Historian Frank Underhill's collection of essays on Canadian history and politics, written over the course of his career, won the Governor General's Literary Award for Non-fiction in 1960. These informed, often contentious essays shine a probing light into the political tradition in Canada, from the nineteenth-century Family Compact to the government of Louis St. Laurent. Underhill's collection shows at once a remarkable consistency as well as a fascinating evolution over time. Underhill was a leading historian and activist for many decades. He taught history and politics at the University of Saskatchewan from 1914 to 1927, becoming an early founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the forerunner of the NDP), drafting the Regina Manifesto. He was drawn to socialism as a form of democratic idealism, following the ideal of empowering the people in the face of entrenched interests. In 1927 he began teaching history at the University of Toronto. Underhill became part of the drive for a national culture that would match Canada's economic and constitutional development, including the growth of such new groups as the Canadian Historical Association, the Canadian Authors' Association, and publications like the Canadian Forum. Aligned with the Confederation poets and the Group of Seven, Underhill was unsentimental, anti-romantic, and keen to break with what was seen by many younger intellectuals as the dead hand of tradition. Later he would move to the political centre, but never ceding his role as critic, and ever in search of a politics of ideas and radical energy. No surprise that his outspoken views often brought Underhill into conflict with various forms of the establishment, even at times from the political left. Underhill's essays are in the tradition of Michel de Montainge, Samuel Johnson, and Edmund Burke, employing a personal voice and relative informality, as well as an open-ended, witty, and free-flowing style, unlike the quasi-scientific detachment of the academic essay. He can be sardonic, ironic, even cynical. Carl Berger found that Underhill can be driven to "extravagant ridicule by the very momentum of his rhetoric," but Underhill's ability to synthesize ideas from the past to effect change in the present is unparalleled and pushed Canadian history and politics towards greater dynamism. This witty and absorbing collection moves with a vigorous pace through the past and present of Canadian politics, a fresh breath of vitality that would open new doors in our national consciousness.