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The Diaries of Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada

Political and Social History From a Canadian Prime Minister

By

Mackenzie King in His Office at Laurier House

Mackenzie King at Laurier House

Hands Studio / Library and Archives Canada / C-009063

Mackenzie King Diaries

William Lyon Mackenzie King, the best-educated and longest-serving Prime Minister of Canada, left a legacy like no other - 30,000 pages of his personal diaries. Mackenzie King kept a daily journal from 1893, when he was an 18-year-old student at the University of Toronto, until just a few days before he died in 1950. For more than 20 of those years Mackenzie King was Prime Minister of Canada, and his diaries provide a valuable first-hand political and social history of Canada during those times.

Mackenzie King used his diaries as a course in self-improvement, as a record of events, and as a "real companion and friend" as he said in his diary in 1902.

Making the King Diaries Public

In his will, Mackenzie King asked that his diaries be destroyed, except for the parts that he had indicated should be published or used. His literary executors found that he had never indicated which parts of the diaries he wanted made public. The diaries gradually went from private documents into public documents and by 1980 all of the diaries were open and they had been published on microfiche.

Search the Mackenzie King Diaries Online

Public access to the diaries was still limited because they were massive, difficult to read on microfiche, and had no index. That has now changed. Library and Archives Canada has digitized the King diaries and put about 50,000 pages in a database on the Web at The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King. You can browse through the diaries by date, or search by word, keyword and date.

An online exhibition called "A Real Companion and Friend: The Diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 1893-1950" provides an excellent companion piece to the database. The Web site introduces the life and politics of Mackenzie King, and provides background and context for readers new to the King diaries. A few of the topics explored are:

  • Mackenzie King and the Liberal Party
  • Mackenzie King and Spiritualism
  • Mackenzie King and World War II

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