About the Masseys

The 2015 CBC Massey Lectures are presented by the great Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan.

In In History's People: Personalities Past and Present, Margaret MacMillan explores some of the people - good and bad, dreamers, explorers and adventurers - who have shaped their times and ours. One historian's view of the people of the past who have intrigued, horrified or engaged her.
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The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has commissioned the annual Massey Lectures since 1961 by the vice-president and general manager of English networks, H.G. Walker. "Each year," he said in announcing the series, "the CBC will invite a noted scholar to undertake study or original research in his field and present the results in a series of half-hour radio broadcasts." He added that he hoped the lectures would "make significant contributions to public awareness and understanding and ... further development of the art of broadcasting."

The lectures were named for Vincent Massey, who had recently completed a seven-year term as Governor General of Canada. Massey is notable as the first Canadian to hold the post, but it was work he did before becoming Governor General that inspired the CBC to name the new lecture series after him. 

montageIn 1949, Vincent Massey was appointed by the government of Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent to head a royal commission mandated to carry out a sweeping study of "the entire field of letters, the arts and sciences within the jurisdiction of the federal state." Grandly named the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, it came to be known more simply as the "Massey Commission." Its scope included science, literature, the arts, music, drama, film and broadcasting. The Commission held hearings across the country. It listened to testimony from more than a thousand witnesses and received 462 written submissions. It took two years to do its work and issued its final report in 1951.

Today, the CBC Massey Lectures are the product of a collaboration of three partners, CBC Radio, the House of Anansi Press, and Massey College at the University of Toronto.  Each fall the lectures are delivered on university campuses in five cities across Canada.  The lectures are published by House of Anansi Press. The CBC Massey Lectures have established their place as a Canadian institution and an annual highlight of our national intellectual life.

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