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Harold Innis
What did he try to do? What type of legacy did he leave behind? Why we tend to follow his
approach to understanding ECO history rather then others.
What are the strengths and advantages?
Harold Innis—His background, his method and the way we approach ECO history using his ideas.
College was named after Innis—why was he so interesting & important. First thing to say about any
author or any system of thought, is that it is usually a child of the time. Anybody who writes whatever
they write and use theoretical ideas. Grows out of a certain climate element of challenge and so in that
since every new set of ideas comes from an existing…and every set of ideas will be challenged eventually,
so it is a moving or growth of ideas.
Innis was born in a small town…just outside of Toronto. Grew up in a very religious household. He was
Baptist and went to a Baptist school. Later in life he distanced himself from
He had a wide range of interest, he came with this promising idea, that what affects the modern world is
the methods of communication. He didnt live to see television because he did in 1952, but he would have
said, TV, email, Iphone and all of that, shapes and reshapes modern day in a distinct way.
As a result of Innis work, other theoriest
Marshal McClewan—said the median is the message”. He said those who do well on TV are
quite another words those who do well on TV are the ones who are low key. Whereas , the Radio, your
voice comes out with a punch”, this kind of shrill.
As far as Canada was concerned, Alberta in the 1930s, had radio for the first time, and a preacher
every Sunday morning at 10am came on, he was Bible Will Abrahart. Canada was in the middle of a
depression. Through the Power from the new Radio to which everyone listened, he became popular. It was
a median for a shrill penetrating message. People said to him, well stop preaching so much for God
because nobody has a job. He saw people needed welfare, jobs, clothing & etc. so he went into politics.
One season, he was so popular; he was elected as Premier of Alberta. His name is William Abrahart and
is referred to as Bible Will. MaClewan would have said, this is an example of how a certain kind of
message—Radio, delivereds a popular politician, with a great deal of power and a great deal of
Back to Harold Innis:

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Coming back to the Notion—People are a product of the time in which they grow up. Imagine that
Toronto of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, the way people grew up. It is a completely different place from the
Toronto today. Toronto of the 1930s was 110% British. People who had money, the men had their suits
made in London, the ladies had dresses made in London. If there was a concert of music, it was a British
singer that was passing through the colonies. If there was an orchestra it would be a British orchestra. If
People studied literature, it would be Shakespeare, Bilon and George Barnard Shaw and etc. This was the
atmosphere. The academics who were highly appreciated were those who got their BA at Oxford or
Cambridge the British schools. Then they got jobs here. Canadians did the same, even if they graduated
from the UofT they went to Oxford or Cambridge and then came back here with a British ascent. That was
what Toronto was about.
King Billy, was the representative for William Orange, who had come from Holand to run the There was
a young man on a white horse representing the conqueror. They stopped it after a while because the
parade gave a message. The message was from the Irish predestines to the Irish Catholics in your face,
we want you to remember that you lost and we won”. The Battle was in Ireland and they seemed to
continued it ever since and even revived recently. This is to give you a notion that, this was a British
colony in the real sense—culturally, politically and in terms of the ceremonies and one of the ceremonies
that carried through that we all enjoy today is Victoria Day. Victoria Day is the day the British Queen was
born. She rode close to 100 yrs, until about 1902, during which the British Empire grew all over the world.
In schools kids would say the Lords prayer then salute to the British Flag and state—“One King, one
Empire, one God”. Meaning that the British Empire was the main thing. The students were told that the
Sun never sets on the British Empire”, that means, any time during a 24 hour period, some British colony
is enjoying day light, so any time during a 24 hour period wheather it is in India, Canada, British Guyana,
South America and etc. there is always sun. So you can imagine the cultural influence, spilled over as well
into Economics and Economics History. So when you went after graduation to Oxford or Cambridge
University and your professors have gone to the same universities. You talked the way you were thought.
What did that mean? For instance there were the teachings of this English schools in Economics was
using for instance Adam Smith. The name of the game was that if you let everyone do their own thing
they will make money; if they do a good job…customers will get what they want. Things will be
prosperous. Another words, everybody wins approach. The economy will deliver what people want and
the people will be paid the value for their input into the product and the wealth generates and everybody
will get rich. So to boil it down to the very simple basic Micro Economics. So if you are studying
Economics: 1. Everything gone through buying or selling. 2. If youre going to buy or sell, you have to
have a group that wants to buy things and is willing to pay for it at different prices and everybody knows
what that is. Demand & Supply curve & Equilibrium. When we know the Equilibrium, you know how
much everything costs, which is the price and you know how much is sold-Quantity.
For a man like Harold Innis, this Supply and Demand curve did not tell him about Canada in particular.
This theme is suppose to be universal. It applies in Paris, South Africa, Estonia, British Colombia. Its
Supply and Demand and there is commercial activities and whats important is Price and Quantity. Innis
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