Class 5 – Canadian Economic History
October 12th 2010
Maritimes means New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island.
To follow the Innis approach you have to follow the
1. Ecology, is it hilly? Mountainous? Is it tropical? A lot of rainfall? It has a been effect on the
economy. Begin with the natural factors. The economy gets an address. The other factors, prairies,
mines, weather… surprising we have managed so neatly to avoid that.
2. Look at the technology, like beaver traps and bows and arrows or mine drills and oil derricks.
Technological diffusion is a slow process as it moves from one culture to another. Who have what
3. Institutions. It does not mean buildings. It means peoples their patterns of behavior. What they
think is important. What is taboo? Kinds of values.
You want to see how the staple led to further settlement and civilization. Track ecology, technology and
look at the institutions.
Their were stories as early as 1300s that there were vast fisheries across the Atlantic. Some people new
about it. People in northern France and the Basques in Spain had fished from the early days. They sent
boats over and found rich fisheries. But they didn’t tell everyone else about it because they will spoil it. So
their aren’t any documents or proof that people came over. We know the Vikings came over the 1200s but
they came to settle in Vinland. But they never proved where it was but we believe it was in northern
Newfoundland and we have found evidence of that. They weren’t interested in the fish. They were
interested in robbing and conquering.
The first person was the Basque and they kept their mouths shut. But the word got out. More and more
people sent vessels. Boats from England, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal. It was an international economy.
There were stories of how rich those fishing grounds were. They were mainly cod. The reports were that if
you simply lowered a wicker basket you could get buckets full of fish.
Why was it the richest fishing ground in the world? The fish were on a plateau 1200 feet below the
surface. The continental shelf that had sunk, it was previously above the surface. For good cod fish
to breed you need the right temperature. In that area you had two currents from Labrador and one
form Mexico and when the two currents met the temperature was ideal to hatch the cod eggs. 40-50
The salinity of the ocean is also important. The average female cod fish produces 3 million eggs.
They simply leave it on the top of the water and let it hatch. The eggs have to float and salt allows
things to float. The salinity was just right for these eggs to float. They float in the daylight, sunshine.
As soon as the eggs hatch, the eggs are on their own. Because of the continental shelf there is a green
plant, plankton that rises to the surface and the cod fish are able to feed on it. Excellent
combination was all by chance.
All of this explains the abundance of fish in the area. Plain lucky.