Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

When Wheat Was King: The Rise and Fall of the Canada-UK Grain Trade

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

When Wheat Was King: The Rise and Fall of the Canada-UK Grain Trade

Article excerpt

André Mag na n, When Wheat Was King: The Rise and Fall of the Canada-UK Grain Trade (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2016), 216 pp. Cased. $95. ISBN 978-0-7748-3113-0. Paper. $32.95. ISBN 978-0-7748-3114-7.

In this chronological history Magnan analyses the Canada-UK Prairie-grown wheat trade from 1870 to the present day. He begins by showing how during the early twentieth-century Canada's Prairie wheat farmers took advantage of Britain's free trade policy by supplying a raw ingredient for bread, a key food for the British masses. The transition in Britain to roller-milled flour during this period allowed the production of what became a whiter, lighter loaf, which became a central part of a cheap food policy.

During the First World War Canada experimented with state marketing which led to the establishment of the first Canadian Wheat Board. The private grain trade was restored in 1920 and the Prairie wheat economy entered a period of prolonged crisis. In 1935 in the depths of the Great Depression the minority Conservative government recreated the Wheat Board intending that it should have a monopoly. However, in a compromise with the Liberal Party the government conceded that wheat pooling would be voluntary and that farmers would have a government-guaranteed initial price. But in 1943 the changed circumstances of the Second World War resulted in the board being given a monopoly to guarantee wheat supplies to Britain.

In the post-war era Canada chose to focus on the high-quality segment ofworld markets. Furthermore, unlike the United States, Canada eschewed subsidised wheat exports to the Third World and instead developed new trading relationships with Communist China and the Soviet Union. …

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