Canada and the origin of NATO: resolving a historiographical problematic

Adeleke (2007)

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Article

The historiography of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, has grown tremendously since the pact was signed in 1949. One notable feature of this historiography is the breadth of its range and diversity and the different perspectives that scholars have brought to bear on their works. For example, a section of the literature is devoted to the problems of alliance politics, that is, the nature of relations between the members. These works explore the cultural, economic, social, and intellectual problems within the alliance, while others explore the role of the smaller powers in the organization. Some authors are more interested in security or military matters. Others focus on the organization’s response to internal and external crises. While some authors measure the organization’s accomplishments and failures, others prognosticate on its future, especially in the light of recent changes in the international system. Then there are the many official histories produced by the organisation. In fact, the literature on NATO is so vast that it will be patently absurd to attempt to cover all of it in one review. The paper will therefore focus on one theme: Canada’s contribution to the origin of NATO. This theme has received very conflicting and contradictory treatment in the literature. Most authors who have examined NATO’s origin have restricted their account to a few chapters; others have treated the subject in conjunction with other themes in general works ranging from memoirs to national histories. Few of the authors agree on the exact nature of Canadian contribution. The lack of consensus on the origin of NATO or of Canada’s contribution has generated a historiographical problematic. The paper seeks to resolve this problematic by determining the nature and extent of Canadian contribution to the formulation of the alliance.