Alan Bowker served for thirty-five years in Canada's foreign service, including as High Commissioner to Guyana. He has a PhD in Canadian history and has taught at the Royal Military College of Canada. He lives in Ottawa.

His latest book is A Church At War: MacKay Presbyterian Church, New Edinburgh, and the First World War. Described by eminent historian Tim Cook as “exceptionally researched and well written … a unique approach to understanding the impact of the war on a community in Ottawa”, this book weaves together the stories of soldiers on the battlefields of Europe with those of their families and the church, using new methods and tools of research to bring these stories to life. It is published by the University of Ottawa Press and the Canadian Museum of History in the Mercury Series.

Bowker’s 2014 book, A Time Such as There Never Was Before: Canada After the Great War, published by Dundurn Press, was described by Margaret MacMillan (Paris 1919, The War That Ended Peace) as “a richly textured picture of Canada as it emerged from the First World War. His engaging and readable account shows the great social, political and economic trends that were changing the country yet also brings out the individual voices of Canadians.” It was a finalist for the Ottawa Book Awards in 2015. He contributed the lead article "The Long 1919: Hope, Fear, and Normalcy" to the collection Canada 1919: A World Shaped by War, edited by Tim Cook and J. L. Granatstein ((UBC Press, 2020).

Bowker has also edited two collections of essays by Stephen Leacock. When the first collection, Social Criticism appeared in 1973 (it was reissued in 1996), Carl Ballstadt wrote:  "Alan Bowker has provided us with a welcome and useful selection of Leacock's writings to place beside his better known and more easily available humorous works, and in addition, has written an Introduction which examines Leacock's career as a social scientist and places his writings in a context often neglected by literary critics.” Of the second, On the Front Line of Life (2004), Professor Michiel Horn wrote: "Bowker's admirable introduction helps to interpret the autobiographical essays and to place all of the pieces in the context of their time.”

To learn more about these books, click on the titles in the box at the upper right corner of this page.

Bowker also contributed an article "A New Era of History" to Thinkers and Dreamers: Historical Essays in Honour of Carl Berger, eds. Gerald Friesen and Doug Owram (University of Toronto Press, 2011). Described by the editors as "an exhilerating journey, both in its breadth of vision and in the depth of its experience of contemporary events", the article posits that beginning about 2000 the world entered a new historical Era, in which communications technologies, scientific advances, and political, social and economic changes "fundamentally altered our perception of human nature, our world, God, and the role of the individual in society. We are appraoching a new plateau in human mental and cultural evolution. ... We can say with confidence that the Modern Era, which began five hundred years ago with the Renaiissance, is over."


Alan Bowker was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta. He received his primary and secondary education in Winnipeg, Toronto, Chatham (New Jersey), and Oakville (Ontario). In 1965 he graduated with an honours BA in Modern History (English Option) from the University of Toronto, followed by an MA in history, and a PhD in Canadian history from the same university.

After teaching high school, and university teaching as a graduate student, Bowker joined the then Department of External Affairs in 1973. He was posted to Tanzania (1975-7), and Zimbabwe (1982-5), and represented Canada in Mozambique, Seychelles, and Mauritius. He served as Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana and Ambassador to Suriname (1996-1999).

At headquarters he managed Canada-US economic, environmental, transport, and boundary issues (1978-82), and co-ordinated Canadian participation in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (today the OSCE) during the last years of the Cold War (1985-90). He managed Cabinet and Parliamentary Liaison (1990-93), and Access to Information and Privacy Protection (1993-1996).

As Director of International Academic Relations (1999-2005) he was responsible for international education policy, scholarship programs, Canadian studies abroad, education marketing, and international youth exchange programs. From 2005 until his retirement in 2008, Bowker was seconded to Royal Military College, where he taught Canadian history, military history, civics, foreign and defence policy, social history, and the history of the Cold War.

He and his wife Carolyn, also a retired public servant as well as a foreign service spouse, have travelled widely in Canada and in the world. They enjoy visits with their two daughters, their husbands, and three grandchildren. When they visited the places where the fallen men from MacKay are buried or memorialized -- those corners of foreign fields that are forever MacKay -- Carolyn took many photographs that grace A Church at War.