a bibliography are provided, along with a detailed six-page index. This book enriches and expands the debate surrounding the historical role of technology in Canada and its contributions to our place in the modern world.


Francis, R. Douglas., “The Technological Imperative in Canada: An Intellectual History.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,