Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The History of Canadian Business, 1867-1914

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The History of Canadian Business, 1867-1914

Article excerpt

R. T. Naylor, The History of Canadian Business, 1867-1914 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2006), xlviii + 674pp. Cased. £64. ISBN 978-0-7735- 3088-1. Paper. £21.95. ISBN 978-0-7735-3089-8.

This is a new edition of Naylor's classic business history of Canada which was first published in 1975. His central thesis is that the political-economic elite of Canada was dominated by commercial and financial capital in the period 1867-1914. It sought to monopolise trade between Canada and Britain, which Naylor describes as 'branch-plant imperialism'. When this strategy failed it oversaw Canada's transformation into a branch plant economy tied to the United States.

The first part of Naylor's history is devoted to his principal research interest during the 1970s, Canadian banking and finance capital. He exposes an astounding degree of corruption which involved both of Canada's national political parties. This was in large part the result of a scandalous lack of government regulation of banking and finance. Naylor also notes the steady attrition of local banks as large banks based mostly in central Canada, with the exception of the Bank of Nova Scotia, expanded their branch network into the periphery. These banks drained the periphery of capital, thus contributing to underdevelopment.

The second part analyses Canadian industrial development. There was a major expansion of Canada's railroad system in the post-Confederation period to facilitate the development of the staple economy in the Canadian West. Although Canada was a relatively prosperous society in this period, the development of other industries was hindered by a shortage of skilled labour. Naylor suggests that this was partly the result of an education system that eschewed technical subjects in favour of medicine, law and divinity. …

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