University Professor Emeritus
Canada Research Chair in Canadian Rural History, Jan. 2002 – Dec. 2008
Campus: Guelph

My research in rural history seeks a richer understanding of local economies and the ways in which they represented and shaped Canada’s economic development. In contrast to a story that derives from the perspective of leading officials and merchants, this focuses on the perspective of the ordinary farm and artisan families who made up so much of the whole economy. The program has two main components: (1) A comprehensive economic history of Canadian settlement (1600 through 1939) that explores the main stories Canadians have told themselves about development; and (2) an intensive study of consumption, living standards, and material culture in pioneer society (1808 to 1861) based on evidence from rural families’ charge accounts at country general stores.

Selected publications

  • Planting the Province: The Economic History of Upper Canada, 1784-1870, Ontario Historical Studies Series (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993)

Recent papers from the Settlement of Canada program:

  • “Economy and Empire: Britain and Canadian Development, 1783-1971”, chapter 13 of Canada and the British Empire, Phillip A. Buckner ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, in press [2008]), 235-53.
  • “Sojourners in the Snow? The Scots in Business in Nineteenth-Century Canada”, in A Kingdom of the Mind: How the Scots Helped Make Canada, Peter Rider and Heather McNabb, eds. (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006), 76-96.
  • “The Economic Impact of the Great War”, in Canada and the First World War: Essays in Honour of Robert Craig Brown, David MacKenzie ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), 138-53.

Recent papers from the Consumption in the Countryside program

  • “Upper Canadians and Their Guns: an Exploration via Country Store Accounts (1808-61)”, Ontario History, 97 (2005), 121-37.
  • “A World Without Chocolate: Grocery Purchases at Some Upper Canadian Country Stores, 1808-61,” Agricultural History, 79 (2005), 147-72.
  • “Textile Purchases by Some Ordinary Upper Canadians, 1808-1861,” Material History Review, 53 (spring-summer 2001), 4-27.

See also