Class 6 – Canadian Economic History
October 19th 2010
The Americans have a rich history of story themselves. The first coming, the blue bloods or puritans were
the aristocrats. The Erie canal was a big story. Washington with framers against the British army was a big
story. Abe Lincoln, story of the civil war, freeing the slaves. The Erie Canal, one of the builders had his
head blown off. Each narrative puts a shining light on who we are. The pursuit of life liberty… ant the
idealization of cowboys depicted in movies. Cowboys are part of their literary legacy.
In Canada we are more modest. Two main narratives. First is the early fur trade who came mostly British
with the early fur trade explored Canada and met natives. Showing them mirrors, guns and iron pots.
There were 250,000 natives in Canada when the Europeans first arrived. The natives really liked iron pots.
Different kinds of clothes were also brought that female natives also liked. Natives used furs as blankets,
part of tents… The natives did trade often when they met politically. The Huron Indians had known
agriculture and traded corn. Other Indians traded jackets and so forth. How the trade operated is the main
part of the fur trade story. For many decades the fur trade was a romantic story of early life in Canada.
Restless farmers from quebed would paddle into the interior with European goods would trade with the
natives. They would travel were no white men had ever gone before. They would paddle into the sunset
singing quebec songs.
The unintended effects of persuiting the fur trade where no white men had been, people didn’t know what
to expect. The British Crown said that the Hudsons bay had exlcusive jurisdiction over the fur trade west
of the… that is most of Canada and they discovered most of Canada on their journey. They would
establish fur trade posts close to native travelling routes. At these small forts, they kept European goos to
trade. They had over 400 trade posts in Canada. They were wooden log buildings. Many of these fur
trades became important Canadian cities including Toronto. Winnipeg, Calgary, Regina, Victoria,
Vancouver. Many were startedby the Hudsons bay. After trading with white men stopped, they grew into
the cities today. It depended if the posts were at a strategic location. Read Innis conclusion to his book.
Innis claimed that the way the fur trade was organized was it tended to monopoly. Competition didn’t
work and it hasn’t worked in Canada since that time. The distance is enormous, thousands of miles. The
amount of businss is not great. The overhead costs are not very high. Moving the furs back again is high.
Instead of having two companies move furs thousands of miles across the country is too high so there was
a tendendcy towards centralized organization. While the Americans prized themselves competition, with
anti trust laws preventing mergers, they were forbidden. In Canada, we cant support so much competition
because of the overhead. Innis said monopoly is a legacy in Canadian history. Most American banks are
individualized. While in Canada we only have 6 major banks. With the big distances and the high
overhead costs, merging makes more sense.
The story of the fur trade has captured our imagination. If you are a clerk sitting in the 50th floor in the
Toronto dominion banks, if you are processing invoics, your mind may wonder to a time when young men
were wondering around the country finding new Indians. Were the inidans businessmen? Were they
interested in making profits? We are lucky in Canada to have a record amounts of documents and papers.
The Hudson’s bay company. Untill 1870, the Hudsons Bay company owned most of Canada. When
Canada became a country they sold the land to Canada but the company continued. The Hudsons bay
company since 1670 kept every single piece of paper. They kept diaries, charts of the weather, logs wof
what they Indians traded. 67 tons of records since 1670. Their headquarters in London treated the records
as valuable. When the Hudsons bay company moved to winniped, they microfilmed the records and gave a
copy to the Government of Canada. When the French came, they came for furs but also to spread the