Richard J. Gwyn has won the $10,000 J.W. Dafoe Book Prize for Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times published by Random House Canada.

The political journalist was named winner on Wednesday of the award for the best book on Canada, Canadians, and/or Canada's place in the world.


Richard Gwyn has won the J.W. Dafoe prize for the second volume in his John A. Macdonald biography series. (CBC)

It is the second volume of Gwyn's biography of Canada's first prime minister and follows his life after Confederation.

Gwyn said he set out to re-examine John A Macdonald because he is the "most interesting, multilayered, complex and contradictory" of Canada's prime ministers.

"Breathing life into John A. Macdonald is no problem. He was himself full of life — he was a life force. Nothing ever discouraged him," he told CBC News last year, when the book was named as a finalist for the Hilary Weston Prize for non-fiction.   

The book was also a contender for the Governor General's Literary Award and the Charles Taylor Prize.

In making its selection, the J.W. Dafoe jury praised the literary style and wide accessibility of Nation Maker.

"This new portrait of Canada's first Prime Minister is grounded in extensive research, and offers fresh perspectives on both the formation of the Canadian federation and the central political figure at its creation," the jury said in its citation.

Gwyn's work was selected from 47 submissions and a short list of five books.

The prize will be formally awarded at the J.W. Dafoe Foundation's Annual General Meeting on May 14 in Winnipeg.

The prize is named for John Wesley Dafoe, editor of the Manitoba Free Press — later renamed the Winnipeg Free Press — from 1901 to 1944.