image of the book cover of Happyland: A History of the “Dirty Thirties” in Saskatchewan, 1914-1937

Happyland: A History of the "Dirty Thirties" in Saskatchewan, 1914-1937

Curtis McManus

$34.95 CAD / $41.95 USD (S)

336 pages, 35 images

6 x 9 inches

Hardback: 1552385248

Paperback: 978-1-55238-524-1

Library PDF: 978-1-55238-525-8

June 2011

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Living, breathing prose and sound scholarship are intertwined in this account of the agricultural crises commonly known as the “dirty thirties,” a quarter-century of absurdity, despair, dislocation, and stubborn persistence.

The “Dirty Thirties” is the sobriquet commonly applied to the agricultural crisis in the drylands of southern Saskatchewan in Canada that coincided with the Great Depression, and it is generally assumed that prior to this period healthier, normal conditions prevailed.

In Happyland, Curtis McManus contends that the “Dirty Thirties” actually began much earlier and were connected only peripherally to the Depression itself. McManus has mined the rarely consulted records of Rural Municipalities in Saskatchewan, as well as government documents, ministerial correspondence, local community histories, newspapers, and publications of relevant government departments, to tell a story of a quarter-century of stubborn persistence but also of absurdity, despair, social dislocation, moral corrosion, and inconsistent and often inept government policy.

Thanks to McManuss rare and welcome blend of sound scholarship and living breathing prose, it is a gripping and evocative story as well.

About the Author

Curtis McManus is a writer and historian. He teaches history at Lakeland College in Lloydminster, Alberta.

Prasie for Happyland

Happyland is written with verve and confidence. McManus is deeply engaged with the subject and his enthusiasm is contagious . . . Happyland tells a story that needs to be told, a great human tragedy that we have not yet fully fathomed.

—James M. Pitsula, Literary Review of Canada 

Happyland is a joy to read.

—Margaret DH, GoodReads

McManus makes effective use of the records of ten (of the ninety) rural municipalities in this region, as well as local newspapers and community history books, to document the economic, social, and psychological consequences of the recurring droughts

—J. William Brennan, The Canadian Historical Review

Table of Contents

Introduction: Oblivion
1. The Descent
2. “In the Thrill Zone of the Onrushing Calamity”
Photos: Before the “Dirty Thirties”
Interlude: A Collection of Absurdities
3. Hard Time
4. Exodus
Photos: During the “Dirty Thirties”
Interlude: Public Health
5. The Wreck of ’37
Conclusion: Oblivion (redux)

Population Losses: An Overview
Losses of “Resident Farmers”
Population Losses, Central and South–East
Population Increases: An Overview
Tax Arrears and Tax Sale Holdings
Municipal Relief Debt and Provincial Seed/Relief Loans


WINNER, Saskatchewan Book Award for Nonfiction | 2012

SHORTLISTED, Saskatchewan Book Award for Scholarly Writing | 2012

SHORTLISTED, Saskatchewan Book Award for First Book | 2012

SHORTLISTED, Saskatchewan Book Award - Book of the Year | 2012