Making A Country (And An Economy)

Economic history in Canada

Authored by: Douglas McCalla

Routledge Handbook of Global Economic History

Print publication date:  December  2015
Online publication date:  December  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138838031
eBook ISBN: 9781315734736
Adobe ISBN:


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Following the American Revolution, Britain’s remaining colonies on the northern half of the American continent were tiny. In 1800, there were not quite 100,000 people in five colonies on the Atlantic; more than 200,000 along the St Lawrence River in Lower Canada; and fewer than 40,000 upriver and along the lower Great Lakes, in Upper Canada (Harris 1987: plates 32, 68). A majority of the entire population was French-speaking. Through the Hudson’s Bay Company, Britain also claimed the remaining lands to the west and north. Between 1867 and 1873, this territory (except for Newfoundland, population 170,000) was united in the Dominion of Canada, an independent country within the British Empire. Over three-quarters of the Canadian population of about 3.7 million lived in what now were the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. Upper Canada/Ontario alone represented over 40 percent of the Canadian total, and its per capita income was the highest in Canada by a substantial margin (Inwood and Irwin 2002: 161–2). In the next century, settlement expanded across the continent, central Canada industrialized, and the Canadian population grew to 22 million. That was still little more than 10 percent of the population of the United States. Although the two western provinces, British Columbia and Alberta, were becoming more important by 1971, economic power still was concentrated in the Montreal area and in southern Ontario. 1

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