The Carleton Library Series is the most enduring and significant initiative taken in the history of Canadian publishing where the editing, reprinting, and dissemination of documents important to the history of Canada is concerned. Initiated in the 1950s  by Carleton University professor of English, R.L. McDougall, and a number of colleagues in disciplines cognate to English Language and Literature, the Series was intended to be a non-fiction counterpart to the New Canadian Library, a series dedicated to re-publication of classic works of Canadian literature in poetry and prose, begun by literary scholar Malcolm Ross. Like the NCL, the Carleton Library Series was first published by McClelland and Stewart, with the first title appearing in 1963. Over the next forty-seven years, well over 200 titles have appeared on a wide variety of subjects related to Canada’s past.

The early 1960s was a time when many university libraries remained closed to undergraduate students.  With the appearance of Carleton Library Series volumes, for the first time important primary source documents became widely available, and in an affordable pocketbook-sized paperback format. For decades, Canadian university students, undergraduate and graduate alike, bought these volumes, and many tutorial and seminar discussions came to be generated by them at Canadian universities.  The reprinted documents also facilitated the study of Canada at universities in the United States and abroad.

Volume #1 in the Series, released in 1963, was Lord Durham’s Report; among other early titles were a selection from the Jesuit Relations and Documents on the Confederation of Canada, edited by S.R. Mealing and G.P. Browne, both Carleton historians. Each year, more such volumes on cornerstones of Canada’s past appeared, edited and introduced by historians from across the country under the direction of an editorial board consisting of Carleton University professors in English, History, Geography, Canadian Studies, and other disciplines.

The Carleton Library Series also helped keep key scholarly works of major historical interest in print. Among these are George Grant’s controversial work Lament for a Nation, and Peter C. Newman’s equally controversial critique of the Pearson era, The Distemper of Our Times. The CLS published the major Canadian historian W.L. Morton’s collected essays, Contexts of Canada’s Past, and a collection of writings on Ontario political culture by  S.F. Wise, a distinguished historian of Upper Canada and long-time Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at Carleton.

The Morton, Wise, and other volumes of the first half dozen years of the 1990s appeared under the auspices of Carleton University Press, as did other volumes in the series during the decade. This further cemented the linkage in the public mind between the Carleton Library Series and Carleton University itself. It is not too much to say that for several decades in the twentieth century, the Carleton Library Series was the scholarly initiative most associated with the University.

With the demise of Carleton University Press, McGill-Queen’s University Press became the publisher of the Series. Working with McGill-Queen’s, the CLS editorial board has continued to re-publish volumes of historical significance and to publish new monographs that hold promise of becoming authoritative in their field. One such work is L. B. Kuffert’s book, A Great Duty; Canadian Responses to Modern Life and Mass Culture, 1939-1967. The board has also ensured that works of historical scholarship of enduring interest continue to remain available to the reading public and high school and university students. Among the more noteworthy and recent of these volumes are H.V. Nelles’s study of resource development in Ontario, The Politics of Development; Suzanne Zeller’s study of the impact of nineteenth-century inventory sciences, The Invention of Canada; Susan Mann’s survey of modern Quebec, The Dream of Nation; economist Kari Levitt’s study of foreign ownership, Silent Surrender, and Quebec historian Gerard Bouchard’s magisterial prize-winning book, The Making of the Nations and Culture of the New World.

Over the past decade, the Carleton Library Series has broadened the scope of the series to include works important to the history of the social sciences in Canada – such as economics, law, cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, and public policy. (The present editorial board reflects this shift.) The Series has reintroduced a new generation of readers to economist Harry Johnson’s influential work, The Canadian Quandary; the writings of political economist Mel Watkins, Staples and Beyond; and economist A.E. Safarian’s classic account, The Canadian Economy in the Great Depression. Each work contained a new and original introduction for a new generation. Similarly, the CLS published for the first time Canada and the Cost of World War II, the recollections of legendary public servant, Robert Bryce. The volume was edited by Carleton University historian Matthew J. Bellamy, winner of the National Business Book Award. Also republished were Bruce Trigger’s classic work of historical anthropology, The Children of Aataentsic, Richard J. Preston’s aboriginal history, Cree Nation, and Robin W. Winks’seminal work, The Blacks in Canada.

The Carleton Library Series remains unmatched by any other publishing venture in Canada dedicated to making historical documents available. For almost a half century it has afforded Carleton University publicity and enhances its prestige each time a title in the series appears bearing the “Carleton Library Series” designation. The Series was conceived before Carleton University existed on its present campus and it has come to be the University’s most enduring legacy of scholarly achievement. It will continue to do so.