Canute the Great 995 (circ.)-1035 and the rise of Danish imperialism during the viking age - George F. G. Stanley

George F. G. Stanley


George F.G. Stanley (1907-2002)

George Francis Gillman Stanley was born in July of 1907, to Della Lilly White and John Henry Stanley in Calgary, Alberta; he was an only child.

When George was a child, he dreamed of being a soldier, which led him to join the cadets from grades five to eleven. After he graduated grade school in 1925, he attended the University of Alberta.

Although George’s parents wanted him to pursue a career in law, he decided to pursue a career in history. The article he wrote in Swords and Ploughshares: War and Agriculture in Western Canada he described why he became a historian:

“I did not become a historian because it was in my blood, or more correctly, in my genes. I became a historian because I was brought up in surroundings that stimulated an interest in history during my formative years.” (pg. 3)

George graduated from the University of Alberta in 1929, with an honours degree in history. Shortly after receiving his Bachelor’s degree, George attended Keble College, Oxford on the Cecil Rhodes Scholarship. He received a BA from there in 1931 and received his Bachelor of Letters (B.Litt), and Master of Letters (M.Litt); he then finished his education by obtaining his doctorate in 1935. Stanley’s post-graduate work focused on Louis Riel.

UPEI's Provenance copy of the book Canute the Great 995 (circ)-1035: And the Rise of Danish Imperialism During the Viking Age, by Laurence Marcellus Larson includes George's signature with the date Oct 22/29 and the hand-written location of Keble Oxon. This was the autumn that he first attended Keble College. The book also includes George Francis Gillman Stanley's Ex Libris bookplate with shield and Latin motto Sans Changer.

George returned to Canada in 1936 and became a professor at Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick. He remained there until 1940, then he went to serve in World War II fulfilling his childhood dreams of becoming a soldier. He retired from the war in 1946, as a deputy director of the historical section.

In 1946, George married Ruth L. Hill, a lawyer from Montreal. They had three children: Della M.M., Marietta R.E., and Laurie C.C. Both Laurie and Della followed in their father’s footsteps and became professors of history.

In 1947, George was appointed as the chair of Canadian History at the University of British Columbia from 1947-1949.

In 1949, he was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in Ottawa. While he was here, he was responsible for researching how the government interacts and forms policy with and about Native Canadians. While George was conducting his research, he became the head of the history department at the Royal Military College. He would stay there for twenty years; George would also become the Dean of Arts during his time at RMC.

In 1950, George became a member of the Royal Society of Canada and was awarded the Tyrrell Medal in 1957 for history.

In 1964, George petitioned the government for the creation of a new Canadian flag. He explained that it needed to exclude symbols that were divisive and that the flag needed to be something that all Canadians could be proud of, not just a singular group. His flag design was officially adopted on 15 February 1965.

Canada Flag

Canada Flag designed by George F. G. Stanley

The idea of removing the Union Jack from the flag was met with mixed reactions, “Stanley once told reporters he was called a traitor for suggesting the designs of the Canadian emblem to replace the British Red Ensign and the Union Jack” (The Daily Gleaner, 2002). Not all were in disagreement though, when he accepted his honorary degree from Laval “he was loudly applauded by the student body when the Canadian flag was referred to in his citation. The applause interrupted the citation” (Matheson, 1980).

In 1969, George returned to teaching at Mount Allison, where he became the Director of Canadian Studies. He retired from teaching in 1975, but his career and accomplishments were far from over.

In 1976, he was awarded with the Order of Canada and in 1994, he was promoted to Companion of the Order.

From 1982 until 1987, George was appointed as the lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick, and from 1982 until 1992, he was also the Honorary Colonel of the Royal New Brunswick Regiment.

During his lifetime, George wrote and published several books on Canadian History. Including, The Birth of Western Canada, Canada’s Soldiers, and Louis Riel (a definitive biography). His publications and research tended to go against the norm of what historians were researching at the time, typically taking controversial stances. George’s belief was “if we don’t preserve and understand Canadian history, we really can’t discover our own identity” (The Daily Gleaner, 2002).

He also received twelve honorary degrees, including one from Saint Dunstan’s University.

In 1992, George received the Canadian Forces Decoration, making him the oldest Canadian to receive this distinguished honor.

George and Ruth retired in Sackville, NB at their home, Frosty Hollow.

On 13 September 2002, George Francis Gillman Stanley passed away at the age of 95. The majority of his book collection and the works are housed in the University of Calgary’s library, alongside a bronze bust of Dr. George Stanley.

Other books in the UPEI Provenance Collection:

Dalberg-Acton, John Emerich Edward. Lectures on the French Revolution. London: Macmillan and Co., 1920. [Bookplate with This Book Belongs To and then, handwritten, Keble College Oxford; also the signature of George F. G. Stanley U of A in purple ink].

Gardiner, Samuel R. History of the Great Civil War (1642-1649). London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1898-1901. Volumes 1-4. [George Francis Gillman Stanley bookplate in all four volumes.]

Greville, Charles C.F. The Greville Memoirs. A Journal of the Reign of Queen Victoria from 1837-1852. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1885. Volumes 1-3. [George Francis Gillman Stanley bookplate in all four volumes. Also Volumes 2,3 include the bookplate of Bagnell, Bicester on the back cover.]


1916 Census of Canada. Census Place: Alberta, Calgary West, 01E; Roll: T-21949; Page: 19; Family No: 211.

1921 Census of Canada. Reference Number: RG 31; Folder Number: 4; Census Place: City of Calgary (Part), Calgary West, Alberta; Page Number: 8.

Hillmer, Norman. “George Francis Gillman Stanley.” The Canadian Encyclopedia: 16 January 2008. Accessed on 17 August 2016.

Macleod, R. C. Swords and Ploughshares: War and Agriculture in Western Canada. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1993. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), accessed on August 17, 2016, through UPEI's Robertson Library's ebook collection. [Access on campus only for non-UPEI users.]

McLaughlin, Heather. “Stanley ‘challenged each of us'.” The Daily Gleaner 14 September, 2002, pg. A3. Accessed through UPEI's Robertson Library's database subscription Eureka on 17 August 2016. [Access on campus only for non-UPEI users.]

Stanley-Blackwell, Laurie C.C. “Biography.” Col. the Hon. George F.G. Stanley (1907-2002). Accessed on 17 August 2016.

Steele, Apollonia. “The Dr. George F.G. Stanley Book Collection.” University of Calgary Archives and Special Collections. Accessed through The Dr. George F.G. Stanley Book Collection on 17 August 2016.


Photo from St. Francis Xavier University website.

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