Canadian Historical Association 2010 – Meeting of Business Historians

7 05 2010

I am cordially inviting you to attend the meeting of the Business Historians’ group at the forthcoming CHA in Montreal. The meeting will take place on Sunday, 30 May between 12:30 and 14:00 in room H-423.

I understand that you may not regard yourself as primarily a historian of business. In the last fifteen years or so, the sub-discipline of business history has evolved to become far more inclusive by expanding into topics that overlap with what is commonly called social history. In recent years, the papers presented at the Business History Conference in the U.S.  have dealt with such historical issues as race and business, women in corporate America,  corporate social responsibility and the environment, gender in commercial advertising, and other matters far removed from traditional business history. The integration of social and business history in the last fifteen years has helped to make business history more relevant to other historians, which is one of the reasons why the number of papers related to business history (broadly defined) presented at the annual conference of the American Historical Association has increased of late.

The Canadian Historical Association has long had a sub-group devoted to business history. However, it has not been terribly active in recent years. I am the new chair of the business history group, having assumed my duties earlier this year. One of my goals is to bring about a renaissance in Canadian business history similar to that experienced by the business history community in the United States. I feel that by embracing other branches of history, Canadian business history will be able to increase its relevance to the discipline as a whole.

Historians who are not business historians in the strict sense of the term might be interested in attending the meeting of the business historians’ group. At the meeting, we shall be discussing how to re-invigorate this group. I am thinking that we should begin the process of organizing a roundtable on the future of Canadian business history for next year’s CHA.

As well, I would invite you to join the new Canadian Business History group on Google Groups.

Best regards,

Andrew Smith

Abstract of my Paper for the BHC 2010

1 03 2010

I am going to be presenting at the upcoming Business History Conference in Athens, Georgia. I’m going to be on a very exciting panel called “Rhetoric of Liberalism”. My co-panellists include some high calibre scholars, so I’m honoured to be presenting along with them.

G.1 Rhetoric of Liberalism
Meeting Room F/G

Chair: Ben Waterhouse, University of North Carolina
Discussant: The Audience

Andrew Smith, Laurentian University
Accepting Financial Globalization: The Canadian Debate on British Investment, 1836-1875

Thomas Finger, University of Virginia
Natural Theology of Free Trade in the Nineteenth Century

Stephen Gross, University of California, Berkeley
Information, Uncertainty, and Trust in German-Balkan Trade: A Case Study of the Leipzig Trade Fair, 1920-1930

Colin F. Wilder, University of Chicago
Before Law and Economics: What the Modern Natural Law Tradition Had to Say about Commercial Affairs

Here is the abstract of my paper:

Accepting Financial Globalization: The Canadian Debate on British Investment, 1836-1875

Prior to the creation of the Canadian federation in 1867, British North America was a collection of separate British colonies with their own currencies, laws, and banking systems. The integration of the financial systems of the different colonies was a crucial part of the building of the Canadian nation-state. The “Bank Act of 1871” is widely regarded as having laid the legal foundations of the modern Canadian banking sector.  By 1900, Canada’s banking sector was dominated by a few large corporations, each of which had a branch network extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In contrast, the United States was served by a plethora of small banks.

Today, business historians often contrast Canada’s banking sector with that of the United States. This paper will examine the making of the 1871 banking law. It will show that banking legislation in Canada was shaped by the following forces: the powerful examples that had been set by the 1844 Bank Act in England and the 1863 National Bank Act in the United States; the rivalry between Toronto and Montreal for financial supremacy; and the hostility of a large section of the Canadian electorate to financiers. Attitudes to British investment also informed the debate about banking law.   This paper aims to refine our understanding of the development of financial systems in North America. It will also explore the role of classical liberalism in Canadian politics after 1867.

This paper is based on a mixture of printed primary sources and archival materials. The individuals mentioned most frequently in the paper are: Sir John A. Macdonald; Alexander Galt; Sir Francis Hincks; Edwin King; John Rose. The companies mentioned are: the Bank of Montreal; the Commercial Bank; the Bank of Upper Canada; the House of Baring.

Congress in World and Global History

27 01 2010

Next year the Third European Congress in World and Global History will be hosted by the Department of Economic History at LSE, on 14-17 April 2011. Though the congress is intended to cover the full breadth of world, global and transnational history, we hope that it will include plenty of economic history, as did the preceding conference in Dresden in 2008. The Call for PANELS is below; please note that the deadline is 28 February (this year).

14 – 17 (not 11-14) April 2011, London School of Economics & Political Science


Recent decades have seen the re-emergence and, on an unprecedented scale, the further development of various interacting strands of world, global and trans-national history, all sharing the aim of transcending national historiographies. Connections and comparisons have been central to these intellectual enterprises.

We cordially invite proposals for panels examining comparisons, connections and entanglements between polities, societies, communities and individuals situated in, or spanning, different regions of the world. The perspectives involved will range from interactions between humanity and the environment, including over the very long term, through the cultural and economic histories of material and social life, to empires, international organizations, oceans as spaces of sustained interaction between communities from different continents, the experience and consequences of migration, periods of ‘de-globalization’ and ‘globalization’, and the intercontinental sources and consequences of revolutions, whether political, technological, social or ideological. Not least, we encourage critical reflection on the methodological and conceptual issues involved in comparative, transnational and entangled histories: whether in general, or in relation to specific areas of historical inquiry, from religions to real wages, from diasporas to epistemic communities. We look forward to contributions from not only from scholars in various disciplines, based both in Europe and around the world. Conference languages will be English, French and German.

Proposals: We invite proposals for panels comprising 3-6 participants. In addition to the names, affiliations and email and snailmail addresses of the participants, proposals should include titles and abstracts of the panel as a whole (200-600 words) and of each individual paper (100-300 words). Please note that, at this stage, it is only proposals for panels, rather than for isolated papers, that are sought. However, panel proposers are welcome to leave one or two spaces for further papers. After the Steering Committee has selected panels, in April 2010, there will be a second Call, inviting proposals for individual papers to take up any vacant slots in the already-accepted panels.

Proposals should be submitted as email attachments to Katja Naumann at:

Program of “Globalization and the Making of Canada: Canada’s International Economic Linkages from the Fur Trade to the 21st Century”

17 09 2009
Unknown Artist, Port of Halifax, 1830s

Unknown Artist, Port of Halifax, 1830s

Workshop Theme:

Globalization is transforming Canada and the world. Moreover, it is a process whose roots go back a long time. For many people, the term globalization refers only to developments in the last few decades. The reality is that there have been successive waves of globalization going back centuries.  The papers presented at this workshop will show that globalization has been transforming Canada since the time of the fur trade. The picture above of a ship leaving Halifax harbour in the 1830s is, in a sense, documentary evidence of early globalization. By some measures, the world was more globalized in July 1914 than it is today. The fact that there have been successive waves of globalization and de-globalization helps to falsify the widespread notion that the process of globalization is inevitable or irreversible. The research presented at this workshop will also remind us that globalization is historically contingent and shaped by the decisions by policymakers and other actors. Another aim of the workshop is to connect Canadian historiography with the burgeoning body of literature on the history of globalization and international trade.

Workshop Venue: Woerner House. Woerner House is the conference facility owned by the Centre for International Governance Innovation, which is located in Waterloo, Ontario. It is located in a wooded area roughly thirty minutes from the University of Waterloo campus.

Please note that the papers are protected by passwords. To obtain the passwords, please contact Andrew Smith.

Friday, 29 January 2010

1:00-1:30 Registration

1:30-1:50 Opening Remarks by Andrew Smith, Laurentian University.

2:00-3:00 Session 1: Early Globalization

Professor Mike Dove, Department of History, University of Western Ontario. “Pelts and Profits as Precursors: Antecedents of Globalization in the Canadian Fur Trade”

Professor George Colpitts, Department of History, University of Calgary.  “Early Globalization and the Pricing of Plains Provisions for the Canadian Fur Trade, 1811-1882

3:00-3:15 COFFEE BREAK

3:15-4:35 Session 2: Globalization and the British Empire

Professor Andrew Smith, Department of History, Laurentian University.  “Globalization in British North America in the 1860s: the Economic Foundations of Confederation?

Dr. Andrew Dilley, Department of History, University of Aberdeen, Scotland. “Development Politics and Power in the British World: The City of London and the early years of Ontario-Hydro paper

Commentator: Professor William Coleman, Canada Research Chair on Global Governance and Public Policy, McMaster University.

4:35-4:45 COFFEE BREAK

4:45-5:55 Session 3: Globalization and Canadian Natural Resources

Dr. Daryl White, Grande Prairie Regional College, Alberta. “ Managing a War Metal: the International Nickel Company’s First World War

Professor Mark Kuhlberg, Department of History, Laurentian University. “The Myth of Provincial Protectionism in Ontario’s Forest Industry, 1894-1963

Professor Herb Emery, Department of Economics, University of Calgary. “Natural Resources Exports, Wealth, and Accumulation and Development in Settler Economies: North-western Ontario and South Australia, 1905-1915

6:05-6:35 Keynote Address,”Canada’s Place in Global Business: Past, Present, Future”, Professor Matthias Kipping, Chair in Business History, Schulich School of Business, York University.

6:35-7:15 RECEPTION

7:15-7:45 Travel to Conference Dinner location (Blackshop Restaurant)


Saturday 30 January 2010


9:00-10:20 Session 4: The Political Economy of International Trade 1867-1914

Professor Eugene Beaulieu, Department of Economics, University of Calgary. “The Political Economy of Canadian Trade Policy from 1881 to 1925

Mr. Jevan Cherniwchan, Department of Economics, University of Calgary. “The Restrictiveness of Canada’s Trade Policy: 1880-1910

Michael Huberman, Département d’Histoire, Université de Montréal, “ Riding the Wave of Trade: Explaining the Rise of Labour Regulation in the Golden Age of Globalization

10:20-10:30 COFFEE BREAK

10:30-11:50 Session 5: Multinational Enterprise and Canada

Dr. Greig Mordue, Toyota Canada. “Public Policy Meets Industrial Strategy: Building Paradigmatic Change in the Canadian Auto Industry, 1945-1960”

Professor Graham Taylor, Department of History, Trent University. “The The Whisky Kings: The International Expansion of Seagram, 1934-2001

Professor Robin Gendron, Department of History, Nipissing University. “Seeds of Decline: Inco and Globalisation in the Nickel Industry 1960s and 1970s

Commentator: Professor Joe Martin, Director of Canadian Business History, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.

12:00-1:00 LUNCH

1:00-2:30 Session 6: The Political Economy of International Trade Since 1945

Dr. Michael Stevenson, Schulich School of Business, York University. ” The Limits of Alliance: Cold War Solidarity and Canadian Wheat Exports to China, 1950-1963

Professor Bruce Muirhead, Department of History, University of Waterloo. “Canadian Participation in the International Monetary Fund, 1944 – 1973”

Commentator:  TBA.

2:30-2:45 COFFEE BREAK

2:45-3:15 Roundtable Discussion


Any questions about this workshop should be sent to . If you wish to attend the workshop, please let us know by 10 January 2010.

Organizing Committee:

Dimitry Anastakis, Trent University
Eugene Beaulieu, University of Calgary
Herb Emery, University of Calgary
Mark Kuhlberg, Laurentian University
Andrew Smith, Laurentian University (Contact Person)

We would like to thank CIGI for its generous support of this workshop.

The image above is in the public domain and is available from the Wikimedia Commons (click here).

Driving Directions:
View Larger Map

Proceedings of the Business History Conference

21 07 2009

The proceedings of Business History Conference from 1962 to 1974 are now available on the BHC Web site. The papers are in PDF format and can be downloaded free of charge by anybody. I would like to commend the BHC for making this scholarship freely available. The BHC makes very effective use of technology, which is one of the reasons why I am proud to be a member of that organization.

Business History Conference

16 06 2009

Last week, I presented the joint session of the Business History Conference and the European Business History Association held in Milan. The BHC is one of the two conferences I attend every year, the other being the Canadian Historical Association. Joint sessions with the EBHA are relatively rare, as the BHC is normally held somewhere in North America. I really appreciated the opportunity to meet so many historians of business from Europe, not to mention Asia and Australia. I’m a better scholar for having made such international contact.
For this year’s conference, I organized a panel on “Culture, Institutions, and Overseas Investment: British Investment in the Dominions in the Age of High Imperialism”.
The papers and presenters were:

Andrew Smith, Laurentian University

The Dollars and Cents of British Imperialism: The Political Economy of British Investment in Canada, 1867-1914


“This paper examines four important British free-standing companies that were active in present-day Canada in the 1860s and 1870s. These companies were the Hudson’s Bay Company, the Canada Company, the Trust and Loan Company of Upper Canada, and the Grand Trunk Railway. In the early 1860s, these companies lobbied the British government to unite the previously separate colonies in North America. The companies were controlled by well-connected gentlemanly capitalists who were in a position to influence British policy. In 1867, the British Parliament passed legislation uniting four of the colonies in mainland North America into a federal state know as the Dominion of Canada. This paper examines what happened to these companies after 1867. This paper will show that the union of the colonies did not benefit the four companies in the ways their directors had anticipated. The Grand Trunk remained on the edge of bankruptcy after 1867. The Hudson’s Bay Company, the Canada Company, and the Trust and Loan Company of Upper Canada also derived fewer benefits from Confederation than they had anticipated.”

Andrew Dilley, University of Aberdeen

Empire and Risk: Edwardian Financiers, Australia, and Canada, c.1899-1914

Abstract: “It has often been claimed that British investors showed no marked “imperial piety.” Yet there is a good case that investments in the Dominions (self-governing colonies within the British empire) occupied an exceptional place in the capital market—particularly enjoying low interest rates. This paper traces the ways in which London financiers and investors in the Edwardian period expected the imperial connection to affect the risk of investing in Canada and Australia. By reconstructing the assumptions linking investment and empire, the factors contributing to dominion “exceptionalism” become clearer. The paper suggests that empire reassured investors in two ways. First, certain institutional factors, especially legal integration through the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and British defensive guarantees reassured some investors. However, there institutional factors depended on colonial consent. Second, empire promoted information flows, social networking, and certain shared cultural assumptions which were also seen by many to make the dominions safer havens for British capital. Colonial borrowers played on these factors in their dealings with the capital market. The paper concludes that while empire membership did not replace more familiar economic and political factors in calculations of risk, it did inform the way in which those risks were judged.”

Gary Magee, La Trobe University, Bundoora

Investors, Information, and the British World, 1860-1913
Abstract: “This paper concerns itself with the export of British capital between 1860 and 1913. It seeks to lay bare key financial relationships and mechanisms that made such a massive movement of money possible. On what basis did British investors make their decisions? More particularly, in what ways did the ties of social interaction predispose them to provide greater support to investment projects within the “British world” than outside it? This paper examines these questions in two ways: by studying the coverage of investment opportunities as reported by the press and by exploring some of the rich social and financial networks that underpinned Britain’s capital markets. The exceptionalism of the “British world” in these regards stemmed from the way its institutions, press, and transnational networks gave rise to an informational asymmetry within the UK capital markets. As a consequence, British investors found themselves making choices on the basis of a stock of knowledge that was heavily biased in favor of opportunities that existed in the “British World.” This state of affairs was in many ways the natural by-product of the global expansion of British human and social capital in the nineteenth century.”

I think that our panel went very well. I was very pleased to be presenting alongside two very strong presenters, Dilley and Magee. Our very impressive discussant, Duncan Ross, who teaches at the University of Glasgow (see here and here), gave excellent feedback, as did the audience. I received questions from Leslie Hannah (LSE), Richard Sylla (NYU Stern School of Business), and Joe Martin (Director of Canadian Business History, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto).

The rest of the conference was also good. The organization was superb, as was the food and drink.  More importantly, I heard many excellent papers. I was very impressed by the research presented by Rowena Olegario, Kevin Tennent, Andrew Russell, and Leslie Hannah.

My Thoughts on the Liberal Order Framework

2 06 2009

I attended a roundtable on the Liberal Order Framework at last week’s meeting of the Canadian Historical Association.  Roundtable participants discussed the body of historical literature that has emerged in response to Ian McKay’s seminal article “The Liberal Order Framework: A Prospectus for a Reconnaissance of Canadian History,” Canadian Historical Review 81, no. 4 (2000).

In the article McKay offered a  new interpretative framework/ paradigm/metanarrative for understanding Canadian history. McKay says that in the middle third of the 19th century there was a liberal revolution in British North America—liberal, by which he appears to mean classical liberal, ideas became dominant and have been hegemonic in northern North America ever since. McKay argues that the project of building a trans-continental  Dominion in northern North America was about imposing this “classical liberal” ideology on their various peoples of the territory, some of whom clung to various pre-modern, pre-liberal ways of structuring their societies.

McKay’s framework has been taken up by a number of Canadian historians. Indeed, a book of essays written in response to McKay’s initial article was recent published by University of Toronto Press. Liberalism and Hegemony: Debating the Canadian Liberal Revolution edited by Jean-François Constant and Michel Ducharme.

I have finished reading this book, which I picked up at the Learned Societies’ book fair. I must say that I find the literature on the liberal order at once stimulating and frustrating, which is also how I felt about McKay’s original article. Here are a few quick thoughts:

1)    McKay was not actually present at the roundtable on the liberal order. For some reason, the CHA organizers had double booked him for another event. This was really unfortunate, since the discussion took place without him.

2)    I commend McKay for thinking big and for advancing a comprehensive theory of Canadian history. One of the advantage of Marxism and other once popular macro-theories of history is that they gave scholars a framework for understanding a world full of discreet facts and making decisions about which facts to select. The discrediting of Marxism and many of the other big theories left many historians without a theory with which to interpret the jumbled facts presented in the archive.

3)    Theory is essential for the writing of high quality history. History is a discipline that is both empirical and theoretical. As I see it, it is the job of the historian to take a theory and see whether it applies to the facts of a particular case. If historical research produces too many data point contradicting the theory, then the theory needs to modified or discarded. To be credible, a theory must also be falsifiable. This is true for historical theories as much as scientific ones. As far as I can tell, McKay’s theory or framework lacks falsifiability because his definition of “liberal” is in constant flux, even within a single article.

4)    Let me repeat this key point: the liberal order framework or theory lacks falsifiability because the word “liberal” is never clearly defined by McKay and his followers. Loose or slippery definitions allow a theory to escape refutation.  It is clear that McKay is using the word “liberal” to describe something that relates to individualism and which is a distant cousin of capitalism, but he doesn’t supply us with a clear and robust definition of liberal that we can then use as a yardstick for judging his claim that the formation of the Canadian state promoted liberalism. Moreover, during the roundtable session, the participants threw around several definitions of the word “liberal”. Until I spoke up, nobody bothered to point out that they were defining liberal is very different ways. The meaning of the word liberal has changed dramatically in the last 150 years. It also varies from one English-speaking country to the next. Many Americans use the word “liberal” to mean a sort of soft socialist– which is clearly very different from a 19th century classical liberal (or “libertarian”) or the modern Liberal Party of Canada, which includes both classical liberals and soft socialists.

5)    The liberal order framework purports to explain why a separate nation called Canada emerged in northern North America. So far, so good. I agree that understanding why Canada emerged as a separate nation state and did not become just another region of the USA is one of the _central tasks_ of the Canadian historical profession. I’m not certain that pointing out that liberalism was part of the political culture of Canada in the 19th century advances our understanding of why Canada exists today. The USA in this period was also, broadly speaking, a liberal country. Indeed, some classical liberals, most notably Goldwin Smith, thought that ends of classical liberalism would be advanced by continental union (i.e., Canadian joining the Union).  In fact, the whole process of building a separate nation in North America has some profoundly illiberal elements, such as high tariffs and other protectionist policies, that were totally anathema to classical liberalism. I must say that McKay’s claim that Sir John A. Macdonald’s National Policy (a protective tariff) was an expression of liberalism was a bit far-fetched.

6)    To my mind, a much simpler and therefore better explanation for the emergence of Canada as a separate nation in northern North America is anglophilia—namely the intense loyalty that many British North Americans in the 19th and early 20th century felt towards Britain and the British Crown. The project of creating Canada was, in large measure, about building up a British Dominion and resisting the north-south attractions of the United States. This explanation fits the available facts far better than any other proferred explanations, including the famous Laurentian thesis. Until the Other Quiet Revolution of the 1945-1965 period, Britishness was central to the English-speaking Canadian identity. And it was the foundation of the Canadian nation state– the regions of North American that became part of the Dominion of Canada had nothing in common with each other, save that they were British territory, painted red on the map. Britishness was the glue that held them together.

7) In March 2008, I published an article in the Canadian Historical Review that cited McKay’s 2000 article and which then proceeded to undermine its central argument by looking at the debates on Confederation in British North America in the 1860s. The article showed that many, if not most, classical liberals in British North America were opposed to Confederation for fear that it would lead to higher taxes and “Big Government”. The proponents of greater government in the interventionism in the economy were, for the most part, on the pro-Confederation side of the debate.  The research findings presented in the article are the exact opposite of what McKay’s theory would predict, since McKay connects Confederation and the building of the Canadian nation state to the rise of liberalism. I don’t know what the production schedule for the Liberalism and Hegemony book was like, but I thought that it was unfortunate that there were no references to this article in that book, which was published in May of 2009. Although it is possible to dismiss my CHR article as relating to just a single data point (i.e., Confederation), it’s an important data point and one that calls McKay’s whole framework into question.

My Impressions of the Canadian Historical Association Conference, 2009

30 05 2009

1)    First, I was pleased to see that there were some military history papers on the programme, including one by Tim Cook of the Canadian War Museum. I’m far from being a military  historian, but for many years I’ve been disturbed by the growing distance between Canadian military historians and the rest of the historical profession. The military historians have their own conferences and journals and have become ghettoized. This is good for neither the military historians nor the historical profession at large.
2)    I was also pleased to see that the Political History Group attracted a great deal of interest. Matt Hayday will be the first chair of this group, which is for CHA members who work on political history.
3)    Blake Brown gave an excellent paper on the history of gun control.
4)    I attended the roundtable on the Liberal Order framework. I spoke up to express my frustration with the lack of clear working definition of the word “liberal”. I WILL HAVE MORE COMMENTS ON THIS ROUNDTABLE SOON.
5)    Several younger scholars recorded their presentations on video. They used a Flip video camera , which records in a YouTube compatible MP4 format. This augurs well for the future, for Canadian historians really need to embrace the Web 2.0. Ideally, the CHA should record all presentations and place them online.
6)    I was pleased by the number of graduate students working on 19th century topics. In the last few decades, the focus of historians of Canada (who publish in English, at least) has shifted to the 20th century, especially the post-1945 past, and the earlier periods of Canadian history have been the subject of gross neglect. The number of emerging scholars interested in the pre-1900 and pre-Confederation periods is very, very encouraging to me.

Christopher Moore

30 05 2009

Toronto-based historian Christopher Moore has posted comments on his blog about my blog. They are quite positive.

I will publish my impressions of this year’s CHA shortly.

Canadian Historical Association 2009 Conference

26 05 2009

I’m about to begin the second day of the annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association. A few quick observations about the conference. First, the social life of the conference would have been better had it been held at University of Ottawa instead of Carleton. University of Ottawa is located in Ottawa’s CBD, which is where most of the delegates head after 5pm. Carleton, in contrast, is a bleak and rather inaccessible suburban campus.

Second, I’m pleased to see a large number of the grad students at the conference are interested in 19th century topics. This is a big change from previous years and a hopeful sign. For too long, the Canadian historical profession was dominated by specialists of the post-war period.

Third, the political history group (see my earlier post) was formed yesterday.