The University of Toronto is Canada’s leading university and one of Canada’s most important cultural and scientific institutions. In this history of the University from its origin as King’s College in 1827 to the present, Martin Friedland brings personalities, events, and changing visions and ideas into a remarkable synthesis. His scholarly yet highly readable account presents colourful presidents, professors, and students, notable intellectual figures from Daniel Wilson to Northrop Frye and Marshall McLuhan, and dramatic turning points such as the admission of women in the 1880s, the University College fire of 1890, the discovery of insulin, involvement in the two world wars, the student protests of the 1960s, and the successful renewal of the 1980s and 1990s.
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Friedland draws on archival records, private diaries, oral interviews, and a vast body of secondary literature. He draws also on his own experience of the University as a student in the 1950s and, later, as a faculty member and dean of law who played a part in some of the critical developments he unfolds.
The history of the University of Toronto as recounted by Friedland is intimately connected with events outside the University. The transition in Canadian society, for example, from early dependence on Great Britain and fear of the United States to the present dominance of American culture and ideas is mirrored in the University. There too can be seen the effects of the two world wars, the cold war, and the Vietnam war. As Canadian society and culture have developed and changed, so too has the University. The history of the University in a sense is the history of Canada.