“Every living thing wishes to voice itself,” wrote Principal George Grant in the inaugural issue of the Queen’s Quarterly in 1893, “and why should the University keep silent?”
The Queen's Quarterly would break ground in Canada as the nation’s first academic journal, “a medium through which the best thought in Canada can find its way into every home.” It set a popular example, and other magazines like McGill University’s University Magazine (1900), the Dalhousie Review (1920) and the University of Toronto Quarterly (1931) followed the Quarterly’s lead.
This scholarly review of general interest was founded by Principal George Grant, a fierce nationalist who wanted to extend Queen's national outreach and bring scholarship to the general public. According to a Queen's Journal article of that year, it was to be "a medium through which the best thought in Canada can find its way into every home." It contains articles on politics, literature, science, and he arts, as well as poetry and fiction.
Originally a vehicle for articles by Queen's faculty, when its first issue went to press the Queen’s Quarterly featured Professor John Watson writing about the Reformation, political economist Adam Shortt presenting documents on the early history of Ontario, and scientist Nathan Dupuis praising the bicycle’s impact on civilization.
Since that time, the Queen’s Quarterly has lived up to its mandate of sharing Canadian ideas. Its circulation has always been small, but the periodical has not just connected Queen’s with its alumni, it has also served as a vehicle for putting stimulating ideas and literary prowess before the public.
Over time, the Quarterly evolved to feature more than just its traditional academic essays. In 1932 it published its first piece of fiction: “Snow” by Frederick Philip Grove, which opened the doors for more writers such as Sinclair Ross, who published many of his acclaimed collection Lamp at Noon and Other Stories in the Quarterly.
With 1959 came a new focus on poetry, and the magazine published pieces by established writers such as Irving Layton and up-and-comers such as Leonard Cohen. Editors, such as English professor and novelist Malcolm Ross in the 1950s and 1960s, have groomed its content.
Over its history, other prominent Canadian and international academics and writers who have appeared in the Quarterly include Michael Ignatieff, Mavis Gallant, Conor Cruise O'Brien, John Polanyi, Jeffery Simpson, Robert Fulford, Umberto Eco, and Mark Kingwell, Mavis Gallant, Al Purdy, Carol Shields, and Margaret Atwood.
The McGill-Queen's Press, the second largest academic press in Canada after the University of Toronto Press, was founded as McGill University Press in 1960 as the only English-language scholarly press east of Toronto. In 1969, Queen's accepted an invitation to become a partner and share costs.
The press was on the verge of financial collapse in 1980, but survived by moving faculty members into editorial positions and temporarily reducing its size. Editorial decisions are made jointly at Queen's and McGill.
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