Socialism in early twentieth-century Canada has attracted a lot of attention from historians in recent years. One somewhat shadowy figure has always stood out in those studies— E. T. Kingsley, the leading voice of a particularly hard-nosed brand of Marxism centered in British Columbia that was dubbed “impossibilism.” Ravi Malhotra and Ben Isitt have undertaken to shed some long-overdue light on the life of that little-known charismatic radical.

Unfortunately for the authors, Kingsley left behind no papers and rarely wrote anything about his personal life. So his story had to be reconstructed from scattered references in the public record and a few reminiscences by friends and associates. Several research assistants across North America helped them piece together the main contours of his public life, but his motivations often remained elusive. Despite their efforts, this portrait doesn't bring us much closer to the inner life of the man. The public side...

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