Nineteenth-century Cape Breton: a historical geography

“This thesis is an historical geography of Cape Breton Island in the nineteenth century. It aims to provide a geographical synthesis of the Island over a hundred years, elucidating the changing relationship between the Island’s population and their environment.

“The Island is considered as a region and the scale of enquiry is at the regional level. The patterns of population, settlement, economy, and society are identified, and the processes that created them are discussed.

“Finally, the wider relevance of the Cape Breton experience is suggested. Three distinct and largely separate patterns of settlement, economy, and society coexisted in early nineteenth century Cape Breton: the old commercial staple trade of the cod fishery, semi-subsistent family-farms, and industrial coal mining.

“After the end of the French regime on the Island, British and Nova Scotian capital was invested in the inshore cod fishery, creating specialised fishing settlements, a fishing population, and an economy tied to distant, international markets. Superimposed upon this staple trade in the 1820’s was a fee-simple empire of family-farms.

“Agricultural changes in Western Scotland displaced thousands of people, many of whom fetched up on Cape Breton – among the cheapest of overseas destinations. By mid-century, these immigrants had occupied all the good land and considerable areas of poorer backland. After years of backbreaking work, the settlers had created semi-subsistent farms on relatively cheap land far from markets.

“About the same time as the Scots arrived, British industrial capital exploited the Island’s coal reserves, introducing skilled British labour and steam-technology to win coal for external markets.”

To continue reading the description and the thesis, visit the University of British Columbia website.

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One thought on “Nineteenth-century Cape Breton: a historical geography

  1. Pingback: This week’s crème de la crème — July 4, 2015 | Genealogy à la carte

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