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Subsistence under Capitalism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
 0773547002, 9780773547001

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McGill-Queen’s Rural, Wildland, and Resource Studies Series Series editors: Colin A.M. Duncan, James Murton, and R.W. Sandwell The Rural, Wildland, and Resource Studies Series includes monographs, thematically unified edited collections, and rare out-of-print classics. It is inspired by Canadian Papers in Rural History, Donald H. Akenson’s influential occasional papers series, and seeks to catalyze reconsideration of communities and places lying beyond city limits, outside centres of urban political and cultural power, and located at past and present sites of resource procurement and environmental change. Scholarly and popular interest in the environment, climate change, food, and a seemingly deepening divide between city and country, is drawing non-urban places back into the mainstream. The series seeks to present the best environmentally contextualized research on topics such as agriculture, cottage living, fishing, the gathering of wild foods, mining, power generation, and rural commerce, within and beyond Canada’s borders. 1 How Agriculture Made Canada Farming in the Nineteenth Century Peter A. Russell 2 The Once and Future Great Lakes Country An Ecological History John L. Riley 3 Consumers in the Bush Shopping in Rural Upper Canada Douglas McCalla 4 Subsistence under Capitalism Historical and Contemporary Perspectives Edited by James Murton, Dean Bavington, and Carly Dokis

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Subsistence under Capitalism Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Edited by

ja m e s m u r t o n , d e a n b av i n g t o n , a n d c a r ly d o k i s

McGill-­Queen’s University Press Montreal & Kingston • London • Chicago

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©  McGill-­Queen’s University Press 2016 isb n isb n isb n isb n

978-0-7735-4700-1 (cloth) 978-0-7735-4701-8 (paper) 978-0-7735-9875-5 (eP DF ) 978-0-7735-9878-2 (eP UB)

Legal deposit second quarter 2016 Bibliothèque nationale du Québec Printed in Canada on acid-­free paper that is 100% ancient forest free (100% post-­consumer recycled), processed chlorine free McGill-­Queen’s University Press acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. We also acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund for our publishing activities.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication The unbounded level of the mind: Rod Macdonald’s legal imagination /  edited by Richard Janda, Rosalie Jukier, and Daniel Jutras. Imagination’ held at the Faculty of Law, McGill University from February 7-­8, 2014. Issued in print and electronic formats. isb n 978-­0-­7735-­4523-­6 (bound). –CIP is bnto 978-­ 0-­7735-­4524-­3 (pbk.). – come isb n 978-­0-­7735-­8341-­2 (pdf). – is bn 978-­0-­7735-­8342-­9 (epub) 1. Macdonald, Roderick A., 1948–2014. 2. Law – Canada. I. Janda, Richard, editor II. Jukier, Rosalie, editor III. Jutras, Daniel, editor IV. McGill University. Faculty of Law, issuing body ke448.u53 2015

349.71

c 2015-­902237-­1 c 2015-­902238-­x

This book was typeset by Interscript in 10.5 / 13 Sabon.

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For Addie and Esme – J.M. Soren and Jonah – D.B. Miishi, Nahanni, and Elijah – C.D.

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Contents

Table and Figures  000 Acknowledgments 000 Introduction: Why Subsistence?  000 James Murton, Dean Bavington, and Carly Dokis Pa rt One   Ma k i ng Ma r k e t s by P u s h i n g S u bs i s t e n ce in to t h e Sh a d ows 1 The Seeds of Calculability: The Home Farms Experiment on and off the Books  000 Sarah J. Martin 2 Blurring the Boundaries: Subsistence and Recreational Fisheries in Late-Nineteenth-Century Ontario  000 William Knight 3 Spinning Flax in Mills, Households, and the Canadian State, 1850–1870 000 Joshua MacFadyen 4 Rural Households, Subsistence, and Environment on the Canadian Shield, 1901–1940  000 R.W. Sandwell Pa rt T wo  K e e p i ng a nd R e m aki n g S u bs i s t e n ce 5 Fishing for Subsistence, Sport, and Sovereignty on Lake Nipissing 000 Nancy Pottery

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viii Contents

  6 Aboriginal Subsistence Practices in an “Isolated” Region of Northern Alberta  000 Clinton N. Westman   7 Working with Fish in the Shadows of Sustainability  000 Jennifer Lee Johnson and Bakaaki Robert   8 Rethinking the Legacies of “Subsistence Thinking”  000 Michael Hathaway   9 Alternative Agriculture, the Vernacular, and the M S T : Re-creating Subsistence as the Sustainable Development of Human Rights  000 M. Jahi Chappell Pa rt T h r e e   C omi ng to T e r m s w i t h S u bs i s t e n ce Stu die s 10 Research by People: A Panel Discussion on Living Subsistence Locally 000 Edited by Dean Bavington and Jennifer Hough Evans 11 In Defence of Vernacular Ways  000 Sajay Samuel 12 On the Semantics of Theorizing the Cause(s) of the Shadows, or How to Think about Counting the Differences between a Wild Edible Mushroom and a Super Tanker, Neither of Which Fits the Commodity Form  000 Colin A.M. Duncan Conclusion 000 James Murton, Dean Bavington, and Carly Dokis Contributors 000 Index 000

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Table and Figures

ta b l e

1.1 Farming agencies and Indian reservations, 1882. Prepared by Sarah J. Martin, 2015. Source: Canada, Parliament, “Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada: Volume 5, Fourth Session of the Fourth Parliament, Session 1882” (Ottawa: MacLean, Roger, 1883), 45-9  000 figures

1.1 “Farming Agencies and Indian Reservations, 1882.” In Canada, Parliament, “Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada: Volume 5, Fourth Session of the Fourth Parliament, Session 1882” (Ottawa: MacLean, Roger, 1883), 45-9  000 2.1 Two men standing with fish strung on a line, ca. 1920. Frank X. Amoss Fonds, C 156-3-0-7-2, Archives of Ontario  000 3.1 Flax in two forms: an interpreter hackles flax fibre on a bench coated with linseed oil paint at Joseph Schneider Haus Museum and Gallery, 466 Queen Street South, Kitchener, Ontario, 2014. Photo provided by Joseph Schneider Haus, Region of Waterloo 000 3.2 Flax in the Canadas, 1850–1870. Figure by Joshua MacFadyen 000

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x

Table and Figures

3.3 Flax and linen in Waterloo County, 1860. Figure by Joshua MacFadyen 000 4.1 Urban, rural, and farm populations in Canada, selected years, 1871–1976. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Source: Statistics Canada, Series A67–69  000 4.2 Number of people living in communities larger and smaller than 1,000, Canada, 1871–1971. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Source: Statistics Canada, Series A70–74 and A67–69  000 4.3 Number of people living in communities larger than 4,999 and smaller than 5,000, Canada, 1871–1971. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Source: Statistics Canada, Series A67–69 and A70–74 000 4.4 Ontario, Quebec, and prairie provinces: total population and estimated Shield population, 1871–1951. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Sources: Statistics Canada, Series A67–69; Census of Canada 1951, vol. 1, Populations 000 4.5 Estimated rural and urban populations of the Canadian Shield, 1871–1951. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Sources: Statistics Canada, Series A67–69; Census of Canada 1951, vol. 1, Populations 000 4.6 Shield population as a percentage of the entire population, of the rural population, and of the urban population, Ontario, Quebec, and prairie provinces, 1871–1951. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Sources: Statistics Canada, Series A67–69; Census of Canada 1951, vol. 1, Populations 000 4.7 Farm holdings in Canada, 1871–1971. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Source: Statistics Canada, Series M12–22, M22–33, and M34–44 000 4.8 Number of farms on the Ontario and Quebec Shield, 1901–1941. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Source: Census of Canada 1901–1941, various volumes, Agriculture 000 4.9 Average revenue for forest products per farm, Ontario and Quebec, 1921. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Source: Census of Canada 1921, vol. 5, Agriculture, table 88  000

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Table and Figures xi

4.10 Average value of farm revenue from various sources, Quebec and Ontario, 1941. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Source: Census of Canada 1941, vol. 8, Agriculture, tables 28 and 30  000 4.11 Selected sources of revenue as a percentage of gross revenue, averages per farm, Ontario and Quebec, 1941. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Source: Census of Canada 1941, vol. 8, Agriculture  000 4.12 Percentage of Ontario and Quebec farms reporting revenue from various sources, 1941. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Source: Census of Canada 1941, vol. 8, Agriculture 000 4.13 Type of farm as determined by the main source of revenue, Canada, 1940. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Source: Census of Canada 1941, vol. 8, Agriculture, table 46  000 4.14 Percentage of Ontario and Quebec farms specializing in selected types of farming, 1941. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Source: Census of Canada 1941, vol. 8, Agriculture, table 46  000 4.15 Distribution of rural farm, rural nonfarm, and urban populations of Ontario and Quebec, 1931, 1941. Figure by R.W. Sandwell. Source: Census of Canada 1931, 1941 000 6.1 Map showing part of northern Alberta, 2014. Created by Robert Alary, University of Saskatchewan Libraries  000 6.2 A manitohkan (image of a spirit), 1939. Anonymous photographer. Reproduced with permission of the Société historique et généa­ logique de Smoky River.  000 6.3 Bernard’s communicator, 2005. Photograph by Clint Westman  000 7.1 Lake Victoria’s Nile perch and Ennyanja’s emputa. Photograph by Jennifer Lee Johnson  000 7.2 2,000-shilling banknote and coins. Photograph by Jennifer Lee Johnson 000 7.3 Rules for bodily conduct in a fish factory. Photograph by Jennifer Lee Johnson  000

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xii

Table and Figures

7.4 Nile perch ready for shipping and Nile perch rebranded in the Netherlands as Victoriabaarsfilet. Photograph by Jennifer Lee Johnson 000 9.1 Typical forms of the relationship between farm size and total output. Source: Peter M. Rosset, “The Multiple Functions and Benefits of Small Farm Agriculture in the Context of Global Trade Negotiations,” Food First Policy Brief, no. 4 (1999): 9.  000 9.2 On-farm income of the average US farmer vs total US farm exports, 1960–2013. Sources: Peter M. Rosset, “The Multiple Functions and Benefits of Small Farm Agriculture in the Context of Global Trade Negotiations,” Food First Policy Brief, no. 4 (1999): 17; US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, “Value of U.S. Agricultural Trade, by Calendar Year,” 2015; and US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, “Historic Data on Mean and Median Farm Operator Household Income and Ratio of Farm Household to U.S. Household Income, 1960–2013,” 2015.  000

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Acknowledgments

We have many people to thank, but as most of those are named in the table of contents and list of contributors, we will keep this short. We would like to start by acknowledging the financial support of the Network in Canadian History of the Environment (N iCH E ) through their Special Projects Funds. Support was also provided by the Canada Research Chair in Environmental History at Nipissing University. Support for the publication of the book was provided by the dean of Arts and Science, Nipissing University, and by the Canada Research Chair in Environmental History, Nipissing University. Our thanks to all. We would also like to acknowledge the support, hard work, and professionalism of everyone at McGill-Queen’s University Press. Our editor, Kyla Madden, read the manuscript over many times, provided always thoughtful and perceptive comments and advice, and was unfailingly patient. A special thanks to the design team for the wonderful cover and to Robert Lewis for his careful copy editing. It is standard to thank press readers; in this case, however, it is very much true that their thorough comments made the book very much better. Again, thanks to all. Such a volume would not of course be possible without the work of our contributors. Thanks for being the brains behind this exercise and for your patience. A special shout-out to the members of the community panel – Dave Lewington, Lucy Emmett, Jeremy St Onge, and Yan – who spoke on “Considering Local Food,” at the W KP Kennedy Gallery in North Bay, Ontario, the night before we convened to discuss our papers. Their discussion guided our work the next day, and their example of commitment to doing something about the crisis of our food system inspired us. Thanks to Catherine Murton Stoehr for hosting the panel. We acknowledge that much of the work on the volume took place on the traditional territory of Nipissing First Nation. Migwetch.

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s u b s i s t e n c e u n d e r c a p i ta l i s m

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Introduction: Why Subsistence? j a m e s m u rto n , d e a n b av i n g to n , a n d c a r ly d o k i s

why subsistence?

Although we mostly now remember 2008 for the global financial crisis, that crisis was preceded by one in the global food system. For reasons still being debated, prices of staple commodities like rice and corn rose by as much as 150 per cent in months. Protests broke out across the global south; in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 10,000 people took to the streets. The global media played these as food riots, straightforward reactions to pangs of hunger brought on by the sudden rise in the price of food. Although not entirely wrong, this version of the story missed that many of these protests were political, aimed at deep structural changes to food production and trade. In the 1980s and 1990s, many governments in the developing world largely abandoned price supports for farmers and food security policies such as the holding of grain reserves. Instead, egged on by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, countries encouraged farmers to produce specialized products for the  world market. Chocolate replaced wheat; cashews took the place of corn. Increased earnings, it was said, would then pay for imports of staple foods. This system is probably more economically efficient. It is certainly more fragile. Corn is now supplied worldwide by only three countries and rice by five. Bad weather in one country, as in Russia in 2010, can rock the whole system. Countries that could previously feed themselves are now dependent on imports, and so a rise in the price of commodities becomes a global crisis.1 The decline and destruction of local food production in the global south are not surprising developments in the context of the long history

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of capitalism. As we will argue more fully below, and as many of the chapters in this volume show, the destruction of direct access to the means of subsistence has long been capitalism’s central move, the key precursor to the establishment of a market economy. Making this argument and exploring its implications is the first purpose of this book, a job made complicated by the fact that subsistence practices continue to exist alongside and in complex relation to the market. Press and academic coverage of the 2008 food crisis focused on the extent to which production of food for eating rather than selling had completely disappeared. Yet looking closer to home – at Newfoundland, for instance – we know that self-provisioning and informal exchange have long been central to sustaining communities in the wake of ongoing economic crises, as seen following the 1992 moratorium on cod fishing. Many First Nations communities in Canada, as Nancy Turner and several contributors to this volume have shown, continue to hunt and fish for food; some get the majority of their food this way.2 Less formally, in North Bay, Ontario, the pulled pork on your plate may actually be pulled venison, and local businesses will turn your deer into freezer-ready cuts of meat. Subsistence practices continue to exist, but they often do so – despite a  robust scholarly literature on subsistence, informal economies, and household production – in shadows cast by academic, governmental, and popular assumptions that subsistence means “bare survival,” that only wage work and the sale and production of commodities truly feed people.3 And so, following scholars such as John Omuhundro, Nancy Turner, Rosemary Ommer, and Gérard Bouchard, we see a significant part of our work here as simply documenting the persistence of subsistence practices in the past and in the present. This undertaking is the second purpose of this volume. This book was inspired by the workshop “Bringing Subsistence Out of the Shadows,” held in the fall of 2009 at Nipissing University, in North Bay, Ontario. At the workshop, it became clear that questions of subsistence – Where had it gone? Why was it in the shadows? What did it mean? – were being considered widely by anthropologists, ecologists, historians, geographers, critical theorists, and hard-to-pin-down interdisciplinary scholars, even if they did not use the same words to describe it. Subsistence has an existing scholarship, particularly in anthropology and, less directly, geography and agricultural history, it is central to the agrarian question in political ecology, and it has acquired an applied policy relevance in debates over small-scale fisheries, food security, and  sovereignty.4 Subsistence is also a growing matter of concern for

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Introduction: Why Subsistence? 5

everyday people who talk of local food, wild foods, and eating from one’s own garden. Subsistence came up everywhere, we realized, because it was crucial to understanding and challenging the human relationship to nature under capitalism. Paying attention to subsistence therefore means critically examining these politics of self-provisioning and local (re)production, activities that have become key to the effort to create “locally controlled societies and economies consistent with the survival of humanity on Earth.”5 We are not naively calling for a wholesale return to self-provisioning and the commons, to “subsistence” and “collective ownership” as these terms are popularly understood. But we do believe that a thoughtful, collective study of this concept has much to tell us about the way that local relationships to place and to nature have been repeatedly shoved into the shadows by the drive to establish and expand capitalist markets. When removed from the shadows, subsistence as a diverse set of ideas and practices has the potential to assist the ongoing search for liveable futures. Subsistence studies offers the possibility of alternatives at a time when we are told there are none. Why subsistence? Because if we start by asking not about the economy, or work, or commodities, or other abstractions but about how people feed themselves, things look different. s u b s i s t e n c e b e f o r e c a p i ta l i s t m a r k e t s

What do we mean by subsistence? Contributors to this project take the term “subsistence” to mean, essentially, obtaining the things one needs for survival through “self-provisioning,” or in other words, “production for use … as opposed to production for exchange.”6 The problem with this definition is that it draws too stark a distinction between subsistence and the market, between self-provisioning and exchange. For instance, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans imposes a “food fishery” on First Nations people on the West Coast. They may continue to fish as they have since long before contact, but they cannot sell this fish. They can only eat it themselves or use it for ceremonial purposes.7 What this policy ignores is, first, a long precontact history of exchange. Oil from the oolichan fish, for instance, was a major trade item on the Northwest Coast. A network of “grease trails” ran inland from the Pacific Coast, used by Tsimshian and other traders who exchanged the oil for obsidian, moose hides, fur, and the horns of sheep and goat. Another trail ran from Kwakwaka’wakw territory on what is now

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eastern Vancouver Island inland to the Nuu’chah’nuulth on the west coast of the island.8 Aside from this history of trade, the food fishery policy also ignores that in a capitalist society, where market relationships are everywhere, the limitation of fishing rights to self-provisioning restricts the ability of the fishery to contribute to First Nations wellbeing. For the right to fish to mean anything real, a subsistence fishery must have some relationship with a market. And indeed, when James Murton was growing up on Vancouver Island, fish could be bought from First Nations people, whether by the side of a road or via a knock at the door in the evening. Subsistence activities, in other words, have always existed in relationship with forms of exchange.9 These examples also remind us that subsistence was – and is, as several of the chapters in this book show – a collective, locally based activity that rested on a bundle of individual and collective rights of access to particular parts of nature.10 For example, William Cronon argues that in precolonial southern New England, subsistence rights adhered to villages. But these rights were complex, and they varied by what part of nature was being accessed. Villages controlled outright only the land that they farmed and on which they had winter dwellings. However, fields and dwellings were moved every decade or so to let the soil lie ­fallow or when supplies of firewood had been exhausted, resulting in a landscape of several horticultural and former village areas, many in the process of being recolonized by pine trees, forests, and meadows. Villages also controlled foraging, hunting, and fishing grounds, but rights varied by what was harvested. Fishing sites were the outright property of ­particular villages or families. However, for an animal like deer, which were hunted by large groups across an extensive landscape, hunting areas belonged to several villages, with custom dictating how the kill was distributed. In other words, there was no private property in the modern sense – no one individual controlled outright a bounded piece of land.11 Rights were given by the characteristics of a particular plant, animal, or activity rather than by area. A deer could be taken down by someone in the very place where he would be attacked for fishing or gathering berries.12 Medieval European society operated (broadly) in a similar way. In much of England, the open-field system prevailed. A central, compact village was surrounded by several fields, a commons, and woodland. Individual peasant families had the right to farm a variety of areas, or “strips,” scattered across the village’s fields, ensuring each family a variety of lands: dry uplands, wet bottomlands, as well as good and

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Introduction: Why Subsistence? 7

mediocre soils. The field as a whole was controlled by the village, with a council or manorial court deciding what got planted and when, how it was harvested, and which fields were left fallow or sown in a particular year, among other things. Villagers shared oxen and had rights to graze these and their other animals on the manor’s common land, as well as to collect “berries and nuts, peat or wood for heating or construction, and bracken for bedding or thatch.”13 In woodlands peasants had the right to cut wood for heating or building and to feed livestock on grass and acorns. Peasants were subject to rents and fees that had to be paid to landlords. But customary rights to the land bound landlord as well as peasant; rents were set by custom and did not vary over long periods. As the Middle Ages wore on, markets and cash became more and more common. But access to the means of subsistence came through custom, not the market, and could not easily be revoked. p u t t i n g s u b s i s t e n c e i n to t h e s h a d o w s

What this brief overview of precapitalist subsistence activities reveals are worlds where access to the resources of nature were relatively secure (setting aside vagaries in what nature itself produced from year to year) and were mediated by custom and right. What we need to explain is the end of such socio-economic systems and their replacement by our current capitalist system, where most access to natural resources and to the means of human survival fashioned from these resources – vegetables, meat, lumber, houses, and so on – is subject to the vagaries of the market. The chapters in part 1 of this book present historical case studies of this process in Canada. By considering the origins of capitalism, this section of the introduction sets these case studies in a larger context and develops the first argument of this book: that eliminating access to the means of subsistence is key to the development of capitalism. As US historian Gordon S. Wood has noted, scholars cannot agree on what capitalism is, let alone when it first appeared and why.14 Some see it as primarily a system of exchange. According to this model, capitalism emerged in cities and market towns as merchants accumulated wealth that they could invest.15 Belgian historian Henri Pirenne, writing in the first third of the twentieth century, saw European feudalism as a break from the successful commercial society of the Mediterranean in the Roman era. With the collapse of the Roman Empire, the rise to power of the Muslim empires, and the severing of the trade routes between Europe and Asia, trade in Europe collapsed and the localized, land-and-rent

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societies of medieval Europe resulted. Only with the rise, in the late Middle Ages, of cities dominated by merchants did commercial society reassert itself.16 Marxist and neo-Marxist historians like Paul Sweezy and Immanuel Wallerstein similarly argue for an “exchange relations” perspective on the birth of capitalism, seeing it as emerging when production in Europe became less about subsistence and more about producing goods for profitable exchange on national and international markets.17 Max Weber, writing around the same time as Pirenne, located the origins of capitalism elsewhere: in the realm of ideas. Challenging Marx’s materialist emphasis, Weber argued that capitalism had its roots in the development of an ethic of hard work, thrift, and accumulation. For Weber, this “spirit of capitalism,” or more commonly, this “Protestant work ethic,” developed from Calvinism and was particularly evident in Anglo-American Puritans, the “incorrigible doers” who founded New England and, in this reading, American capitalism.18 In all of these formulations, subsistence practices are either irrelevant to the action or simply die away as capitalism advances. In neo-­ Malthusian accounts, by contrast, the limits of medieval and early modern subsistence agriculture are at the centre of the story. Particularly important here is the work of Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. In his study of The Peasants of Languedoc, Le Roy Ladurie sees a series of cycles of population growth fuelling increased production and economic growth but leading eventually to subsistence crises as subdivided farms became too small to provide. Growth from the eleventh century on in Languedoc met collapse in the fourteenth century and the beginnings of revival in the fifteenth. Similar cycles played out from the end of the fifteenth century to the start of the eighteenth, and again from 1750 to 1950. The first cycle was solved by the population collapse following the Black Death, which opened up land and gave wage workers and peasants bargaining power. The second cycle, Le Roy Ladurie’s focus, was solved by economic takeoff after 1720. Improved agricultural outputs and a shift to commodity production – particularly wine growing – meant that more was being produced per acre, and so smaller farms did not lead to starvation. Manufacturing developed in Languedoc. Key was the decline in cultural “stumbling blocks” to growth: religious obsessions, a low level of education, and the lack of a “spirit of initiative.”19 In The Origin of Capitalism, political scientist Ellen Meiksins Wood lumps all of these approaches together as the “commercialization model.” In doing so, she blanches out vast differences – Weber’s work does not

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Introduction: Why Subsistence? 9

much resemble Le Roy Ladurie’s, and neither covers the same ground as Pirenne. But in making this vast generalization, Wood is able to make an important critique of all of these scholars, including her fellow Marxists. All of these works, she argues, tend to see capitalism as a social formation incipient in human commercial interactions, themselves a natural outgrowth of human nature. Wood argues that both advocates and critics of capitalism tend to assume that all it takes for capitalism to appear is for constraints to its proper functioning to be removed. Take away artificial barriers to trade and the flow of capital, remove customary rights – to land and the products of streams and forests, for instance – that discourage large-scale specialized industry, and capitalism will appear. Thus Le Roy Ladurie talks of “stumbling blocks” to the emergence of agrarian capitalism in Languedoc. Fernand Braudel, Le Roy Ladurie’s mentor, speaks of capitalism as part of the “march of progress” and cites various obstacles to its emergence, including uncertain harvests, bad roads, lack of economic information, and “hostile attitudes.”20 Pirenne sees the breakdown of the feudal landed order as resulting from a “natural” attraction of the peasant toward the opportunities provided by growing urban markets. Commerce freed peasants from the soil.21 Ultimately, the commercialization model rests, problematically, on an assumption that it is human nature to maximize personal gains through exchange.22 In fact, for most of history and across diverse cultural traditions, the ability to know one’s appropriate material and social limits, to know when enough was enough, was judged essential to living a good life. Luxury was the vice of not knowing one’s limits. Satisfaction came from knowing to stop eating when full, from knowing not to talk out of turn in a conversation with an elder, from knowing the appropriate fishing or farming tools and how to use them. For the rising commercial class to be socially sanctioned, luxury had to be transformed from vice into virtue. Adam Smith, as Sajay Samuel’s chapter in this volume explains in detail, took for granted a commercial society founded on the transformation of luxury into a moral good and the unlimited desire that such luxury stimulated. In a revealing passage from the popular Fable of the Bees (1721), Bernard de Mandeville mounts an early defence of luxury by conflating people’s needs, wants, and desires. He observes that “once we depart from calling everything Luxury that is not absolutely necessary to keep Man alive … then there is no luxury at all: for if the wants of Man are innumerable, then what ought supply them has no bounds.”23 Arguments such as these regarded luxury, or the inability to recognize limits to growth of all kinds, as a behaviour encoded in human

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nature. It could thereby be plausibly seen as a natural process when subsistence was replaced by the ever-growing production of commodities to satisfy innumerable consumer desires. Whereas once “moralists inveighed against luxury,” in our own time, Robert Kugelmann observes, “politicians praise growth, a creative renaming of the old term.”24 We cannot assume, then, as commercialization historians would have it, that subsistence was superseded because the myriad and complex customary rights and practices to which it gave rise in medieval villages frustrated a natural human tendency to truck, barter, and exchange. But if we then take seriously medieval rural economies and cultures, as we must do, we have to ask why medieval social relations disappeared. For Marx, the answer was relatively straightforward. The birth of capitalism, he argues, required a war on subsistence.25 Capitalism came out of the “dissolution” of feudal productive relations, particularly the “forcibl[e]” separation of peasants from “the soil,” and thus “their means of subsistence,” which compelled them to become “sellers of themselves” – in other words, wage labourers.26 Marx is talking about the famous process of enclosure, by which the open fields and the commons were turned into private property operated by farmers paying rent to the landlord. He spends little time on the reasons for enclosure, instead stressing that it was done by force and in the interests of the landlords. In this, and by highlighting various pieces of legislation that sought to slow down the process, he opposes Adam Smith, who stressed a natural, evolutionary process by which the thrifty and talented gradually accumulated capital and rose to the top.27 The results of enclosure were the creation of a class of capitalist farmer who sells the things that peasants formerly produced for their own use and who purchases manufactured goods, thus creating a market system. And all this happens in a particular time and place: England in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.28 Thus for Marx peasants were forced into a position of insecurity, no longer able to get food or shelter for themselves and so obliged to sell their labour. Changes in the way basic necessities were produced, or in who controlled the means of subsistence, were key to the birth of capitalism. The “property relations” school of Marxist scholars, including Maurice Dobb, Robert Brenner, and Ellen Wood, has worked to complicate and contextualize this argument. Both Wood and the historian Robert Brenner argue that capitalism emerges only when everyone is compelled to enter into market relations in order to obtain the necessities of life. A compulsory market makes everyone subject to the “laws of

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motion” of capitalism, in which the capitalist market enforces constant “competition, accumulation, profit-maximization,” and ever-increasing labour productivity.29 And the market is compulsory because in capitalist societies it is the only way to access the means of subsistence – the land (and, we might add to Wood’s argument, the air and water) – upon which food can be obtained through gathering, hunting, fishing, and farming. Second, Brenner and Wood in particular seek to complicate Marx’s rather blunt story of rapacious landlords, who seem preternaturally aware of the eventual results of their actions, by exploring the pressures that resulted in enclosure. The reconstituting of property relations, they argue, followed the crises of the fourteenth century. From 1315 to 1322, years of wet weather led to failed harvests and the Great Famine in England. This was followed in 1348 by the outbreak of the Black Death, which by 1400 had cut the pre-1300 population in half.30 In the wake of these disasters, with much land lying vacant, English landlords were increasingly able to rent land on leases to tenant farmers who worked the land for them and paid them rents for this privileged access. Enclosure and the resulting leases, Brenner and Wood argue, introduced competition and a pressure for increased productivity into the agricultural system. Over time, farmers came to compete for the best leases, and rents on these lands came to be based on a market value rather than on custom. Land then increasingly became more like a commodity, more like something one buys or sells. As well, farmers who were more productive would get the better leases. Farmers began to specialize, maximizing revenue by matching crops to soils and nearby markets. Farming techniques grew increasingly sophisticated. Bare fallows gave way to the planting of clover, which replenished the soil with nitrogen. Farmers with cash in their pockets could buy marl and lime to increase soil productivity. Leases grew shorter, and some tenants acquired large tracts of land and became noticeably wealthier and more powerful than their neighbours. The result, by the seventeenth century, was English agrarian capitalism. Farmers could still access land, but they now had to compete in the market to do so. Land had essentially become a commodity, and farming was now a competitive enterprise.31 The process was completed under Parliamentary enclosure in the eighteenth century, where the full force of the law was turned on custom throughout England. Historians of enclosure have argued over virtually every aspect of this process – its timing, its geography, whether it was imposed from above or embraced by peasants, and how crucial enclosure was to the

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development of English agrarian capitalism. In the early twentieth century, R.H. Tawney as well as J.L. Hammond and Barbara Hammond criticized enclosure as a forcible eviction of the poor from their accustomed lives and an abrogation of their customary rights to the land.32 In the middle of the century, historians reversed this focus, de-emphasizing the importance of customary rights and arguing that enclosure was justified because it led to increased agricultural productivity and was carried out not just by landlords but also by groups of peasants themselves.33 More contemporary scholars like J.M. Neeson have countered with a renewed emphasis on customary social and property relations in English villages, which, Neeson argues, existed in many places into the eighteenth century and in some into the nineteenth, with peasants resisting the imposition of capitalist property relations.34 All these historians largely agree, however, that the elimination of secure rights to use land, and so to practise traditional subsistence agriculture, was central to the establishment of agrarian capitalism.35 They merely disagree as to whether this was a good or inevitable thing. It is also clear that much of this change came about as a result of force and for the benefit of one class over another. Even the mid-century historians acknowledge that enclosure led to the end of older rural social relations. Few peoples throughout history have chosen the world of competition and insecurity – and, it must be said, great wealth for some – offered by capitalism. Agrarian capitalism also brought with it a fundamentally changed relationship between human societies and the natural world. To understand this new relationship, it is important to recognize the difference between the new capitalist market and the noncapitalist markets that existed before and, up to the nineteenth century, alongside it. As part of her rejection of the commercialization thesis, Wood argues that precapitalist trading did not constitute capitalism because it took place between two separate and incommensurable markets. For example, the fur traders of early Canada met with Native people at the point where furs were traded. At this point, different customs surrounding trade blended, as Europeans smoked the calumet pipe and Native trading captains praised the Queen and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Negotiations could be fierce and never guaranteed that a trade would actually take place. But ultimately, the two sides were operating within two almost entirely separate economic systems, and in fact this truth was crucial to the trade itself. European trade goods were valuable because Native people could not make them for themselves, and furs were valuable because they were

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difficult for Europeans to obtain, although relatively easy for Native people to get. In such a situation, pressures to compete and produce more efficiently were at best indirect.36 Indeed, gathering, hunting, fishing, and farming are not immediately thought of as producing anything or understood to be industries generating a specialized surplus. By contrast, in the modern capitalist market, everything can be exchanged for everything else. Thus pressure to produce maximally and efficiently is intense and constant. As Sajay Samuel points out in this volume, the way that the capitalist market makes everything commensurable – a tree exchangeable for a haircut through the magic of money – is the great strength of the market, allowing for a huge range of economic activities to contribute to economic growth. But he makes clear that it is also a source of great danger to people and elements of nature caught up in the market. As Karl Polanyi has argued, to function markets must treat land (or nature), people, and money as commodities – things that can be factored into production calculations and bought and sold the same as books or software. Yet land, people, and even money are not simple commodities – Polanyi calls them “fictitious commodities” and comments that treating them as commodities is simply “weird” – because the conditions of their existence, their very being, are founded on relations that must take place outside the market.37 In other words, the fact that land and people have such extensive nonmarket existences means that the market can do enormous damage to them when action is based on treating them as though they were simple commodities. Shipping cars  from one place to another is one thing; shipping labour from Newfoundland to Alberta or from the Philippines to Canada means that people lose access to family and familiar places – the things that support wage work and make life worth living. As William Cronon shows in his classic Nature’s Metropolis, the efficiencies introduced over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in shipping and processing natural resources produced wealth while making the places of extraction both physically and conceptually distant from most people. Agriculture, where human needs and natural processes must in some form come together, is now often understood as the application of set techniques and technologies to abstract space.38 The result has been great damage to land and people. These changes, originating in the English countryside, became global changes via colonization. British colonization brought the processes outlined above – the conversion of land held and controlled under other systems into private property, the tendency of this process to be carried

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out via compulsion for the benefit of one social group over another, the changed relationships between humans and nature that resulted – to what is now Canada, Australia, and other British settler colonies. Colonialism broke down bonds between people and place while refashioning land into a commodity and labour into something detached from particular places. When asked about his work, a Tlingit chief in early-twentieth-century British Columbia said that he did not “know how to work at anything. My father, grandfather, and uncle just taught me how to live, and I have always done what they told me.”39 Similarly, environmental historian Richard White, examining the decline and collapse of the subsistence systems of the Choctaw, Pawnee, and Navajo in what is now the southern United States, roots the problem in the incursion of capitalist markets, which led to environmental decline through factors such as overhunting and eroded the political and socio-cultural systems that had once organized access to resources.40 Details differ, but in all these cases the transition to capitalism rested on dispossession of land and the creation of private property, the ascension of one social group over another as a result, and a new relationship between people and the natural world, in which direct access to subsistence resources was cut off. t h e p e r s i s t e n c e o f s u b s i s t e n c e u n d e r c a p i ta l i s m

We perhaps risk sounding deterministic here, as though we are saying that if you change property relations, you get capitalism. This is not our intention. The transition to capitalism in all these cases involved a complex of changes – political, economic, cultural, and social – that involved not only socio-legal changes in how resources could be accessed but also larger cultural and social changes. It was not enough to cut off access to resources for subsistence. It was also necessary that people come to see themselves as profit maximizers and to see and accept “the market” as an abstraction, rather than an actual place where goods are exchanged, and the economy as something different from everyday life, as the example of the Tlingit chief shows. It was necessary to create homo economicus – economic man and woman. Yet this was and is a complex task. As historians concerned with various aspects of rural production and rural society have shown, homo economicus experienced an ongoing and ever-partial genesis. In numerous places and times, Wood’s “laws of motion” of capitalism have been moderated, defied, or ignored. One of the drivers of the European settler colonialism that spread market

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relations was the very quest of Europeans to escape the capitalist market by gaining direct access to the means of subsistence, and thus independence, through the acquisition of land. In this section of the introduction, we survey some selected literatures dealing with the history of subsistence relationships within capitalist societies. Our goal here is not to offer a complete survey of global writing on subsistence but to review particular examples as a way of considering how to understand the persistence of subsistence under capitalism. We focus especially on Canadian literatures. Much of the early literature on subsistence took largely for granted the transition to capitalist forms of production, and the oldest literature assumed the virtues of this transition. This is especially true of work in anthropology. Early anthropological writing often argued that noncapitalist societies represented earlier stages of cultural evolution on the continuum from savagery to barbarism to civilization. Lewis Henry Morgan, for example, who was a significant influence on Marx’s later writings, borrowed this trajectory from Scottish philosopher James Ferguson to outline his consideration of successive evolutionary stages, marked in part by what he called “the arts of subsistence,” from lower forms of subsistence on “fruits and roots” to “fish-based subsistence” and finally to the discovery of agriculture.41 The claims of early cultural evolutionists were refuted by Franz Boas and his students, who shaped early-twentieth-century North American anthropology through their work on the cultures of Northwest Coast nations. However, in the 1930s cultural ecologists such as Julian Steward and Leslie White returned to the idea of a deterministic relationship between culture and the material base of society. White, in The Science of Culture, coupled Marx’s historical materialism with an emphasis on the role of technology, particularly the proficiency of capturing energy from the environment, in bringing about advances in efficiency and changes, or progressions, in culture. All of these theories about the relationship between cultures and their material bases, whether adopting unilinear or multilinear pathways toward modernity, reflected a profound faith in the evolution from a noncapitalist to a capitalist mode of production. The evolutionary arguments of Steward and others were deeply unsettled by ethnographic work conducted by anthropologists working in the 1960s and 1970s with hunter-gatherer societies that had remained relatively removed from capitalist forms of labour and exchange. The work of Richard Lee with the !Kung of the South African Kalahari, James Woodburn with the Hadza of Southern Africa, and Margaret McArthur

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with the Arunta of Australia all similarly showed that, when compared to capitalist societies, hunter-gatherers spent considerably less time engaged in subsistence strategies and secured more than enough food to meet their material needs. Marshall Sahlins addressed these findings in Stone Age Economics, where he contrasted the basic assumption of capitalism – that increased production and expansion are required to meet material needs – with what he called the “original affluent society”: hunters and gatherers whose material needs were few and easily satisfied by the technical means available to them.42 Also in the 1960s and 1970s, the new social history similarly sought to complicate historical narratives of progress by taking seriously the culture and concerns of nonelites and those who had lost the battles of the past. E.P. Thompson’s concept of a premodern “moral economy” that was replaced by the individualism and competition of the market economy directly inspired the American “market revolution” debate, which did much to expose the workings of nonmarket agriculture and to take seriously the premarket values and practices of early American farmers. Historians of New England had tended to see capitalism arriving on the first boats. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, historians like Christopher Clark began to show that when farmers in the later colonial period moved into western New England and out of easy contact with Boston, they abandoned commercial farming in favour of production for home use and exchange on local markets. Up until the 1850s or 1860s, Clark argued, most farmers’ goal was to achieve a decent sufficiency for themselves and their extended family households rather than to maximize the efficient production of surplus value. Consulting farm account books, Clark pointed out how farmers up to mid-century typically kept the best foods for themselves and their families; only when this practice changed, and the best foods were sent to market with the goal of maximizing cash income, can we see a shift to a capitalist ethos. Economic historian Winnifred Barr Rothenberg, focusing on price movements within markets, complicated this argument by showing that the transition took place earlier, namely in the 1820s.43 Environmental historian Brian Donahue has since made an even more fundamental challenge. The moral economy historians did not question the capitalist nature of farming in the earliest settled regions of coastal New England. Donahue’s study of the rural economy of colonial Concord, Massachusetts (just outside Boston), looks at the arrangement of land in the town and sees colonial farmers more interested in a “comfortable subsistence” than in profit maximization. Only by the end of the colonial period, he argues,

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when the town ran out of the land necessary to produce within its borders all elements of diversified agriculture, did Concord farmers begin to specialize in the production and sale of dairy products.44 For all their disagreements, these historians agree on at least two points. One is that an identifiable “transition to capitalism” took place over a couple of decades. The other is that this transition took place around the early to mid-nineteenth century. Work by Canadian historians shows a similar trajectory; early work that assumed the ubiquity of market-based farming has given way to studies highlighting the persistence of nonmarket means of subsistence. Much of this work is rooted in opposition to the classic staples thesis. The staples thesis was developed by Harold Adams Innis in the first third of the twentieth century as a way of understanding Canadian economic and social development. The colonies that became Canada, Innis argued, were developed to supply raw materials to Europe – first cod, then fur, and later timber and wheat, although Innis spent far less time on these later staples. Each of these staples, in turn, required the development of a material, social, and political infrastructure. The fur trade required relationships with First Nations, who trapped and sold the furs, whereas the fishery, where Europeans captured the resource, did not. New France, reliant on the fur trade, put diplomatic relations with Native nations at the centre of its activities. One of the main jobs of the governor was to oversee the system of gifts and ceremonies used to secure Native alliances. The trade required knowledge of the interior rivers, as well as of canoes and other forms of interior transport, and it linked Canada firmly into metropolitan markets. The nature of the resource itself shaped Canadian socio-economic life.45 The staples thesis appeared to explain much about Canadian development, from the Canadian practice of state intervention in the economy to the pattern of relations with Native people. But it led generations of economic and rural historians to focus almost exclusively on activities involving the production of staple commodities for market. Salt cod explained Newfoundland; all that early Ontario farmers cared about, we were told, was wheat. As social historians and historical geographers fought back against these prejudices, starting in the 1970s, subsistence practices began to re-emerge from the shadows. For understanding subsistence, the work of Nancy Turner and Rosemary Ommer is particulary important. Turner, an ethnobotanist who has worked closely for decades with First Nations communities, argues that First Nations people had complex food systems drawing on

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a wide variety of plants and animals. Further, First Nations people engaged in active food production. On southern Vancouver Island controlled burns encouraged the growth of blue camas, and hillsides were burned to encourage the growth of black huckleberries, blackcaps, strawberries, and other fruits. Families owned and tended particular sites, “sustainably” harvesting trees for the sugary inner bark, digging and cultivating the soil, replanting and transplanting wapato tubers (on the West Coast) as well as other plants.46 Foods were also traded and were important parts of ceremonies like the potlatch on the West Coast, which was a way of getting food to people who could not procure it themselves, notably elders, and a way of building connections between and within communities.47 Colonialism disrupted these foodways and the larger social relations of which they were a part. European property relations made movement across the landscape – between fishing and gathering sites, for instance – impossible.48 In British Columbia’s Fraser Canyon, miners seeking gold squatted on important salmon fishing sites, as did farmers in Ontario, despite treaties guaranteeing the Anishinabeg access to the lakeshore.49 In more recent years, First Nations people have seen cranberry bogs drained, clam beds destroyed, salmon spawning streams decimated, and trees for food and medicine lost or made inaccessible.50 One response to colonial displacement was to incorporate wage labour into existing subsistence strategies and cultural norms. Women’s work in cleaning and preparing fish became work in a fish cannery. Historian Robert A.J. McDonald tells the story of a man who worked for many months in a sawmill in Vancouver and then spent the money on holding a potlatch.51 A rich body of anthropological literature demonstrates that hunting, fishing, and trapping continue to coexist with wage labour in First Nation communities in Canada, particularly in northern and remote regions.52 Peter Elias, who has termed this pattern a “mixed economy,” notes that although the degree to which First Nation people engage in hunting and trapping versus wage labour is quite varied both within and between communities, there is no doubt that subsistence practices significantly contribute to the dietary, social, cultural, and economic well-being of First Nation communities in the Canadian north.53 Scott Rushforth, who worked with Dene in the 1970s, notes that engagement in wage labour and resource extraction was acceptable only after provisions had been made for hunting, trapping, and fishing.54 In Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Nancy Turner notes, the annual “All  Native Basketball Tournament” is also an

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occasion to exchange oolichan grease (a dietary staple), herring eggs on kelp, and huckleberries.55 European settlers, coming into these complex worlds of subsistence, typically started by clearing land with the goal of producing enough food to live on while also selling to merchants to get enough cash for extra food and other things that could not be produced locally. In Newfoundland, salted cod, processed in the cove where the fisher family lived, was the typical economic staple. In Ontario in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, new settlers subsisted for the first year or more at least partly on the sale of products of the forests they so energetically cut down – potash, logs, and barrel staves, for instance. Somewhat later, this pattern gave way to a “formal industrial capitalist economy supported by law and the state” coexisting with communitybased subsistence practices. Subsistence provided food security and gave the community greater resilience to withstand the ups and downs of the global economy. It was tied up with systems of exchange, which were informal and assymetrical; help building a barn, for instance, might be returned by providing labour at harvest time or participating in a knitting bee.56 This account, of course, is a schematic overview. Different communities developed differently depending on social, political, economic, and environmental factors. In Irish Settlements in Eastern Canada, John J. Mannion focuses on four study areas: rural areas near Peterborough, Ontario; the Miramichi region of New Brunswick; a group of settlements near St John’s, Newfoundland; and the Cape Shore region of Newfoundland, across the Avalon Peninsula from St John’s. In all these areas, nuclear families settled on sizable farm plots, and in the first three, the pattern of nuclear families occupying their own sizable farms persisted. In Cape Shore, however, families followed the old Irish pattern of dividing up individual family plots upon inheritance, leading to a clachan settlement pattern: a cluster of small pieces of land occupied, and jointly worked, by members of a single kin group. This was because the staple in Cape Shore was cod. The clachan pattern allowed fishermen to stay close to the shore; if each subsequent generation had taken up new land, they would have had to move inland. Near St John’s and in New Brunswick, an individual family could make a living by marketing farm produce and growing food for home use. Farmers sold garden produce on the docks of St John’s; in New Brunswick lumberers working in the international timber trade needed to be fed. A pattern emerged in both places of individual family farms, laid out in long strips to access a

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variety of soil types and so allow for a variety of crops. In Peterborough a global market for wheat influenced settlement patterns.57 Among the nineteenth-century settlers of Saltspring Island, near Victoria, British Columbia, R.W. Sandwell found little desire to engage with the capitalist economy at all. Saltspring Islanders subsisted by gathering nuts and berries, fishing for shellfish and salmon, and growing subsistence crops. They did just enough work on their farms to avoid being evicted by the province, which wanted to see farms developed into commercial enterprises.58 Ultimately, subsistence practices have re-emerged as scholars have become aware that the rural household, rather than the individual, was  the primary economic actor for much of Canadian history. In Newfoundland an understanding of the household’s importance developed out of longstanding scholarly concern with explaining the island’s sole reliance on the cod staple and its lack of a developed commercial agriculture. Late-nineteenth-century interpretations, according to historian Sean Cadigan, argued that British fish merchants and the government opposed permanent settlement – and so agriculture – in Newfoundland for fear it would interfere with their monopolization of the fishery. This was an interpretation revived, in a new form, by Gerald Sider in the 1980s. Meanwhile, Harold Innis in the 1930s argued that Newfoundland lacked the natural resources to create economic activities that could challenge the merchants. Cadigan himself argues that merchants supported subsistence production on the island because they knew that soil conditions and climate meant that Newfoundland could never develop a commercial agricultural sector that could challenge the fishery in economic importance. They did, however, realize that the more that settlers could support themselves with locally grown food, the less they, the merchants, would be expected to support them.59 Subsistence production in Newfoundland was part of a larger shift in the workings of the fishery. Before the late eighteenth century, settlement on the island was sparse, and the migratory fishery, where vessels journeyed annually from European ports to the banks and coves of Newfoundland, was dominant. The upheavals of the late eighteenth century, however – the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars – ended the importance of the migratory fishery. War disrupted both the importation of food, central to the feeding of fishermen, and the migratory fleet itself. At the same time, wartime conditions led to a rise in the price of cod. All of these factors encouraged the development of a resident fishery. Increasingly, fishing was conducted

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via a household economy. Whereas local fishermen had previously hired labour, their wives now took care of drying and salting the cod. Households also engaged in subsistence agriculture to feed themselves. Such agriculture was usually not enough to support the family, but it did reduce the amount of supplies merchants needed to bring in and also reduced the amount of debt fishing households owed to the local merchant.60 The precise relationship between subsistence and the fishery, with its merchant credit system, is debated; the reliance of the formal system on subsistence provisioning and the role of the household is clear.61 The role of subsistence in Canadian farming has emerged out of linked challenges both to the staples thesis and to a traditional focus by agricultural historians on commercial farming. In Planting the Province, Doug McCalla demolished the idea that Ontario farmers were overwhelmingly concerned with producing wheat for sale in Britain, as had been argued by Harold Innis and historians like John McCallum. Far more land was cleared than was needed to produce the wheat output of Ontario in any known year, McCalla argues. Ontario farmers must have been up to something else. Wheat may have been the only crop Ontario farmers produced that could be sold on the world market, but from the farmers’ perspective, it brought in credit from the local merchant the same as any other product. Further, Ontario’s farms themselves were capable of supplying enough demand to power the farm economy. The focus of McCallum and others on wheat reflected, essentially, a misunderstanding of the economy and society of early Ontario. Farmers were less individuals than they were heads of households. The farm household was much less interested in profits or the accumulation of cash than in autonomy, to be gained by producing a mix of crops for home consumption and selling whatever was possible.62 Gérard Bouchard, examining the resettlement of Quebec’s Saguenay region in the early twentieth century, refers to “co-integration” between subsistence and market means of survival. Saguenay farms, seeking household independence, took “advantage of various sources of by-employment and cash offered by the capitalist economy (seasonal or part-time work, sale of products off the land) … without truly converting to [its] … ethic or structure.”63 Subsistence persisted in relationship with capitalism, carried on by households seeking independence and autonomy from the capitalist market.64 Historian Eric Wolf has argued that capitalism, for all its totalizing tendencies, has consistently entered into temporary and shifting relationships with other modes of production. We see this in the Canadian

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case. Up to the 1940s farms in Canada tended to combine commodity production with various forms of self-provisioning, such as gardens and dairy cattle, often carried out by women, as well as with off-farm wage labour in whatever the local industry.65 Similarly, subsistence practices were an essential part of family survival up until Newfoundland became Canada’s tenth province in 1949, after which access to the Canadian welfare state made them less necessary.66 And although we focus here on rural subsistence practices, historians have also demonstrated that well into the twentieth century, subsistence happened in cities as well. Pigs and cows roamed the streets of cities like Montreal until the late nineteenth century. Subsistence gardening took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Columbus, Ohio.67 In this regard, Wolf advises us to examine the forms of engagements that “micro-populations” have with the penetration of capitalism, to note the particular historical, political, and economic conditions of their emergence, conjectures, and dismissals, and to understand how they mediate contemporary relations with a capitalist mode and its associated forms of social arrangement. These are the things that the chapters in part 2 seek to do. s t u dy i n g s u b s i s t e n c e : r e s e a r c h b y p e o p l e

If subsistence has come, then, to be a special sort of activity in a world dominated by market capitalism, it is a widely prevalent and often crucial one. Worlds continue to exist outside the market. In Newfoundland, especially on its remote Great Northern Peninsula, subsistence practices experienced a revival in the 1970s as residents sought security in the economic turbulence of the times and began to doubt the ability of the  Canadian welfare state to take care of them. In the 1990s John Omohundro found that 40 per cent of families in Main Brook and 85 per cent in the community of Plum Point tended roadside gardens – raised beds planted with potatoes and other crops and fertilized with seaweed and capelin – located from five to as much as forty kilometres from town. Gardening, along with wood cutting, hunting, and exchanges of labour for home construction and food preservation, helped to support quality of life in what is still statistically a poor region.68 Globally, peasants, hunters, gatherers, and artisanal fishermen illustrate ongoing successful resistance to the triumph of the market.69 Subsistence lives, even if under growing pressure. Just as Eric Wolf described peasant wars in the twentieth century, the Zapatistas, La Via Campesina, the Landless Workers’ Movement in Brazil (see Chappell, this volume), and other

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organizations are fighting against the war on subsistence that rages on into the twenty-first century.70 In a world where the triumph of the market is not only more pervasive than ever but also celebrated, one of the major contributions of subsistence studies, then, is simply to point out that this triumph is not complete. But we can also go further. Paying attention to subsistence means paying serious attention to the market: its triumphs and defeats, its strengths and weaknesses, and its historical context. Subsistence makes the market referable by revealing the market to us in a world where it is too often treated as a force of nature. In part 3 Colin Duncan reflects on what a subsistence perspective can tell us about commodities. Dean Bavington and Jennifer Hough Evans demonstrate the promise of research by, rather than on, people. And Sajay Samuel critiques the prevalence of market rationales, arguing that instead of thinking of people as creatures focused primarily or even solely on the pursuit of profit and personal gain, we need to embrace the realm of activity and experience outside of the market, a space he refers to as the vernacular domain. The term “subsistence,” he argues, is too narrowly focused on production to be useful as a guide to illuminating this domain.71 In this volume, the chapters by Jennifer Lee Johnson and Bakaaki Robert and by M. Jahi Chappell, especially, adopt Samuel’s ­critique and thus the concept of the vernacular. When subsistence is brought out of the shadows, possibilities for moral and political as well as market relationships between people and nature become more easily imaginable. Taking subsistence and its history seriously rescues the dignity and practicality of self-provisioning and clarifies the diversity of subsistence practices. No longer does berry picking seem like just a quaint holdover from days gone by; no longer is hunting just a recreational amenity. Instead, we can see them as attempts to preserve direct vernacular relationships to places and natures in a world determined to disturb and disembed these relations. Subsistence practices, we can see, provide an alternative to supermarkets and other industrial abstractions that deliver calories and nutrients but contain little food.72 As the Zapatistas assert, “Basta! Enough! Stop the war on subsistence!” In a 2001 article, Arturo Escobar critiques discourses surrounding globalization and development as being “capitalocentric” in such a way that it becomes difficult to think outside of the rubric of the market and the state. Escobar calls on us to “look at social reality in ways that might allow us to detect elements of difference that are not reducible to the constructs of capitalism and modernity.”73 The challenge is to find ways of drawing out potential commonalities and

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differences, while being attentive to local conditions on the ground and to the conduct and motivations of human actors. Although subsistence is everywhere, such relationships are sometimes clearest the farther we get from the shadows cast by the centres of global power and their local outposts. Flying northwest from New York, moving well beyond Toronto, and travelling past Edmonton takes us to the Dene community of Colville Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories. If we are thirsty, we had better be prepared to do some work because the people of Colville Lake have vehemently opposed government efforts to implement water delivery (and sewage removal programs) in their small community. Residents of Colville Lake prefer, in fact insist, that they must continue to haul and drink water on an as-needed basis from the lake on which the community is situated rather than have treated water delivered to their homes once a week. Community members give two very straightforward reasons for their insistence on not adopting water treatment technology. First, if community members begin to rely on the delivery of treated water rather than hauling water by themselves, people will become dependent on government assistance and will lose independence – an important value for Dene and something the community has been very proud to avoid. Second, residents of Colville Lake insist that only Dene will live in a community where people have to haul their own water and waste, so the community remains Dene with very little infiltration from outsiders. But what makes this example particularly interesting is that Colville Lake is also one of the only communities in the Northwest Territories to have wireless Internet access, mostly because it sits upon, and has subsurface rights to, a large proven gas deposit in the Colville Hills and is in frequent communication with oil and gas companies in Calgary. Thus, for the Colville Lake Dene, the adoption of technology is tied to concerns over dependency on government infrastructure but is also linked to important cultural values that extend beyond dependence on technology to include concerns over a loss of kinship networks, a loss of social solidarity, and reduced time spent on the land and water. Subsistence practices and the cultural and political practices they are tied to – or perhaps we might more simply say the vernacular domain – continue to be key to the cultural and material development of First Nations people, supporting the flourishing of their beliefs, their continued presence on the land, and their engagement with global and national capitalism. This is in some ways surprising, for as we have argued, those who looked to create markets sought to obliterate subsistence through

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practices of linguistic and actual violence both in Canada and abroad. In other ways, the continued existence of subsistence in our world is not surprising, for subsistence practices were and are crucial in providing life support for those undergoing marketization. Thus, ironically, they have been and continue to be critical to the very development of the capitalist market that seeks to supersede them. Politicians of the centre-left like to argue that although the market is good at producing wealth, it is bad at distributing its benefits fairly. For that, they say, we need the welfare state. This is not untrue, but we go further and argue that capitalist markets, with their relentless competition, their narrow and inhuman focus on accumulation, and their brutal prioritizing of profit, on their own are incongruous with human life. Only market externalities make life possible – certainly, the welfare state but also, and more importantly, the stuff of actual, nonmarket life. Family, households, friends, neighbours, churches, gardens, farmer’s markets, wild cranberry bogs, the game of the forests and the fish in the waters – the stuff of subsistence and the everyday of the vernacular are what carry us through and are what, we can hope, may one day form the basis for something better.

n ot e s

 1 James Surowiecki, “The Perils of Efficiency,” New Yorker, 24 November 2008, 46; Raj Patel, The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy (New York: Picador, 2009), 132–3; R. Bush, “Food Riots: Poverty, Power and Protest,” Journal of Agrarian Change 10, no. 1 (2009): 119–29. Harriet Friedmann has tracked the emergence of this new food order out of the postwar system in “The Political Economy of Food: The Rise and Fall of the Postwar International Food Order,” American Journal of Sociology 88, Supplement: Marxist Inquires: Studies of Labor, Class, and States (1982): S248–86; “The Political Economy of Food: A Global Crisis,” New Left Review 197 (1993): 29–57; and “Remaking Traditions,” in Deborah Barndt, ed., Women Working the NAFTA Food Chain, 35–60 (Toronto: Second Story Press, 1999).   2 Rosemary E. Ommer, Andrew Parnaby, and Todd McCallum, “After the Moratorium,” Labour / Le Travail 50 (2002): 395–400; Rosemary E. Ommer and Nancy J. Turner, “Informal Rural Economies in History,” Labour / Le Travail 53 (2004): 127–57. For example, in Colville Lake, a Dene community located in the central Mackenzie Valley just north of the Arctic Circle, country food accounted for more than half of food consumed in 94.3 per cent of households in 2008. See Northwest Territories

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  3

  4

  5   6

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Bureau of Statistics, 2009 N W T Community Survey, http://www.statsnwt. ca/recent_surveys. John T. Omohundro, “Living Off the Land,” in Lawrence F. Felt and Peter R. Sinclair, eds, Living on the Edge: The Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, 103–27 (St John’s, NL: Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1995); Christopher C. Parrish, Nancy J. Turner, and Shirley M. Solberg, eds, Resetting the Kitchen Table: Food Security, Culture, Health and Resilience in Coastal Communities (New York: Nova Science, 2008); Ommer and Turner, “Informal Rural Economies”; Gérard Bouchard, “Marginality, Co-integration and Change: Social History as a Critical Exercise,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 8 (1997): 19–38. Although scholars such as these do not see subsistence as merely “bare survival,” many academics with related interests do, and as a result they have ignored the importance of household production and local exchange. Agricultural historians are prominent culprits here, often focusing on commodity production as though it were the only farm activity worth considering and as though the only successful farm were one able to sustain itself entirely through commodity production. R.W. Sandwell has made this point repeatedly about agricultural historians. See, for example, R.W. Sandwell, “Peasants on the Coast? A Problematique of Rural British Columbia,” Canadian Papers in Rural History 10 (1996): 275–303. In popular discussion, living at “subsistence level” generally means living at a minimum level for survival. On policymakers’ understanding of subsistence farming, see note 10. Ratana Chuenpagdee, ed., World Small-Scale Fisheries: Contemporary Visions (Delft, N L: Eburon, 2011); Jan Douwe Van Der Ploeg, The New Peasantries: Struggles for Autonomy and Sustainability in an Era of Empire and Globalization (London: Earthscan, 2008). Ian McKay, Rebels, Reds, Radicals: Rethinking Canada’s Left History (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2005), 147. Michael Watts, “Subsistence Agriculture,” in R.J. Johnston et al., eds, The Dictionary of Human Geography (Malden, MA : Blackwell, 2000), 804. See Clinton Westman’s chapter in this volume for further discussion of the meaning of the term “subsistence.” Douglas C. Harris, Landing Native Fisheries: Indian Reserves and Fishing Rights in British Columbia, 1849–1925 (Vancouver: UB C Press, 2008). William J. Turkel, The Archive of Place: Unearthing the Pasts of the Chilcotin Plateau (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2007); Leslie Robertson and the Kwagu’ł Gixsam Clan, Standing Up with Ga’axsta’las: Jane Constance Cook and the Politics of Memory, Church, and Custom (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012).

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  9 As a result, what we mean by “subsistence” is very similar to what Rosemary Ommer calls “informal economies,” although in defining “informal economy,” Ommer at times seems to distinguish between subsistence, or self-provisioning, practices and informal trade, with the two together making up the informal economy. Lawrence F. Felt, Kathleen Murphy, Peter R. Sinclair, and John Omohundro, in their studies of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula, use the phrase “household production” to refer to informal economic activities, including activities not considered here, such as home construction. We prefer the term “subsistence” because it puts a focus on the human-nature nexus and signals that these activities are not a form of capitalist “economy.” See Ommer and Turner, “Informal Rural Economies”; Lawrence F. Felt, Kathleen Murphy, and Peter R. Sinclair, “‘Everyone does it’: Unpaid Work and Household Reproduction,” in Lawrence F. Felt and Peter R. Sinclair, eds, Living on the Edge: The Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, 77–102 (St John’s, NL: Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1995); Omohundro, “Living Off the Land”; Parrish, Turner, and Solberg, eds, Resetting the Kitchen Table. 10 Although this is something that scholars of subsistence and informal economies are well aware, policymakers in Canada, for one, have often thought of “subsistence agriculture” as small-scale production by individual farmers for home use. For example, as R.W. Sandwell points out in this volume, in 1941 the Canadian census created a category of subsistence farm, which was defined as a farm where “the value of products consumed or used by the farm household amounted to 50 per cent or more of the gross farm revenue.” See Census of Canada 1941, vol. 8, Agriculture, xxv. Another example is the BC government’s version of the federal Relief Land Settlement Program, which set up families with farms during the Great Depression. Instead of being concentrated in one place, families were sent instead to various empty farms throughout the province, the clear assumption being that families would fend for themselves. See James Murton, Creating a Modern Countryside: Liberalism and Land Resettlement in British Columbia (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2007), 167–70, 173–82. Farmers in Saskatchewan who fled the Palliser’s Triangle region for settlement on the forest fringe in the northern part of the province were relatively successful in establishing new farms, but here a group of families formed a whole new town. See J. David Wood, Places of Last Resort: The Expansion of the Farm Frontier into the Boreal Forest in Canada, c. 1910– 1940 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006). 11 We exaggerate here the rights that come with private property. Legal historians point out that private property too is best conceived of as a bundle

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of rights. It is not absolute. The use of water that flows through one’s property is typically restricted to protect the rights of downstream users. Environmental laws also restrict use, and in Ontario and other Canadian provinces, mineral rights are held by the Crown. However, the idea of exclusive rights within a particular, bounded space is central to private property, and this idea – even if it is never fully realized – sets private property systems apart from systems such as the case discussed here. See Theodore Steinberg, Slide Mountain, or The Folly of Owning Nature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), ch. 1; John C. Weaver, The Great Land Rush and the Making of the Modern World (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003), ch. 2. 12 William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (New York: Hill and Wang, 1983), ch. 5; Brian Donahue, The Great Meadow: Farmers and the Land in Colonial Concord (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), ch. 2. 13 Allan Kulikoff, From British Peasants to Colonial American Farmers (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 8–16, quote at 14. 14 Gordon S. Wood, “Was America Born Capitalist?” Wilson Quarterly 23, no. 2 (1999): 36–46. 15 Ellen Meiksins Wood, The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View (London: Verso, 2002), 11–13, 35. 16 Ibid., 11–17; Henri Pirenne, Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade (Princeton, N J: Princeton University Press, 1969). 17 Robert J. Holton, “Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism,” in Tom Bottomore, ed., A Dictionary of Marxist Thought (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 1983), 484. 18 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Stephen Kalberg (Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury, 2002). The characterization of New England Puritans as “incorrigible doers” is in Alan Taylor, American Colonies (New York: Penguin, 2001), 161. 19 Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, The Peasants of Languedoc (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976), ix–xi, 3–8, 44–50, 289–311. 20 Fernand Braudel, Capitalism and Material Life, 1400–1800 (New York: Harper Colophon, 1975), x–xiv. 21 Pirenne, Medieval Cities, 214–22, quote at 215. 22 In contrast to proponents of the commercialization model, historians of liberalism argue that the idea of the profit-maximizing individual, free of entanglements of place and formal relationships, was developed out of ­opposition to the feudal order and its ties of paternalism and place-based, customary rights. Ian McKay argues that liberal ideology was not

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Introduction: Why Subsistence? 29

dominant in Canada until the late nineteenth century. See Ian McKay, “The Liberal Order Framework: A Prospectus for a Reconnaissance of Canadian History,” Canadian Historical Review 81, no. 4 (2000): 620–3. On liberalism in Canada, see Tina Loo, Making Law, Order and Authority in British Columbia, 1821–1871 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994); and Fernande Roy, Progrès, harmonie, liberté: Le libéralisme des milieux d’affaires francophonies de Montréal au tournante du siècle (Montreal: Boreal, 1988). On liberal opposition to feudal rights more ­generally, see Cheryl Greenberg, “Twentieth-Century Liberalisms: Transformations of an Ideology,” in Harvard Sitkoff, ed., Perspectives on Modern America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 56–7; Stuart Hall, “Variants of Liberalism,” in James Donald and Stuart Hall, eds, Politics and Ideology (Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1986), 38–9; and Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (1944; reprint, Boston: Beacon, 1957), 178–81. 23 Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, or Private Vices, Publick Benefits (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1924), 57, emphasis added. 24 Robert Kugelmann, Stress: The Nature and History of Engineered Grief (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1992), 158. What, then, of the famous thrift of the Puritans and other Protestants that was so important to early capitalism, which Colin Duncan references in this volume? Weber explains that although the Puritans opposed luxury, they were thinking of the idle luxuries and “sinful enjoyments” of the landed classes. Luxuries attained through the thrift and self-sacrifice that God demands, however, were not only acceptable but were also expected, a sign that a person was dedicated to the work to which he or she was called by God. So John Wesley worried about the corrupting influence of riches on his Methodist movement but saw no way around it: “‘wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased … Therefore I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world … Is there no way to prevent this continual decay of pure religion? We ought not to prevent people from being diligent and frugal; we must exhort all Christians to gain all they can, and to save all they can; that is, in effect, to grow rich.’” Cited in Weber, Protestant Ethic, 109, 119. Note Wesley’s assumption that all of this is natural. 25 In earlier writing, Marx emphasized the importance of the growth of trade and cities in the birth of capitalism. In Capital, however, he argued that ­although trade fostered commodification, it was in the class struggle between

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peasant and landlord, as outlined below, that the crucial break with feudal social relations was made. See Holton, “Transition from Feudalism,” 484. 26 Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, ed. Friedrich Engels (New York: Modern Library, 1906), 786–7. 27 Ibid., 784–805. 28 Ibid., 815–21, 787–9. The idea that capitalism was born in England and then spread has been vigorously contested by at least two groups of historians. One school argues that the birth of capitalism was a European-wide phenomenon. Another points particularly to the economic strength of ­China up to the late eighteenth century in order to argue that capitalism’s emergence was a global phenomenon. We will not argue these points but merely note that, if nothing else, the England-first literature offers important insights into the relationship between subsistence and capitalist ­markets. For a defence of the England-first model, see James Belich, Replenishing the Earth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 9–14; and Larry Patriquin, “The Agrarian Origins of the Industrial Revolution in England,” Review of Radical Political Economics 36, no. 2 (2004): 196–216. 29 Wood, Origin of Capitalism, 7; Robert Brenner, “Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe,” in T.H. Aston and C.H.E. Philpin, eds, The Brenner Debate: Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe, 10–63 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985). 30 Donahue, Great Meadow, 66. 31 Wood, Origin of Capitalism, chs 3–5; Donahue, Great Meadow, 64–73; Brenner, “Agrarian Class Structure”; Patriquin, “Agrarian Origins”; Ellen Meiksins Wood, “The Agrarian Origins of Capitalism,” Monthly Review 50, no. 3 (1998): 14–31. Brenner’s argument sparked an intense debate with Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, who replies briefly in “A Reply to Robert Brenner,” in T.H. Aston and C.H.E. Philpin, eds, The Brenner Debate: Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe, 101–6 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985). 32 R.H. Tawney, The Agrarian Problem in the Sixteenth Century (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1967); J.L. Hammond and Barbara Hammond, The Village Labourer, 1760–1832: A Study in the Government of England before the Reform Bill (New York: A.M. Kelley, 1967). 33 Michael Turner, “Common Property and Property in Common,” Agricultural History Review 42, no. 2 (1994): 158–62; Lawrence Stone, “Introduction to the Torchbook Edition,” in Tawney, Agrarian Problem, vii-xxii; Joan Thirsk, “Tudor Enclosures,” in The Rural Economy of England, 65–83 (London: Hambeldon, 1984). For a critical survey of this

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Introduction: Why Subsistence? 31

literature, see E.P. Thompson, Customs in Common: Studies in Traditional Popular Culture (New York: New Press, 1993), 114–59. 34 Turner, “Common Property,” 159; J.M. Neeson, Commoners: Common Right, Enclosure and Social Change in England, 1700–1820 (Cambridge, UK : Cambridge University Press, 1996). 35 There is some debate on this point. J.A. Yelling, summarizing a large body of specialized studies, and Robert Allen argue that open-field farmers were also incorporating productivity improvements into their agricultural practices, suggesting that enclosure was not essential to the development of the agricultural productivity that underlay agrarian capitalism. Allen argues that the effect of enclosure was less to increase efficiency than simply to transfer power to landlords. However, since landlords and government officials believed enclosure to be crucial to agricultural progress, it remains true that the development of capitalism and the elimination of customary rights went hand in hand. See J.A. Yelling, Common Field and Enclosure in England, 1450–1850 (London: Macmillan, 1977); Robert C. Allen, “Enclosure, Farming Methods, and the Growth of Productivity in the South Midlands,” Research in Economic History, supplement 5 (1989): 69–88; and Robert C. Allen, “The Efficiency and Distributional Consequences of Eighteenth Century Enclosures,” Economic Journal 92, no. 368 (1982): 937–53. 36 Wood, Origin of Capitalism, ch. 4. David Graeber debunks economic explanations that equate barter with trading based on the exchange of money. In fact, cultures that do not operate with money are often embedded in moral and gift economies rather than zero-sum monetary exchange. See David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years (Brooklyn, NY : Melville House, 2011), esp. ch. 2. 37 Polanyi, Great Transformation, 68–76. 38 William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York: W.W. Norton, 1991), 530; James C. Scott, “Taming Nature: An Agriculture of Legibility and Simplicity,” in Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, 262–306 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998). 39 Cole Harris, “How Did Colonialism Dispossess? Comments from an Edge of Empire,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 94, no. 1 (2004): 165–82, quote at 172. For treatment of the same subject matter at length, see Cole Harris, Making Native Space: Colonialism, Resistance, and Reserves in British Columbia (Vancouver: UB C Press, 2002). 40 Richard White, The Roots of Dependency: Subsistence, Environment, and Social Change among the Choctaws, Pawnees, and Navajos (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983).

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41 Lewis Henry Morgan, Ancient Society (New York: H. Holt and Company, 1877). 42 Marshall Sahlins, Stone Age Economics (Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1972), ch. 1. 43 Christopher Clark, The Roots of Rural Capitalism: Western Massachusetts, 1780–1860 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990); Winnifred Barr Rothenberg, From Market-Places to a Market Economy: The Transformation of Rural Massachusetts, 1750–1850 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992). Other entrants in the “market revolution” debate included Wilma Dunaway, The First American Frontier: Transition to Capitalism in Southern Appalachia, 1700–1860 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815–1846 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); Melvyn Stokes and Stephen Conway, eds, The Market Revolution in America: Social, Political, and Religious Expressions, 1800–1880 (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1996); and S. Hahn and J. Prude, The Countryside in the Age of Capitalist Transformation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985). A classic against which the moral economy historians were reacting was James T. Lemon, The Best Poor Man’s Country (New York: Norton, 1972). 44 Donahue, Great Meadow. 45 Trevor J. Barnes, Roger Hayter, and Elizabeth Hay, “Stormy Weather: Cyclones, Harold Innis, and Port Alberni, B C ,” Environment and Planning A 33, no. 12 (2001): 2127–47; Harold Innis, The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999); Harold Innis, The Cod Fisheries: The History of an International Economy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978). 46 Douglas Deur and Nancy J. Turner, Keeping It Living: Traditions of Plant Use and Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005), 16–21; Harriet V. Kuhnlein and Nancy J. Turner, Traditional Plant Foods of Canadian Indigenous Peoples: Nutrition, Botany, and Use (Philadelphia: Gordon and Breach, 1991), 17–19. 47 Ommer and Turner, “Informal Rural Economies,” 132–8. 48 Cole Harris, “The Making of the Lower Mainland,” in The Resettlement of British Columbia: Essays on Colonialism and Geographical Change, 68–102 (Vancouver: U BC Press, 1997). 49 Cole Harris, “The Fraser Canyon Encountered,” in The Resettlement of British Columbia: Essays on Colonialism and Geographical Change (Vancouver: U BC Press, 1997), 109–14; Cole Harris, The Reluctant Land:

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50 51

52

53 54 55 56

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Society, Space, and Environment in Canada before Confederation (Vancouver: U BC Press, 2008), 308–9; David T. McNab, “‘The Promise That He Gave to My Grand Father Was Very Sweet’: The Gun Shot Treaty of 1792 at the Bay of Quinte,” Canadian Journal of Native Studies 16, no. 2 (1996): 293–314. Ommer and Turner, “Informal Rural Economies,” 145. Ibid.; John Lutz, “After the Fur Trade: The Aboriginal Labouring Class of British Columbia, 1849–1890,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 3 (1992): 69–93; John Lutz, Makúk: A New History of Aboriginal-White Relations (Vancouver: UB C Press, 2008); Rolf Knight, Indians at Work: An Informal History of Native Labour in British Columbia, 1858–1930 (Vancouver: New Star Books, 1996). The potlatch story is in Robert A.J. McDonald, “Lumber Society on the Industrial Frontier: Burrard Inlet, 1863–1886,” Labour / Le Travail 33 (1994): 94. See, for example, Michael Asch, “The Dene Economy,” in Mel Watkins, ed., Dene Nation: The Colony Within, 47–61 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984); Fikret Berkes et al., “Wildlife Harvesting and Sustainable Regional Native Economy in the Hudson and James Bay Lowland, Ontario,” Arctic 47, no. 4 (1994): 350–60; Hugh Brody, Maps and Dreams (Toronto: Penguin, 1981); Claudia Notzke, “Indigenous Tourism Development in the Arctic,” Annals of Tourism Research 26, no. 1 (1999): 55–76; and Peter Usher, “The North: One Land, Two Ways of Life,” in L.D. McCann, ed., Heartland and Hinterland: A Geography of Canada, 231–47 (Scarborough, ON : Prentice Hall, 1982). Peter Elias, “Models of Aboriginal Communities in Canada’s North,” International Journal of Social Economics 24, no. 11 (1997): 1241–55. Scott Rushforth, “Country Food,” in Mel Watkins, ed., Dene Nation: The Colony Within, 32–46 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977).  Ommer and Turner, “Informal Rural Economies,” 146. Rosemary E. Ommer et al., “Food Security and the Informal Economy,” in Parrish, Turner, and Solberg, eds, Resetting the Kitchen Table, 116–17; Ommer and Turner, “Informal Rural Economies,” 147–8; Harris, Reluctant Land, 333; Graeme Wynn, Canada and Arctic North America: An Environmental History (Santa Barbara, C A : ABC-Clio, 2007). For a detailed and sophisticated evocation of such informal exchange relations in nineteenth-century Ontario, see Catharine Anne Wilson, “Reciprocal Work Bees and the Meaning of Neighbourhood,” Canadian Historical Review 82, no. 3 (2001): 431–64. John J. Mannion, Irish Settlements in Eastern Canada: A Study of Cultural Transfer and Adaptation (Toronto: Department of Geography, University

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59

60

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of Toronto, and University of Toronto Press, 1974), 33–52. Mannion suggests that settlement near Peterborough was shaped by the fact that farmers were focused on producing wheat for sale in Britain. The thesis that wheat was crucial to early Ontario agriculture has since been revised; see below. Sandwell, “Peasants on the Coast?”; R.W. Sandwell, Contesting Rural Space: Land Policy and Practices of Resettlement on Saltspring Island, 1859–1891 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005). Sean Cadigan, “The Staple Model Reconsidered: The Case of Agricultural Policy in Northeast Newfoundland, 1785–1855,” Acadiensis 21, no. 2 (1992): 48–9. Ibid., 50–3; John J. Mannion, ed., Peopling of Newfoundland: Essays in Historical Geography (St John’s, N L: Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1977), 11–12; Marilyn Porter, “‘She Was Skipper of the Shore-Crew’: Notes on the History of the Sexual Division of Labour in Newfoundland,” Labour / Le Travail 15 (1985): 105–23. Rosemary E. Ommer, “Merchant Credit and the Informal Economy: Newfoundland, 1919–1929,” Historical Papers / Communications historiques 24, no. 1 (1989): 167–89; Sean Cadigan, “The Moral Economy of the Commons: Ecology and Equity in the Newfoundland Cod Fishery, 1815–1855,” Labour / Le Travail 43 (1999): 9–42. For an exploration of a variety of commercial resources other than cod, including salmon, furs, and timber, see John J. Mannion, “Settlers and Traders in Western Newfoundland,” in Mannion, ed., Peopling of Newfoundland, 234–75. On the relationship between subsistence and the sealing industry on the northeastern coast, see Chesley Sanger, “The Evolution of Sealing and the Spread of Permanent Settlement in Northeastern Newfoundland,” in Mannion, ed., Peopling of Newfoundland, 136–51. Douglas McCalla, Planting the Province: The Economic History of Upper Canada, 1784–1870 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993), 6, 37– 42, 67–91. This is not to suggest that McCalla argues for the existence of a moral economy in early Ontario. He also notes that Ontario farmers were part of a transatlantic commercial economy and that ultimately they were focused on economic opportunity. See Douglas McCalla, “A World without Chocolate: Grocery Purchases at Some Upper Canadian Country Stores, 1808–1861,” Agricultural History 79, 2 (2005): 147–72. The argument about the primacy of the household and a mixed economy rests less on the idea that farmers had particular values than on the idea that they operated within a developing system where the local economy trumped the international and where the major economic asset was the farms themselves.

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63 Bouchard, “Marginality, Co-integration and Change,” 25–6. 64 Ommer and Turner, “Informal Rural Economies,” 147. On the importance of the household, see also R.W. Sandwell, “Rural Reconstruction: Towards a New Synthesis in Canadian History,” Histoire Sociale / Social History 27, no. 53 (1994): 1–32; Gérard Bouchard, “Through the Meshes of Patriarchy: The Male / Female Relationship in the Saguenay Peasant Society (1860–1930),” History of the Family 4, no. 4 (1999): 397–425; Allan Greer, Peasant, Lord, and Merchant: Rural Society in Three Quebec Parishes, 1740–1840 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985); Allan Greer, “Wage Labour and the Transition to Capitalism: A Critique of Pentland,” Labour / Le Travail 15 (1985): 7–22; Steven Maynard, “Between Farm and Factory: The Productive Household and the Capitalist Transformation of the Maritime Countryside, Hopewell, Nova Scotia, 1869–1890,” in Daniel Samson, ed., Contested Countryside: Rural Workers and Modern Society in Atlantic Canada, 1800–1950, 70–104 (Fredericton, N B: Gorsebrook Research Institute for Atlantic Canada Studies and Acadiensis Press, 1994); and Béatrice Craig, Backwoods Consumers and Homespun Capitalists: The Rise of a Market Culture in Eastern Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), 10. 65 Eric Wolf, Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century (1969; reprint, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999); R.W. Sandwell, “Notes Towards a History of Rural Canada,” in John R. Parkins and Maureen G. Reed, eds, Social Transformation in Rural Canada: Community, Cultures, and Collective Action, 21–38 (Vancouver: UB C Press, 2013). 66 Omohundro, “Living Off the Land,” 119-20. 67 Bettinna Bradbury, “Pigs, Cows and Boarders: Non-Wage Forms of Survival among Montréal Families, 1861–1891,” Labour / Le Travail 14 (1984): 9–46; Ted Steinberg, Down to Earth: Nature’s Role in American History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 157–74; Murton, Creating a Modern Countryside, 188–9; Sarah Moore, “Forgotten Roots of the Green City: Subsistence Gardening in Columbus, Ohio, 1900– 1940,” Urban Geography 27, no. 2 (2006): 174–92. 68 Omohundro, “Living Off the Land,” 104–16. Note that Omohundro argues that subsistence on the Great Northern Peninsula is not something done in order to stave off poverty; it is practised more by the middle class than by the very poor. See also Felt, Murphy, and Sinclair, “‘Everyone does it.’” For subsistence in the context of the current crises of East Coast and West Coast communities, see various sections of Rosemary E. Ommer and Coasts under Stress Research Project Team, Coasts under Stress: Restructuring and Social-Ecological Health (Montreal and Kingston:

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69

70 71 72

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McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007). Capelin is a small, sardine-like fish and is the main food source for cod. They migrate from offshore to ­inshore waters between mid-June and early July, followed by cod, whales, sea birds, and other migratory species. After spawning in shallow water, they die and wash up on beaches. Settler Newfoundlanders used the capelin as fishing bait, for food when dried and salted, as well as to fertilize subsistence gardens. See La Via Campesina, http://viacampesina.org; Chuenpagdee, ed., World Small-Scale Fisheries; and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen and Maria Mies, The Subsistence Perspective: Beyond the Globalised Economy (London: Zed Books, 2000). Wolf, Peasant Wars. For a fuller discussion, see “Introduction to Part Three”; and Sajay Samuel’s chapter in this volume. Gustavo Esteva and Madhu Prakash observe that there is a huge difference between the scientific construct of calories and the culturally embedded concept of comida, or food. They observe, “There is no English word for comida … While ‘feast’ comes closest in its implication of eating together, it refers only to a special occasion, while comida is eaten by the ‘­social majorities’ in the ‘normal’ course of every day. Perhaps we need to recall that the Anglo-Saxon world was the cultural space in which the industrial mode of production was established first and foremost. There, vernacular activities related to comida have been suffocated or suppressed.” See Gustavo Esteva and Madhu Prakash, Grassroots Post-modernism: Remaking the Soil of Cultures (New York: Zed Books, 1998), 59. Arturo Escobar, “Culture Sits in Places: Reflections on Globalism and Subaltern Strategies of Localization,” Political Geography 20, no. 3 (2001): 155.

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pa rt o n e

Making Markets by Pushing Subsistence into the Shadows

The chapters in part 1, which focus on Canadian case studies, set the historical context for the contemporary studies in part 2 by examining the ways that capitalist markets pushed subsistence activities into the shadows. As geographer David Harvey has commented, capitalist markets cannot exist without a state apparatus to set and enforce ground rules and maintain structures, such as communication systems, critical to the operation of markets. Thus states are also critical to bringing markets into existence, and maintaining markets is an ongoing process of recreating existing laws, regulations, infrastructure, and discourses. The chapters in this section make all this quite clear, while focusing on the role of subsistence practices in this process. Most directly, they show that capitalist markets were built by state actions that eliminated subsistence practices. So Sarah J. Martin’s “The Seeds of Calculability: The Home Farms Experiment on and off the Books” considers a nineteenth-century Canadian government attempt to replace the subsistence practices of prairie First Nations people with European-style farming. Farming instructors, seed, and equipment were sent to prairie reserves, along with instructions to quantify the successes and failures of the plan. Government inspectors were to count the number of First Nations people on the reserve – difficult to do, as they tended to come and go, likely as they pursued seasonal hunting and fishing opportunities – the number of acres of land broken, the number of fence rails cut, and the like. Such quantification – or “calculability,” as Martin calls it, citing Timothy Mitchell – lay at the heart of the plan of transformation. It made the project visible to the Canadian state – indeed, visible only to the Canadian state. We can imagine blue-suited bureaucrats in Ottawa poring over tables of numbers that were utterly

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unavailable to First Nations people. Anyone and anything that fell outside of the frame of numbers – such as locally created and mediated relations of production or continuing subsistence practices – were ignored or their practitioners were subjected to discipline and violence. William Knight’s “Blurring the Boundaries: Subsistence and Recreational Fisheries in Late-Nineteenth-Century Ontario” shifts the focus to fishing regulation in the same period. According to Knight, before this time it would have been strange to suggest that fishing was not also about eating. Two things worked to change this. First was the culture of angling, most famously expounded in Izaak Walton’s seventeenth-­century The Compleat Angler. Gentleman anglers caught fish by the challenging discipline of hook and line rather than by scooping them up in nets or capturing them in weirs. Second, what spurred the Ontario government to bring in regulations favouring anglers was the chance to capture dollars from visiting sport fishermen. Such tourists employed guides, stayed at local hotels, drove up property values and so property taxes, and generally spread money around. Gradually, “game” fish like speckled trout were reserved exclusively for anglers, whereas practices like spearing or night fishing, pursued by First Nations and settlers alike, were outlawed. However, the relationship between markets and subsistence was more complex than just the former eliminating the latter. Joshua MacFadyen’s discussion of the flax commodity chain in “Spinning Flax in Mills, Households, and the Canadian State, 1850–1870” shows how industrial enterprises could create opportunities for farming and homebased work that also supplied subsistence needs. Flax is often presented at heritage sites as the ultimate subsistence product, grown by small farmers and turned by farm women into homespun clothing. MacFadyen shows that, in fact, flax production was usually directed by flax mill owners, who supplied seed, purchased the mature plant, and then sent it out to farm women to spin into cloth. Flax was also promoted by governments, which saw it as a potential new industry. The story of Ontario flax, then, “shows the complexities of rural industry and household textile production, as well as the ways that the language of promoters and moralists has disguised flax as a market commodity in subsistence’s clothing.” Finally, R.W. Sandwell’s “Rural Households, Subsistence, and Environment on the Canadian Shield, 1901–1940” shows the poor fit between state priorities and people’s actual lives by examining what the Canadian census can tell us about the activities of farm families on the

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Making Markets by Pushing Subsistence into the Shadows 39

cold, rocky soils of the Canadian Shield. Anecdotal evidence paints a picture of a subsistence strategy that took in all members of the household and combined production for home use with the sale of commodities to nearby lumber and mining camps and wage labour by family members in these same camps. Yet little of this activity is visible in the official Canadian census, which was interested primarily in the extent to which farms turned out commodities for sale on markets. Sandwell does more than reveal the complexity of farm lives on the Canadian Shield and the way that the Canadian state blanched out this complexity. She also points out how important these farmers and this subtle mix of subsistence and market activities were to the establishment of market capitalism on the Canadian Shield. Shield farmers provided food for loggers and miners, while also more generally offering social and so economic stability in a region whose settler population would otherwise have consisted mostly of transient single men. Sandwell also suggests that it was possibly the denial after the Second World War of access to the land needed to produce a subsistence that allowed for the triumph of the postwar consumer economy. Thus knowledge of the subsistence activities of the Shield farmers is important not only to understanding them but also to understanding and ­critiquing Canadian capitalism.

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1 The Seeds of Calculability: The Home Farms Experiment on and off the Books s a r a h j . m a rt i n

In the mid–1880s Joseph Wrigley, commissioner of the Hudson’s Bay Company, was asked about the “Indian problem” in Canada’s North West Territories (now the prairie provinces). “These Indians,” he reported, “through the influence of the Government, farm instructors and Christian missionaries, have become civilized, and, to an almost universal extent pursue an agricultural avocation on their reserves. No danger, therefore, is to be apprehended from these Indians, who rapidly are becoming a desirable element in the population, in as much as they are giving up the chase and confining themselves to farming operations.”1 Wrigley’s observations were meant to reassure prairie settlers, but they also illuminate how an “agriculture avocation” was considered a transformative and pacifying force – one that incorporated Indigenous people into the Euro-Canadian order, confined them to farming, and transformed them into a “desirable element” of the population. The instructors referred to by Wrigley were part of the “home farm” scheme, which the Canadian government operated from 1879 to 1884 as the cornerstone program of the newly created Department of Indian Affairs. The scheme provided model farms, agricultural instruction, and material support, such as farm equipment, seeds, and stock, to prairie Native people. These efforts took place in the shadow of the so-called “numbered treaties,” which, from 1871 to 1877, took land from Indigenous peoples and structured the Prairies into discrete, saleable properties.2 Combined with the reserves, they spatially framed and managed dispossession. By introducing European-style soil cultivation – one of the “arts of civilization” – to First Nations people, the home farm scheme overlaid

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The Seeds of Calculability 41

a set of practices that supported the “settling” of the Prairies, which included the introduction of a nascent agricultural market and thus the subordination of subsistence practices. In an attempt to manage the immediate and very real problems of Indigenous starvation and revolt, the home farm scheme promoted an agricultural idyll and began to incorporate this idyll into a set of market relations by quantifying and measuring agricultural productivity. “Undesirable” elements of the population were fixed within reserves, and new agricultural markets were tentatively introduced and rendered visible with practices of calculation. Indigenous foodways that were outside this frame were obscured. The home farm scheme illustrates how these nascent practices of calculation at once portrayed Indigenous peoples as failed agriculturalists and at the same time elided the violence, starvation, and dispossession of colonization. The Canadian state, in effect, attempted to settle and pacify Indigenous peoples through food control and to render agricultural production calculable.3 The first section of this chapter discusses the relation between subsistence and the market, with an eye toward theorizing a nascent Canadian agricultural economy on the Prairies and the role of calculation within it. The second section describes the home farm experiment. Reports from the administrators of the program included tabulations that summarized the home farm scheme and helped to illuminate what was considered part of the market and what was not. The third section makes some tentative links to the creation of subjects out of Indigenous people. To understand how borders were created between the market and the  nonmarket, I turn first to theorizing subsistence and the making of markets. bordering subsistence and markets

Subsistence relations are often compared to and measured against market and economic relations. As a result, subsistence and market relations are often depicted as in conflict with each another. For example, in this volume Sajay Samuel suggests that a market society is established on the demolition sites of other social relations, such as those of subsistence. He argues that an economic lens is narrow and obscures nonmarket relationships. In other words, a market society exists through the exclusion of alternative social relations. How does this exclusion occur? Drawing from Smith, he writes that the market is propelled by human acquisitiveness, a propensity that has been buttressed and supported more recently

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by “arithmetical measurements.” Social relations and practices that fall outside these frames – those that are not determined by this human acquisitiveness or that cannot be numerically measured – are excluded. A successful economic explanation, therefore, depends on its narrowness.4 The logic of this worldview is dependent on externalizing “facts” that do not fit into the explanation. Economics and economies are autonomous and insulated from politics and ethics; an economy is a realm unto itself. This realm is narrow, and as Samuel writes, “people and things are often resized to fit in.” Timothy Mitchell has argued that capitalism is a frontier, a broad series of spatio-temporal shifts in social relations – for example, from rural to urban or from agriculture to industrial capitalism. By examining this “frontier,” we can illuminate how capitalism obtains its identity through these shifts and distinguishes between the market and the nonmarket.5 Nevertheless, capitalist expansion does not follow a naturalized or evolutionary path, nor does it smoothly displace other social relations. It is built incrementally by fits and starts. It is deliberately, and often violently, imposed over other, existing social relationships. These projects are not always successful, nor are they inevitable. However, neither markets nor economies are evolutionary processes. Therefore, how a market is made and how the nonmarket is excluded are important. One way to examine these processes is to look at the border areas of where a market begins and ends. The border between “the market” and subsistence is not set. It is changeable and contested. The border shifts and is defined, redefined, enforced, and reinforced over and over again. An economy is identified by a set of specific arrangements and exclusions, which shift over time. For example, in this volume R.W. Sandwell illustrates how early Canadian industry did not wholly displace subsistence but was interdependent with it. In the early twentieth century, worker self-­provisioning effectively provided a foothold for industry and subsidized early industrial production, while buffering workers from a complete reliance on wage labour. However, the state took interest when subsistence practices, such as woodlot logging by farmers, began to be viewed as part of the pulp and paper industry. The state reacted to the renewed interest in  farm woodlots by undertaking a census and valuing them. A new market calculation was undertaken. In other words, the economy was “expanded” because new sites of economic activity were identified, quantified, and valued, sites that were previously of no consequence to the state. Thus we can see how the borders of the economy are contested

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The Seeds of Calculability 43

and changeable. Woodlots were easily incorporated into an economic frame through a simple calculation of value and, in turn, were connected with the larger pulp and paper sector of the economy. What was previously “outside” the market was now part of a wider provincial and national economy. If we are to look back and examine the tools needed to build an economy – not the industries but the calculative practices used to measure, examine, and value an economy – the late nineteenth century offers a starting point. Certainly, the construction of the railway, the resettling of land with Euro-Canadians, and the creation of private property through dispossession were part of this program. However, a more granular examination focuses on the construction of a border between what was considered part of the economy and what was outside of it. One of the important tools in this determination is calculation. Therefore, the distinction between what is and is not part of a state economy is often determined by whether an object – wheat, woodlots, or furs – has what Mitchell calls “calculability.” calculability

For an economy to become a reality, Mitchell argues, social relations must be abstracted through enumeration and calculability. Calculation is transformative because sites are detached from the particularities of social relations and events, which means they can then be “seen” by the state.6 Cole Harris’s discussion of British Columbia’s McKenna-McBride Commission, charged from 1912 to 1916 with redrawing reserve boundaries, is illustrative. When the commissioners questioned chiefs about their use of reserve lands, they were often met with long, detailed explanations that incorporated comments on how the chiefs understood the proper relationship between people and land. The commissioners were generally impatient with such accounts and pressed instead for numbers: How many acres farmed? How much timber cut?7 These were calculations they could put in their report. In addition, as a site or an object becomes calculable, new kinds of comparisons can occur. Max Weber observed, “Calculability and reliability in the functioning of the legal order and the administrative system is vital to rational capitalism.”8 He stated that every rational economy is capable of being expressed in numerical, calculable terms, with money holding the highest degree of formal calculability. The calculability of the production process, public administration, and the legal order are joined through accounting and

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expressed in monetary terms. Calculability links the important state processes of production, administration, and law. Writing in the early part of the twentieth century, Weber was focused on the rise of industry and industrial production and its relation to the state. Importantly, agriculture, according to Weber, lacked calculability and was irrational because it was subject to cyclical fluctuations such as weather.9 Thus agriculture is viewed as a site that is resistant to calculation. This resistance gives us insights into the hard work that had to be put into creating a Canadian economy that included agriculture. Calculation is an act of enframing.10 As social relations are abstracted and become calculable, the effect is to obscure the actors who are outside the frame and the accounting ledgers and to privilege those, including nonhuman actors, who are within it and quantified. Mitchell argues that the more nonhuman agents, such as legal practices, are accounted for, the less likely human agency can be seen as an imperative. The act of enframing an economy has real-world consequences. Those outside an economy, and thus not part of market relations, are often subject to violence. Although agriculture lacked calculability, state programs attempted to rationalize it and to incorporate Indigenous peoples into the EuroCanadian order. Both Mitchell and Harris describe how maps, numbers, law, and ­particularly private property enframe and dispossess.11 These practices helped to build and construct reserves. Maps defined Indigenous space and separated it from settler space; pass laws, which required Native people to acquire a pass in order to leave the reserve, confined Indigenous people to these spaces, making it possible to count and calculate them. Importantly, just as calculable practices such as mapping and laws created sites that became fixed, the promotion of agriculture linked the “fixed” sites to a free market. State agricultural schemes extended the work of the reserves by attempting to create on-reserve commercial agriculture, which was meant to replace Indigenous foodways. All of this was justified, as Harris points out, with a discourse that located “civilization” with settlers and “savagery” with Indigenous peoples. In addition, the market was located with civilization, and what we can call subsistence was located outside the frame with savagery. Ultimately, all these disciplinary practices assisted the nation-state by simplifying complex realities and facilitating management and administration.12 We can see the early seeds of these complex practices of calculability in the efforts to enforce the border between the market and nonmarket in the home farm scheme.

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The Seeds of Calculability 45

h o m e fa r m s

In 1870 Canada acquired the North West Territories from Britain and the Hudson’s Bay Company, and negotiations from 1871 to 1877 produced seven treaties dispossessing lands and creating reserves. During this time, reports from Indian agents, surveyors, and government officials described how famine was becoming commonplace among the Indigenous peoples.13 As a solution to the famine, officials began to conceive of a program that would encourage an agricultural avocation through instruction and support.14 David Laird, the Indian superintendent in the North West Territories, wrote to the minister of the interior, stating that the Canadian government had a choice: “help the Indians farm, and raise stock” so that they would have enough to eat, or “fight them.”15 The first policy – encouraging farming and raising stock – addressed the issue of famine and revolt. This was important because the new treaties obliged the government to provide aid. The Department of the Interior’s annual report of 1876 complained about these obligations in its discussion of Treaty 6: “there is inserted in this treaty a provision in reference to aid promised to the Indians in case of famine or pestilence which is wholly new and which I greatly regret should have been agreed to by the Commissioners, as it may cause the Indians to rely upon the Government instead of upon their own exertions for sustenance, especially as their natural means of subsistence are likely to diminish with the settlement of the country.”16 By encouraging settlement and farming, the government hoped to sidestep the provision of aid and to “settle” revolt. The scheme for farm instruction was devised in the fall and winter of 1878–79. The initial home farm plan was vague, but the aim was to instruct Indigenous peoples in farming and livestock production, as per Laird’s advice.17 Edgar Dewdney, a member of Parliament from British Columbia, was appointed as commissioner of Indian affairs by John A. Macdonald in 1879 specifically to deal with the ongoing famine. The “experiment” laid out for Dewdney included establishing fifteen farm agencies and two supply farms in and around reserves newly formed under Treaties 4, 6, and 7.18 Dewdney met with bands and Indigenous leaders to explain the government policy, which required settlements on the designated reserves to receive government help. They were expected to become self-sufficient through agriculture. The title “home farms” was a reference to estate farms in Great Britain that were established with tenant farming rather

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than farm ownership. The government retained trusteeship over the land, and the participants, whether instructors or those on the reserves, were tenants. Fifteen instructors, primarily patronage appointees from Ontario, arrived throughout 1879, many of them too late in the year to farm and many with little to no farming experience. While the reserve farms were getting established, “supply farms” were to produce food to address the famine and serve as depots for supplies. Within the reserves, plots of land were assigned to the head of each family, agricultural schools were established, and a program of inspection was implemented for the new instructors, who were to be overseen by Indian agents. Macdonald stated in Parliament that “the general principle of all the Indian laws has been to give Indians the feelings of proprietorship, by letting each have his own house and a piece of ground to cultivate as his own.”19 Despite the fact that the government retained trusteeship, the scheme was presented as fostering proprietorship, a key attribute needed to help construct a market. As these experiments go, it was very optimistic. Farming instructors were entrusted to implement the scheme while establishing their own model farms. They were to oversee the farms on the reserves and offer advice and instruction on how to break soil and then seed, harvest, and store grain and root crops, as well as supervise the building of houses, barns, and root cellars. With such a large workload for the instructors, it is not surprising that many of the government’s expectations were not met. Many instructors either resigned or were fired as the program got underway. That said, it was reported back to Ottawa that credible efforts had been made, and Dewdney still maintained that Indigenous peoples could be independent if “properly instructed in agriculture.”20 Instruction and the modelling of “proper” agriculture were repeatedly emphasized as vital to solving the “Indian problem.” For example, Sir John A. Macdonald stated that Indigenous peoples should pursue agriculture because it would produce self-reliant settlements. In addition, it was important that Indigenous peoples be taught to farm properly, as their mode of farming retarded “improvement” in the vicinity of the reserve: “The Crown is continually obliged to resist pressure to deprive the Indians of their lands. I have no doubt my predecessor has found that civilisation and improvement in the vicinity of an Indian Reserve, have been much retarded by the fact that of the Indian Reserve being there, and by reason of the slatternly and slovenly mode of farming by the Indians. It is great Injury to any portion of the country to have an Indian Reserve in its midst.”21 Further to this point, Macdonald stated: “We

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The Seeds of Calculability 47

cannot allow them to starve, and we cannot make them whitemen. All we can do is to endeavour to induce them to abandon their nomadic habits, and settle down” by providing the proper resources to help “induce them into [becoming] agriculturalists.”22 In other words, the solution to the problem of famine and revolt was settlement and agriculture. But agriculture was also the solution to the larger, more difficult problem of how to civilize Native people. “How to get the Indian to become a freeholder, and enjoy the privileges of civilised life, seems a question almost impossible of solution. But that object will be constantly kept in view by the government,” stated Macdonald.23 As the experiment progressed, conflicting reports continued to arrive in Ottawa. In his report to the superintendent general of Indian affairs on 1 January 1882, Dewdney described the efforts of the twenty-four farming instructors working in the areas covered by Treaties 4, 6, and 7. On the one hand, there were optimistic descriptions of “industrious Indians who want[ed] to farm” and descriptions of dissatisfied Indigenous peoples astray in misery who returned to the Eden–like reserve, where they “found [to] their joy that they were the possessors of good fields of grain and vegetables” and stated that “they will never leave the reserve again.”24 On the other hand, the buffalo hunt continued since the new farms were taking time to become fully established. The hunt, Dewdney complained, created a shortage of labour on the farms, and besides, the returning horses were allowed to graze on the newly planted crops. The hunt itself appeared to undermine the farm experiment even though it was clearly contributing to the amelioration of the ongoing famine. The report foreshadowed further problems on the farms. For example, the following year, a number of farm instructors were assaulted for not providing rations, and storehouses were seized to distribute food among the starving bands. In addition, some bands independently left the reserves and moved to areas where they could hunt and fish.25 Although these events were variously interpreted as revolt and / or work avoidance, the government experiment was clearly not serving Indigenous peoples in  the way that it was intended, and subsistence practices sustained Indigenous peoples when the farms and government rations could not. At the same time that agriculture was being promoted as a means to a settled life and industrious pursuits, the government was increasingly using food as a weapon and a means of control. Food rations were cut off by the Mounted Police and offered only if the targeted people moved to the reserves.26 Dewdney reported, “I took upon the removal of some 3000 Indians from Cypress and scattered them through the country as a

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solution of one of our main difficulties, as it was found impossible at times to have such control as was desirable over such a large number … Indians already on reserves will be more settled, as no place to rendezvous will be found where food can be had without a return of work being exacted.” In addition, Dewdney authorized a policy of increasing goods and food to Indigenous people who stayed on the reserve – an agricultural avocation was not enough. E. Brian Titley states that this policy worked, and when the “Indians were treated well and supplied with food and equipment they stayed on their reserves and worked hard,” but conflicting reports indicate very mixed results.27 The following year, the 1883 Indian Affairs report recorded “important progress” in the advancement of the “Indians of the plains.”28 Despite this “progress,” the initial problematic of producing agricultural land and agriculturalists was left open, as “a considerable number of Indians who have not been weaned from the roving life” remained. As a result, “judicious measures will … be necessary to prevent … the diversions of the industrial pursuits of those already settled.”29 In addition, ongoing criticism in Ottawa of the scheme’s cost resulted in the end of the home farms, and they began to be closed.30 The program was ultimately declared a failure.31 Dewdney retained his optimism. He declared that the program would reap enough agricultural products to require Indian agents to mediate between Indigenous peoples and the market.32 This suggests that participation in the agricultural market place was not meant to extend beyond the borders of the reserves. When Indigenous peoples attempted to participate directly in the agricultural marketplace, they were met with pushback from settlers who viewed them as unfair competition.33 on the books

What can the home farm experiment tell us about calculability? The program was the cornerstone of the new Department of Indian Affairs and was extensively invested in by the government. Yet the reserve farmers produced few marketable commodities and made few contributions to the Canadian economy. That said, by examining the experiment’s calculations, we can see what was valued – literally and figuratively. In his annual report of 1882, Dewdney included a table that listed “Farming Agencies and Indian Reservations” (see figure 1.1).34 This table aggregated the Indian agent’s reports of the conditions of the home farms. The farms, farming instructors, and locations of the

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Figure 1.1  “Farming agencies and Indian reservations,” 1882. This is a detail of a larger table that runs over several pages in the original report. For the entries in the table, see table 1.1.

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Table 1.1  Farming agencies and Indian reservations, 1882. This table reproduces selected elements of the table shown in figure 1.1. Farm No.

1

Name of instructor.

Location.

Charles Lawford Way-see-cappo The Gambler, Head Man

Way-seecappo’s Reserve, Bird Tail Creek

James Johnston Côté or Mee-may Kish-ah konse The Key

Côté’s Reserve, near Fort Pelly

James Setter Chuck-ah-chass Kah-kee-she-way Oosoup Sah-kah-mas or Mosquito White Bear Kah-kee-wis-tahaw

Crooked Lakes

G. Newlove Pas-quah Mus-kow-weepe-tung Standing Bull (Sioux)

Near Qu’ Appelle

5

H.J. Taylor Little Black Bear Star Blanket O-kah-neese Pee-pee-kee-sis

File Hills

6

G.S. McConnell Touchwood Day Star Hills Cah wah-ca-toose or Poor Man Gordon Mus-cow-ah-qubau Nut Lake or Hard Quill Yellow Quill

7

J.J. English (Assiniboine Indians)

2

3

4

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Round Lake

Maple Creek

Broken for year.

Under crop, 1881.

Under crop, 1880.

Fenced

Hay cut

Wheat

Acres 56 20 20

Acres 56 20 20

Acres 27¼ 15

Acres 160

Tons. 148

Acres

48

10

30 15 50 15

26½ 15 43¾ 15

} }

20

50

}40 }

50 160

92

65¼

127

40

12 70

12 60

12 60

150 50

40

20

20

15

6 12 10 10 8

6 10 7 6 6

6 10 7 10 6

30 16 12 15

35 30 10 20 5 7

22 6 10 20 4 7

116

115¼

17

70 6 10 20 4½ 7

77

100

} 54 }

12

140 30 6 15 6 30

7

18

22

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The Seeds of Calculability 51

Oats

Barley

Potatoes

Wheat

Oats

Barley

Potatoes

Turnips

Acres

Acres

Acres 1 7 5

Bush 376 80 200

Bush 644

Bush 114 280

Bush 250 500 1000

Bush 200 350 2500

8

250

Rails cut

}

1600 52000

7000

4

28

12

70

120

Approximate number of Indians on reserves 1600 60

} }

23 50 30

2000

161 34 75 20 154

3000 18000

160

17000 1000

18350

2000 4000 2500 2000 2000 6

5

½

76

50

34

54

¾

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10

583

1700

60 39

120

270

15

1000

160

4000 3000 3000 2000 1000 1000

4500

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Sarah J. Martin

Table 1.1  (continued) Farm No.

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

Name of instructor.

Location.

Broken for year.

Under crop, 1881.

32

32

160

87

25 20

25 15

J. Tomkins Beardy O-kee ma-sis, Head Man Cut Nose One Arrow George Weldon (Sioux)

Duck Lake

A.B. Loucks Wm. Twatt John Smith Cha-kas-tah-paysin James Smith

Prince Albert North of Prince Albert South Branch do Fort a la Corne

27½ 30 250 22 20

George Chaffee Mestawais Ah-tah-kah-coop Pet-te-quay-kee Ko-pau-wek-mus Kennemoytanoo

Snake Plains do \ Sandy Lake Muskeg Lake/ Green Lake

35

35

290

215

10 10

10 10

T. Chambers Red Pheasant Mosquito

Eagle Hills do do

34 100 45

34 88 30

Samual Ballendine Strike him-on-theback Pondmaker

Battle River do do

52 58

30½ 40½

Daniel L. Clink Moosoomin Ah-pische-moose

Jackfish Creek do do

83

P.J. Williams

Onion Lake Fort Pitt

Carried Forward

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20½ 30 250 22 20

Under crop, 1880.

Fenced

Hay cut

Wheat

100 38

50

30

23¼

30

20



19

50

50

13

139

620

125

75

27¼ 51¼

34 88 30

60 70 20

8

47½

32 42

110 35 100

56

2

203

40

5

65

65

23½

100

40

17

2153½

1749¼

1883

188

} }

}

296

951

1968½

½ 2

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Oats

The Seeds of Calculability 53

Barley

Potatoes

Wheat

Oats

450 250

Barley

Potatoes

150 150

300 240

Turnips

Rails cut

Approximate number of Indians on reserves

400 370

100

6

10

5

3

3

8

3

90

20

31 4

15 10

178

70

1000

1500

800

200

60

100

300

100

225

500

11 20

9 1½

10 40

140 270

750 950

150 350

21

7

40

100

200

350



36½

7

150

700

300

30

96½

305½

152

4157

2794

4318

9225

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6290

150,950

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Sarah J. Martin

home farms are all listed. The “Approximate Number of Indians on Reserves” is quantified, and the first column lists a hierarchy of farm instructors and Indigenous leaders. The other columns calculate and aggregate, for example, the number of fence rails cut, the number of acres of land broken and under cultivation, and the number and types of newly built houses and stables. There are detailed calculations of the crops produced and the labour value of harvesting hay and breaking thousands of acres of land (see table 1.1). These were all considered important enough to measure, and they indicate the objects that were considered to have the character of calculability. This table begins to trace out what was part of the market and what were externalities. The issue is not whether the numbers are accurate but how they were constructed, which was often with a good dose of improvisation. Farm instructors were responsible for keeping accurate records of reserve populations, as well as reporting on the other activities listed above. The Indian agents visited the farms to monitor the instructor’s progress and to check the calculations and records by estimating the acreage under cultivation, total harvests, and so on. Hayter Reed, an Indian agent, complained that the instructors “lack the knowledge of the different numbers of the band” and that, in general, the recording and monitoring of the comings and goings on the reserve were insufficient.35 One farm instructor’s books were said to be in a “muddled state.”36 What might be considered a straightforward task – counting the residents of the reserve – was complicated by comings and goings. Although there were estimates of how many people lived on the reserve, the numbers could not be fixed. Numbers were fluid and changeable. As noted above, bands moved, for example, to be closer to fishing and hunting grounds. This was not surprising, as pre-reserve Indigenous foodways on the Prairies were characterized by movement between various seasonal food sources, not by fixedness.37 What occurred “off the books” was external to what occurred on the books and on the reserve. According to the tables, bushels and bushels of food were produced, and acres and acres of crops were planted. These estimates shifted attention away from the ongoing famine and from the government’s responsibility to provide aid during times of need. Often the only way to get provisions and food from the government was to labour. For example, on the Duck Lake Reserve, 8,000 rails were cut for fences in order to obtain provisions.38 The labour had little to do with learning an agricultural avocation but was instead a mechanism for obtaining food. Some work was simply done for show. For instance,

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under the watchful eye of the farm instructor, potatoes were planted, but soon afterward – due to hunger, one can assume – the potatoes were unearthed and eaten.39 The initial intent of the home farm scheme was to induce Indigenous peoples to farm. However, this is not the entire explanation of the project. The scheme was the state’s solution to the complex and violent effects produced by colonization. To the government, the problems of unrest, revolt, and famine could all be solved by one program that was expected to produce a settled agrarian population. In turn, this population would begin to be incorporated into the newly emerging economic nation through its contribution of European agricultural products. Yet even as reports of Indigenous peoples pursuing an agricultural avocation were being made to Ottawa and charts were being produced that listed the progress of the home farms, Indigenous peoples were resisting dispossession and settlement on reserves. Harris argues that disciplinary technologies such as laws, numbers, and maps were used to dispossess. However, although these technologies were necessary to construct the home farms, the scheme also produced new subjects and thus new governance problematics. The farm was a site for lessons in civilization and citizenship40 but also for the production of the wealth and prosperity of the nation. The attempted construction of an agricultural market on the reserves shifted the state from a facilitator of settler expansion to a governor of populations as new economic subjects. The home farm scheme and its attendant administration by agents, instructors, laws, numbers, and maps enframed Indigenous peoples as economic subjects. The seeds of calculability are seen in the Department of Indian Affairs annual report of 1882, which represents the program in table form and through the use of accounting schema. This enframing obscures the incidences of violence and use of food as a means to control, to remove, and to “settle” Indigenous peoples on reserves. The problematic of famine produced an opportunity to use food as a lever to move Indigenous peoples to reserves and, once there, to keep them in place.41 However, the program was presented as an inducement into citizenship, civilization, and agricultural avocation, with the latter defined both by a set of calculable figures and by a representation of an agricultural idyll. Importantly, the violence that accompanied colonization and the use of food as a weapon were not represented. Instead, the arrival of the market was presented as a natural, evolutionary advance, and agriculture was framed as a necessary and inevitable path to civilization.

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Historians argue that the home farm program was a failure and call our attention to the poor instruction, poor equipment, and inadequate provisions. Titley, for instance, states that the closing of the supply and home farms was a “realistic response to initiatives that had failed,” arguing that the end of the program meant a better allocation of funds.42 Hugh Shewell lists a range of issues that contributed to the failure of the home farm scheme, including poor instructors with little expertise in prairie farming, poor equipment, and undercapitalization.43 Alternatively, Frank Tough states that there were many instances in northern Manitoba of Indians becoming “committed agriculturalists” as hunting declined.44 These farms were abandoned at the turn of the twentieth century as wild stocks returned. This is an indication that subsistence practices such as hunting are not fixed. Practices are more improvisational – whether hunting and fishing or agriculture – than set by the intervention of the state. This chapter has illustrated how a particular set of market practices was presented as naturalized, and how subsistence practices were presented as the exception and outside the frame. In addition, the representation of agriculture itself enframed Indigenous peoples as particular kinds of economic subjects. The failure of the scheme and the continued attempts to create model farms, often associated with residential schools, illustrate how powerful this trope of agriculture was and how the scheme was not only about civilization but also about integrating political subjects into an economy. The home farm case study illustrates the seeds of calculability as well as the seeds of social welfare programs. By illuminating how calculability operates, we can look at contemporary projects that use similar rationales and patterns with a more critical eye.

n ot e s



I am grateful to James Murton, Eric L. Smith, and Aaron Henry for their comments on this chapter and to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for funding.   1 Robert Lorne Richardson, Facts and Figures: The Highest Testimony: What Lords Dufferin, Lorne and Lansdowne Say about the Canadian Northwest: Convincing Comparison of Cost of Wheat Production, 25 Cents a Bushel: The Indian Problem Discussed (Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1977).   2 In total there are eleven numbered treaties, but I am concerned here with the results of the first set, Treaties 1 to 7, which covered much of what are now the prairie provinces.

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The Seeds of Calculability 57

  3 For the full context of Canada’s attempt to manage plains First Nations people using hunger, see James Daschuk, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life (Regina, SK : University of Regina Press, 2013).   4 Timothy Mitchell, “The Work of Economics: How a Discipline Makes Its World,” European Journal of Sociology 46, no. 2 (2005): 297–320.   5 Timothy Mitchell, “Rethinking Economy,” Geoforum 39, no. 3 (2008): 1116–21.   6 James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, C T: Yale University Press, 1998).   7 Cole Harris, Making Native Space: Colonialism, Resistance and Reserves in British Columbia (Vancouver: U BC Press, 2002), 228–48.   8 Max Weber and Richard Swedberg, Essays in Economic Sociology (Princeton, N J: Princeton University Press, 1999), 296.   9 Ibid., 152. 10 Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-politics, Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). 11 Cole Harris, “How Did Colonialism Dispossess? Comments from an Edge of Empire,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 94, no. 1 (2004): 165–82. 12 Harris, “How Did Colonialism Dispossess?”; Matthew G. Hannah, Governmentality and the Mastery of Territory in Nineteenth-Century America (Cambridge, U K: Cambridge University Press, 2000). 13 Hugh Shewell, “Enough to Keep Them Alive”: Indian Welfare in Canada, 1873–1965 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004). The fur trade had a program to provide food to Indians in order to ensure that time was spent gathering furs rather than hunting for food. By 1870 the effect was the creation of wage labourers, with food being provided by the company store rather than the buffalo hunt. See ibid., 33–5. 14 Sarah Carter, Lost Harvests: Prairie Indian Reserve Farmers and Government Policy (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990), 79–81. 15 Ibid., 71. 16 Canada, Parliament, “Sessional Papers, No. 11: Report of the Department of the Interior for the Year Ended 30th June, 1876” (1877), xi. 17 Carter, Lost Harvests, 79. 18 Canada, Parliament, “Debates of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada: First Session, Fifth Parliament, Comprising the Period from the Twentieth Day of April to the Twenty-Fifth Day of May, 1883” (1883),

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1108. Although Manitoba was initially included in the plan, it was never implemented there. 19 Canada, Parliament, “Debates of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada: Second Session, Fourth Parliament, April 27, 1880” (1880), 1811. 20 E. Brian Titley, The Frontier World of Edgar Dewdney (Vancouver: UB C Press, 1999), 49. 21 Canada, Parliament, “Debates of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada: Second Session, Fourth Parliament, Second Volume of the Session, April, 23, 1880” (1880), 1693. 22 Ibid., 1693–4. 23 Canada, Parliament, “Debates of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada: Second Session, Fourth Parliament, April 27, 1880” (1880), 1812. 24 Canada, Parliament, “Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada: Volume 5, Fourth Session of the Fourth Parliament, Session 1882” (1883), 33. 25 Titley, Frontier World, 58–60. 26 Ibid., 52. 27 Ibid., 68. 28 Canada, Parliament, “Sessional Papers, No. 5: Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the Year Ended December 31st, 1882” (1883), x. 29 Ibid. 30 Canada, Parliament, “Debates of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada: First Session, Fifth Parliament, Comprising the Period from the Twentieth Day of April to the Twenty-Fifth Day of May, 1883” (1883), 1108. 31 Titley, Frontier World, 55. 32 Ibid., 54–5. 33 Carter, Lost Harvests. 34 “Farming Agencies and Indian Reservations, 1882,” in Canada, Parliament, “Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada: Volume 5, Fourth Session of the Fourth Parliament, Session 1882” (1883), 45–9. 35 Canada, Parliament, “Sessional Papers, No. 5: Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the Year Ended December 31st, 1882” (1883), xviii. 36 Canada, Parliament, “Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada: Volume 5, Fourth Session of the Fourth Parliament, Session 1882” (1883), xv. 37 Gerald Friesen, The Canadian Prairies: A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984), 27–9. 38 Canada, Parliament, “Sessional Papers, No. 5: Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the Year Ended December 31st, 1882” (1883), ix.

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The Seeds of Calculability 59

39 Ibid., xvii. 40 Carter, Lost Harvests. 41 Shewell, “Enough to Keep Them,” 69–70. 42 Titley, Frontier World. 43 Shewell, “Enough to Keep Them,” 71. 44 Frank Tough, As Their Natural Resources Fail: Native Peoples and the Economic History of Northern Manitoba, 1870–1930 (Vancouver: UB C Press, 1996), 166.

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2 Blurring the Boundaries: Subsistence and Recreational Fisheries in Late-Nineteenth-Century Ontario william knight

In 1896 a federal fishery overseer in eastern Ontario reported apprehending and charging a Jacob Nielsen with illegal fishing for pike. Rather than impose a fine, the overseer took pity on Nielsen and released him without fine. Nielsen, the overseer reported, was “a poor delicate man” supporting a large family by fishing “with a hook and line for a living.”1 Nielsen was a so-called “pot-hunter,” a figure reviled by n ­ ineteenth-­century sportsmen who – in the name of conservation – carried out a class-based campaign to restrict market and subsistence fishing by Native peoples and settlers. In Ontario, as in other North American jurisdictions, anglers lobbied for, and won, conservation regulations that preserved fish such as bass and trout for sport, which was valorized over their utility as food. Native peoples and rural settlers bore the brunt of conservation and opposed this enclosure with varying degrees of success. Nancy Pottery in this volume, for example, shows how Nipissing Nation fishermen have resisted regulatory regimes that favour sport fishing, and Bill Parenteau, Ken Cruikshank, and Nancy Bouchier, among others, have shown how settlers resisted sportsmen-backed conservation.2 Conservation and angling can thus be considered part of what Sajay Samuel in this volume, quoting Ivan Illich, calls the “war against subsistence.” In this chapter I explore how the valuation of fish as sport became detached from its valuation as food, or as a subsistence item, in latenineteenth-century Ontario. Before the late nineteenth century, it appeared inconceivable to separate fishing from food provisioning and

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Blurring the Boundaries 61

to separate the pleasure of catching from the pleasure of eating. By the turn of the nineteenth century, sportsmen had begun to dissociate angling from subsistence, viewing fishing for food as a base or primitive pursuit that sullied the noble pursuit of fish for sport. This transformation is evident in angling discourse that represented the sport as an intellectually and socially distinctive recreation for men. It is also evident in the North American adoption of the European classification of fish as “game” or “coarse,” which distinguished sporting fish from other varieties. This dichotomous categorization helped sportsmen to disentangle fish from their food value, as gaminess depended on a fish’s stamina and aggressiveness in resisting capture rather than strictly on its edibility. These values and attitudes in turn were reflected in, and extended by, a regime of fisheries administration that acknowledged the social and economic importance of recreational fisheries in the late nineteenth century. But the separation of sport and food values remained blurred in late-nineteenth-century Ontario, as the case of Jacob Nielsen suggests. His use of angling methods to capture fish for food and the overseer’s sympathy show that the sportsmen’s enclosure was incomplete. Fisheries officials, for instance, maintained that fish was an important food source however caught and expressed dismay when they discovered anglers wasting fish. Many sportsmen were also passionate about fish as food, and some used nonsporting methods to capture fish for food purposes. Separating the value of fish as sport from its value as food was thus an ongoing project – one that remained incomplete in late-nineteenth-­ century Ontario.3 a n g l i n g f o r i n d i v i d ua l i s m

How did nineteenth-century anglers conceive of their sport in such a way that they could detach its practice from food provisioning? And how is this evident in nineteenth-century Ontario fisheries? I look first at the initial question and the representations of angling as a distinctive fishery. Angling – or hook and line fishing – is a fishing technique that is commonly associated with sport or recreational fishing and has a long history dating back before the seventeenth-century publication of Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler, the canonical text of English angling literature.4 Walton presented angling as a spiritual and intellectual activity that inculcated Christian virtues such as reflection and patience; it also demanded mental agility, requiring “an inquiring, searching, observing wit.”5 Walton’s celebration of the sport as “an Art worthy the

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knowledge and practise of a wise man” has had lasting influence on the representation of English and North American angling. Walton conferred a literary and social legitimacy on the sport that gave angling an aura that no other fishing technique claimed. In praise that has since congealed into The Compleat Angler’s standard reception among anglers, eighteenth-century literary critic Charles Lamb declared that the book “breathed the very spirit of innocence, purity, and simplicity of heart.”6 Angling writing after Walton continued to stress both its contemplative and active aspects. In the nineteenth century the latter appeared to gain prominence as angling, especially the technique of fly-fishing, came to be identified as an appropriate recreation for bourgeois men. William Washabaugh and Catherine Washabaugh, in their study of American flyfishing, relate its increasing popularity to emerging middle-class culture in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe and North America. According to the Washabaughs, angling provided a way for nineteenthcentury men to express their social distinctiveness through a demonstration of skill and self-reliance.7 These virtues were articulated through an emphasis on angling technique and the designation of appropriate fish species, which distinguished angling from other forms of fishing. Angling was conceived as a distinctive encounter between the individual and nature, which contributed to the development of masculine social power. More important than catching and eating fish was the way one practised and thought about angling. More than any other method of recreational fishing, fly-fishing – especially for salmon and trout – was represented as an individual challenge, as it required “a great deal of ingenuity and attention.”8 North American angling writers also took up this discourse. Henry William Herbert, an English immigrant to New York who wrote popular angling books under the name Frank Forester, considered fly-fishing to be “the most legitimate, the most scientific, the most exciting, because most difficult.”9 This emphasis on individual skill and performance was even taken up by railways eager to draw sportsmen to their lines with the promise of new fishing destinations. In Fishing and Shooting along the Line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, published in 1893, the CP R advertised Canada as an ideal angling destination for the “true angler”: “And bear in mind that trout fishing in any of these waters may be pursued a la mode, with every opportunity for the exercise of scientific skill. None of your worms, or bit-of-fat-pork nonsense, but fly fishing of the best; with no more obstructions to impede casting than are significant to call forth a display of that skill on which the true angler prides himself.”10

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Blurring the Boundaries 63

Fly-fishing, according to Charles Hallock, confirmed the angler’s moral and social standing as a self-possessed individual. “There is nothing groveling in fly-fishing – nothing gross or demoralizing.”11 Viscount Grey in his 1899 text Fly-Fishing described the sport in relation to the regulation of one’s internal emotional economy. Angling was a test of physical skill that also required emotional discipline. “In angling, as in all other recreations into which excitement enters, we have to be upon our guard, so that we can at any moment throw a weight of self-control into the scale against misfortune.”12 Self-control was the safeguard of self-possession; one needed to maintain privacy and emotional distance in one’s conduct. “When a man has a hobby it is to be hoped that he will learn reticence,” wrote Grey, “that he will never go into the world at large without a resolve not to talk about what he cares for most … he will carry his delight within him like a well guarded treasure, not to be unlocked and disclosed in all its fullness on any slight or trivial inquiry.”13 This bourgeois ethic of privacy and self-possession was reinforced in the solitude of angling. These angling writers stressed the sport’s importance as an individual relationship to fish and de-emphasized fish’s value as food. “To constitute a sportsman, therefore, it is not sufficient merely to be able to catch fish,” wrote angling writer Robert Barnwell Roosevelt in 1865. Indeed, catching fish was secondary to the execution of style and attitude; the angler “must look beyond the mere result to the mode of effecting it, regarding, perhaps, the means more than the end.”14 Field sports such as angling and hunting also reaffirmed masculinity, a value that Ontario fisheries officials confirmed in their rationalization of outdoor sports. “[T]he pursuit of game,” stated the Ontario Game and Fish Commissioners in 1899, “tends to make men of endurance in whom has been cultivated all those attributes which go to make a manly man, one capable of not only thinking vigorously, but also of acting vigorously.”15 This emphasis on individuality, on technique, and on attitude is critical, as it distinguished the sportsman from the prosaic, even criminal, pot-hunter, who fished for personal food or for the market. Angling was too important an  aesthetic pursuit for it to be reduced to the mundane act of food provisioning. Particular species of fish, such as salmon and trout, embodied these values and demanded a higher level of respect. Anglers like Roosevelt and Hallock insisted that fishing techniques had to match the social prestige of the fish species being angled. “The noblest of fish, the mighty salmon, refuses bait utterly, and only with the most artistic tackle and

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greatest skill can he be taken.”16 Fishing for game fish such as salmon and trout with anything but fly-tackle posed a grave risk to the angler’s reputation and was an aesthetic injustice to the fish. The angler who used “a worm equally for the beautiful trout and the hideous cat-fish, cannot claim to be a sportsman.”17 The social valuation of fish species, which was determined by class-based aesthetic and sporting values, was exemplified in the categorization of fish as either “game” or “coarse,” a classification that first emerged in seventeenth-century England and had come into use in Ontario by the nineteenth century. game and coarse

The categorization of fish as “game” and “coarse” was elucidated in England and reflects the historical social and spatial segregation of fisheries there.18 The categories distinguished fish on the basis of species, fishing technique, and even landscape, all of which have factored in the act of classification. In the eighteenth century, “coarse” was an alternate spelling of “course” and meant ordinary or “of the usual order” in reference to cloth. The word has acquired several connotations, including “inferior quality,” “wanting in fineness, smoothness or delicacy,” “rough, harsh or rude,” and “uncivil, vulgar” – meanings that mediate the material and the social.19 In fish, coarseness sorted species according to several registers, including palatability. The Oxford English Dictionary cites Walton’s The Compleat Angler: “The Chub and [the Barbel] have, I think, both lost part of their credit by ill cookery; they being reputed the worst, or coarsest, of fresh-water fish.”20 In Walton, “coarse” has some relation to edibility, but later definitions defined “coarse” as meaning “any fresh-water fish except the Salmonidae (or game fish).”21 “Coarse,” however, did not rule out such fish as nonsporting. Walton and other English angling writers gave coarse fish their due in terms of sport and edibility, enumerating their habits, habitats, and angling techniques alongside trout and salmon; indeed, coarse fishing remains popular in England and Europe.22 It was upper-class fly-fishermen like Viscount Grey who were preoccupied with trout and salmon to the exclusion of other fish, such that by the nineteenth century the term had come to function as a class partition within recreational fishing: rather than differentiating between fish that were sporting and nonsporting, coarseness served to distinguish lower-class angling species from fish reserved for upper-class use. Coarseness was also a function of the socially differentiated landscape of fishing. As Neil Tranter notes in regard to mid-nineteenth-century England, “angling was a sport in

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which all classes participated, but rarely within the same space on the river bank or the same institution.”23 Coarse fish were associated with slower moving, turbid waters, whereas game fish occupied clear, cold, fast-moving streams and rivers. In nineteenth-century England, “coarse” may have reflected the specific industrial landscape of working-class angling: ponds, canals, and urban rivers. Trout and salmon, by contrast, were found in chalk streams and upland rivers – the more refined and picturesque settings of England’s private landscape. North American anglers adopted the term “coarse” and emphasized the link between coarse fish and coarse landscapes. To Hallock, landscape was a key index of coarseness and gaminess, with the very waters that fish inhabited indicating their relative social value: “It is self-evident that no fish which inhabit foul or sluggish waters can be ‘game-fish.’ It is impossible from the very circumstances of their surroundings and associations. They may flash with tinsel and tawdry attire; they may strike with the brute force of a blacksmith, or exhibit the dexterity of a prizefighter, but their low breeding and vulgar quality cannot be mistaken.”24 The nineteenth-century North American hierarchy of fish mirrored the English and European one, with top-ranked salmon and trout ruling over fish “of grosser and plebian stock,” such as muskellunge and sturgeon.25 “Define me a gentleman and I will define you a ‘game’ fish,” claimed Hallock.26 The class interpretation of fish habits even went so far as for Hallock to valorize surface-feeding trout over “grovelling bottom-fish.”27 The carp, for example, was an introduced species, a bottomdwelling fish that lived in “slow and sluggish waters.” By virtue of its preference for “low” behaviour and habitat, the carp was not a socially acceptable fish for upper- and middle-class anglers. Frank Forester made the class distinctions clear: “The dull logy watery fish … and the cockney punt-fishers, who aspire to take them, are held in about equal esteem, or disesteem, by those who know what it is to throw a long line lightly.”28 This last allusion to fishing tackle points to how angling techniques played a role in constructing the category “coarse.” Fly-fisherman prided themselves on using fine, light tackle to take salmon and trout, whereas coarse fishermen were assumed to use heavier tackle that deployed weights, floats, and natural baits. a n g l i n g i n o n ta r i o

How were these categories deployed in Ontario, and to what end? By the 1860s “coarse” was being used to categorize fish species in the province. In 1869, for example, a federal fishery overseer said of the types of fish

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in his district, “All tributaries to Lake Ontario, are abounding with ‘coarse fish.’”29 In England a fish could be coarse but still be sporting. In Canada, however, the federal fisheries department’s statistical returns and fishery overseers’ reports used “coarse” as a catch-all category for species with no recreational value and little commercial value. Fishery overseers such as John Kerr held coarse fish in low regard and recommended that they be exempt from “close season” regulation, which provided seasonal protection to game fish and valuable commercial fish like whitefish.30 In the 1880s another category began to appear in the department’s statistical returns, called “home consumption.” In 1888 this fishery was estimated at 271,444 pounds of fish, valued at $8,143 out of a total commercial catch worth $1.8 million. The next year, this catch doubled over the previous year to 547,429 pounds.31 It is unclear, however, what this category comprised or how these figures were compiled. “Domestic consumption” may have been an attempt to register the recreational catch in fishery statistics; if such was the case, it accords with other evidence showing that, unlike anglers, Canadian fisheries officials resisted separating food values from sporting values. Indeed, fisheries officials in Ontario wanted to increase fish culture and fish stocking so that the province’s many waters “could easily be made great food producing areas besides as affording recreation for its people.”32 As the opposing term in this dichotomy, “game” shifted the importance of fish from issues of food to concerns of sport. Gaminess in fish was a combination of boldness in attack and fierceness in resisting capture. Frank Forester defined game fish as those that “take the natural or artificial bait with sufficient avidity, and which when hooked have sufficient vigor, courage and velocity to offer such resistance, and give such difficulty to the captor, as to render the pursuit exciting.”33 In the nineteenth century, the category “gamefish” was a select club, limited to trout and salmon, but it was subject to revision as anglers came to value native North American fish species such as bass and pickerel. Bass fulfilled the landscape condition that Hallock had articulated: “Like the trout the black bass seems to be more partial to the more romantic and poetical places in the rivers which they frequent.”34 Bass became one of the most popular game fish in North America, gaining devotees like James Henshall, who argued that bass were “inch for inch and pound for pound the gamest fish that swims.”35 Not all anglers agreed: Canada’s British-born and educated fisheries commissioner Edward Prince thought that bass fishing lacked “refinement.”36 It also must be recognized that the category “game” did not deny a fish’s food value. Forester, Hallock,

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Henshall, and other anglers insisted that edibility was a requirement of gaminess: “that to be game, whether bird, or beast, or fish, is to be eatable.”37 Game was more than an angler’s informal category; it also gained regulatory efficacy, as it was used to rationalize the enclosure of fish species such as trout and salmon for the exclusive use of anglers. Regulations privileging angling in Upper and Lower Canada had appeared in the 1840s, but the 1857 Fishery Act extended and widened the scope of these privileges. This law also initiated regulation for muskellunge, speckled trout, and black bass – the trio of fish that formed the basis of Ontario’s late-nineteenth-century sport fisheries. Fishing for these species by any means was banned between October 1 and April 1, and the traditional Aboriginal technique of spear and torch fishing, which had also been adopted by settlers, was forbidden at all times. Market prohibitions were also imposed. The possession, purchase, and selling of salmon, muskellunge, speckled trout, and black bass were forbidden.38 Later fishery acts widened this enclosure. In 1865, for example, angling was deemed the only legal method of catching speckled trout.39 By 1892 Ontario had enacted stricter catch and size limits on game fish, and the category had been widened to include new species of fish, including pickerel and walleye.40 Anglers were also allowed to fish on Sunday, when fishermen of other types were forced to stow their gear and desist from fishing.41 Such regulations removed game fish from the food markets and reserved them for the pleasure of anglers.42 “Game” as a category of regulatory enclosure gained force in the last decades of the nineteenth century as anglers became increasingly vocal about the state of Ontario’s fisheries. In response to federal inaction and angler anger over expanding commercial fisheries, the Ontario government established the Ontario Game and Fish Commission to examine the province’s fisheries. The commission gathered the testimonies of  upper- and middle-class men, such as William Ireland, who argued before the commission that the province’s fish were being subjected to a “merciless, ruthless, and remorseless slaughter.”43 Ireland, a keen angler and owner and editor of the Parry Sound North Star, acknowledged the economic value of commercial fisheries, but he considered game fisheries more valuable and condemned the “fishery pirates” – commercial and Aboriginal fishers – who encroached on angling landscapes. In July 1892 Ireland complained of “Indians … busy fishing for Bass in the channels of Georgian Bay, with both net and spears.”44 Claiming that the fish were sold “at a low rate by the pound” to fish dealers who marketed the

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bass in the United States, Ireland called on the federal fisheries department to stop the “wholesale destruction of our game fish.”45 Commercial netters would “destroy bass and other small fish and … ruin this portion of the Georgian Bay as a summer resort.”46 Ireland’s solution was simple: “What ought to be done is that the sale of bass and other game fish should be absolutely prohibited and only line fishing allowed.” Bass “are not and should not be made a merchantable fish.”47 As Nancy Pottery shows in this volume, Nipissing First Nation has resisted this type of enclosure on Lake Nipissing, where pickerel were reserved as a tourist commodity much as bass were preserved in other parts of Ontario. This enclosure of game fish and protection from the market was buttressed by a growing awareness of the social and economic value of Ontario’s recreational fisheries. The Ontario Game and Fish Commission could not estimate the precise value of recreational fishing, but in locales like the Thousand Islands, one of Ontario’s oldest angling destinations, the economic impact of angling was made visible. At the International Fish and Game Convention held in Hamilton in 1891, a member of the St Lawrence Anglers’ Association enumerated the economic benefits that angling tourism had brought to the region: 600 men employed as boat oarsmen; 36 hotels with 4,000 rooms, and the same number of boarding houses; a growing tax assessment on summer property; and summer revenues of more than $1 million.48 Fisheries officials also considered the “sporting fisheries” to have social utility and proposed more investment in fish culture because they viewed angling as a recreation suitable for urban dwellers. This desire was also predicated on fish as a food appropriate for “brain workers,” that growing class of sedentary workers who toiled not in factories but in offices.49 The line between recreational fishing and personal provisioning was blurred in the same way that the category “domestic consumption” blurred it. To fisheries officials, sport fisheries were an ambiguous form of food provisioning. This ambiguity provoked stronger reactions when fisheries officials began to receive reports in the 1890s of anglers wasting their catches. A fishery overseer on Georgian Bay voiced a general concern over the threat of such behaviour to Ontario’s inland fisheries: “The tourist fraternity, as expected, are ever increasing in numbers, and it is becoming painfully apparent that in this class are to be found some of the most flagrant law-breakers, and unless a stronger check is placed on the unsportsmanlike slaughter of black bass, that fish must speedily become rare.”50 Another overseer reported, “during the past season I noticed several parties bringing in anywhere from sixty to seventy black bass, a

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Figure 2.1  Two men standing with fish strung on a line, ca. 1920

great many of them being under size. After making a display they would leave them on the dock all night, and next morning they would be thrown away.”51 Commercial fisherman lodged similar complaints. John Yates, a Midland fisherman, complained about the behaviour of recreational fishermen: “There has been great waste by persons leaving black bass on the rocks to spoil.”52 Ontario’s deputy fisheries commissioner, S.B. Bastedo, spoke to the scale of the problem when he wrote, “there is hardly a day now that I do not receive letters from our overseers complaining of excessive catches by our own people.”53 I have written elsewhere of Samuel Wilmot’s reaction to these reports, noting his contention that all fish had market or commercial value and that no fish should be reserved strictly for sportsmen. Wilmot, the federal fish culturist, argued that fish was a prime food that should be universally accessible, a view that guided his opinions on fisheries administration and fish culture in particular: [F]ish culture and fish preservation should be based on food considerations, and not on those of sport. In some of the provinces and states legislation has been influenced to preserve game for sportsmen and their friends, and not for that numerous class who desire to

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purchase it for food. Speckled trout (and in this connection black bass may be included), are claimed as a luxury for the sportsmen the same as game, but they, like all edible fish, are in universal demand, and among all classes. All fish should be preserved and regulations made with a view to bring them within reach of every consumer.54 Ontario’s fisheries officials also expressed similar sentiments. Wary of being accused of promoting angling through “class legislation,” game and fish commissioners acknowledged that fish had food value beyond the sport value accorded to fish by anglers; they supported stricter regulation and more fish hatcheries but not for the angler’s benefit. “Fish hatcheries, fish protectors and fish commissioners,” they argued in 1899, “are not made and paid for the sake of selfish netters or of sporting anglers … but to keep up and replenish and protect the food supply for the millions.”55 Complaints about fish wastage suggest that the separation of fish as an object of sport from its value as food was not complete. Rather, it was an ambiguously negotiated one arising out of discomfort with the valorization of game fish. But some sportsmen also inhabited the blurred zone between sport and food provisioning by valuing game fish as a food source without concerning themselves with the niceties of technique. Spearing and night-line fishing, for example, were considered unsportsmanlike by writers like Hallock and Barnwell, but some fishers expressed continuing interest in them as provisioning techniques. These techniques were both efficient and exciting methods of capturing fish; spearing was accepted as a legitimate fishing technique until it was banned in 1857 and was a favoured method for capturing salmon during their spawning runs up Lake Ontario’s tributaries. Spearing was even viewed as a form of recreation, with settler authors such as Samuel Strickland and Thomas Magrath counting salmon spearing as among the colony’s “most exciting amusements.”56 Magrath, an angler, boasted of spearing 120 salmon in one night, which did not appear to cause him doubt about his status as an upper-class sportsman. Even in the 1860s, when spearing game fish was entirely prohibited, spear fishing was still described in positive terms. H.B. Small, author of The Canadian Handbook and Tourist’s Guide, called spear fishing on Lake Couchiching “a romantic and exciting sport” and valorized its picturesque qualities without expressing concern about its unsportsmanlike qualities.57 Night-line fishing was another denigrated fishing technique. A Lake Simcoe fishery overseer described the method in 1889: “These lines of

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about 100 to 500 yards long, have hooks attached at every fifteen inches apart. They are baited with fat pork, minnows, beef, worms, etc., and are mostly used by poor people – they take quite a lot of fish.”58 Even avowed recreationalists resorted to night-line fishing when they needed food. James Dickson, for example, favourably described night-line fishing for trout – a fish anglers particularly valued – in Camping in the Muskoka Region, his account of canoeing and fishing in the Algonquin highlands published in 1885. Dickson, who surveyed the area for Ontario’s Crown lands department in the late 1870s and early 1880s, was an angler, hunter, park advocate, and in the 1890s a game and fish commissioner. Dickson also appreciated trout as a delicious food. “Here almost every little creek,” he wrote about the Algonquin region, “can provide the hungry with a rich repast of brook trout, while every lake teems with luscious speckled lake and salmon trout.”59 On Canoe Lake, Dickson and his party set out night-lines for speckled and lake trout, the two species that were later reserved for anglers in the park when the lake became part of Algonquin Park. He described the resulting catch by night-line: “What beauties! A dozen at least! Look at the great big fellow with black back and grey sides … he is two and one-half feet long at least.”60 With the passage of the Algonquin National Park Act in 1893 – which Dickson supported – night-line fishing was banned and angling was deemed the only legitimate form of fishing in the park. Dickson was certainly concerned with proper sporting attitudes and methods; in Camping in the Muskoka Region, he discussed and rejected the hunter’s practice of using dogs to drive deer into lakes, where the escaping animals could then be easily shot by men in boats. For night-line fishing, however, Dickson exhibited only enthusiasm. In doing so, he helped to blur the line between recreational fishing and personal provisioning. conclusion

This chapter has explored the blurred boundaries of nineteenth-century Ontario fisheries. The separation of the value of fish as sport from its value as food proceeded as anglers, or recreational fishermen, gained power in the last half of the nineteenth century. Anglers lobbied for and won more restrictive regulation that protected their favourite fish species, designated as “game” fish. They rationalized this enclosure by framing angling as a socially distinctive and economically important activity. Valorizing fishing techniques and fish species, anglers used the categories “game” and “coarse” to distinguish high-value fish for exclusive

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sporting use. These categories marked the angler’s privilege – and growing power to define the fishing practices of others – and emphasized his individualistic, masculine experience. Although anglers recognized fish as food and, indeed, figured edibility in conceptions of “game,” they increasingly denigrated subsistence, where the aim of fishing was to obtain food. In leaving fish to rot on shore, anglers demonstrated their changing values. The separation of food and sport in fish, however, was incomplete in nineteenth-century Ontario. Anglers’ attempts to enclose game fish and value them solely for sport were resisted, including by some fisheries officials who maintained that food was a paramount utility. Some anglers revelled in fish as food and also rejected notions of angling as a socially superior technique. This blurring of boundaries foregrounds the transformation of fish as a recreational resource in nineteenth-century Ontario, giving us a more detailed history of angling and conservation. It also suggests that, while the “war against subsistence” proceeded, it did so unevenly, as values around fish were in flux. In the case of fisherman Jacob Nielsen, who angled for food, this moment of flux offered a reprieve from fisheries regulations that favoured the angler. “Subsistence” was a pitiable state in a period when it was becoming better to capture self-possession than food.

n ot e s

  1 E.E. Prince to H.R. Purcell, 21 August 1896, R G 23, vol. 265, file 1804, Library and Archives Canada.   2 Nancy B. Bouchier and Ken Cruikshank, “‘Sportsmen and Pothunters’: Environment, Conservation, and Class in the Fishery of Hamilton Harbour, 1858–1914,” Sport History Review 28, no. 1 (1997): 2; Bill Parenteau, “‘Care, Control and Supervision’: Native People in the Canadian Atlantic Salmon Fishery, 1867–1900,” Canadian Historical Review 79, no. 1 (1998): 1–35; and Bill Parenteau, “A ‘Very Determined Opposition to the Law’: Conservation, Angling Leases, and Social Conflict in the Canadian Atlantic Salmon Fishery, 1867–1914,” Environmental History 9, no. 3 (2004): 436–63; J. Michael Thoms, “Ojibwa Fishing Grounds: A History of Ontario Fisheries Law, Science, and the Sportsmen’s Challenge to Aboriginal Treaty Rights, 1650–1900” (PhD diss., University of British Columbia, 2004).   3 Jennifer Lee Johnson’s chapter on Lake Victoria Nile perch in this volume also illustrates this separation of values in the emergence of “illegal” categories of fish and fishing.

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  4 John Lowerson, “Izaak Walton: Father of a Dream,” History Today 33, no. 12 (1983): 28.   5 Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1935), 38.   6 Charles Lamb, “Letter to S.T. Coleridge, October 28, 1796,” in The Letters of Charles Lamb, vol. 1., ed. Edwin J. Marrs Jr (Ithaca, NY : Cornell University Press, 1975), 54.   7 William Washabaugh and Catherine Washabaugh, Deep Trout: Angling in Popular Culture (Oxford: Berg, 2000), 29–35.   8 Thomas Best, A Concise Treatise on the Art of Angling (London: B. Crosby, 1798), 11.   9 William Henry Herbert, Frank Forester’s Field Sports of the United States, and British Provinces, of North America, 8th ed. (New York: W.A. Townsend, 1858), 255. 10 Canadian Pacific Railway, Fishing and Shooting along the Line of the Canadian Pacific Railway (Montreal: C PR , 1893), 28. 11 Charles Hallock, The Fishing Tourist: Angler’s Guide and Reference Book (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1873), 22. 12 Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Fly Fishing (London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1899), 20. 13 Ibid., 3. 14 Robert B. Roosevelt, Game Fish of the Northern States of America and British Provinces (New York: Carleton, 1862), 20. 15 Ontario, Report of the Ontario Game and Fish Commissioners for the Year 1899 (Toronto: Government of Ontario, 1900), 3. On the relationship of field sports to masculinity, see Tina Loo, “Making a Modern Wilderness: Conserving Wildlife in Twentieth Century Canada,” Canadian Historical Review 82, no. 1 (2002): 92–121. 16 Roosevelt, Game Fish, 20. 17 Ibid., 21. 18 John Lowerson, “Brothers of the Angle: Coarse Fishing and English Working-Class Culture, 1850–1914,” in Pleasure, Profit, Proselytism: British Culture and Sport at Home and Abroad, 1700–1914, ed. J.A. Mangan (London: Frank Cass, 1987), 107. 19 Oxford English Dictionary, 1st ed., s.v. “coarse.” 20 Walton, Compleat Angler, 165. 21 Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “coarse.” 22 See, for example, English angling magazines dedicated to coarse fishing such as Coarse Fisherman and Total Coarse Fishing. 23 Neil Tranter, Sport, Economy and Society in Britain, 1750–1914 (Cambridge, U K: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 39.

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24 Charles Hallock, The Fishing Tourist: Angler’s Guide and Reference Book (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1873), 26. 25 Ibid., 198. 26 Ibid., 25. 27 Ibid., 26. 28 Herbert, Frank Forester’s Field Sports, 165. 29 Canada, Parliament, “Appendix 3,” in Sessional Papers (1869), 68. 30 John Kerr, 6 February 1868, journal, microfiche, Tom Whillans Collection, Trent University, Peterborough. 31 Canada, Annual Report of the Department of Fisheries, Dominion of Canada, for the Year 1888 (1889), xxvii. 32 Ontario, Report of the Ontario Fish and Game Commissioners for the Year 1893 (1894), 7. 33 Herbert, Frank Forester’s Field Sports, 17. 34 Henry Beaumont Small, The Animals of North America, series 2, FreshWater Fish (Montreal: M. Longmoore, 1865), 21. 35 James Henshall, Book of the Black Bass (Cincinnati, OH: R. Clarke and Company, 1881), 379. 36 E.E. Prince, “The Propagation and Planting of Predaceous Fish,” in Canada, Parliament, Sessional Papers, No. 22b (1902), 14. 37 Herbert, Frank Forester’s Field Sports, 17. 38 20 Vict. C 21 (1857). 39 29 Vict. C 11 (1865). 40 55 Vict. C 10 (1892). 41 R.N. Venning to H.E. Harrison, 26 March 1906, RG 23, vol. 248, file 1692, Library and Archives Canada. 42 At the same time, the categorization of Native fisheries as “food fisheries” was an administrative tool to limit Aboriginal fishing in British Columbia. See Douglas C. Harris, Fish, Law, and Colonialism: The Legal Capture of Salmon in British Columbia (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), 66–7. 43 Ontario, Report of the Ontario Game and Fish Commissioners, 189. 44 Parry Sound North Star, 21 July 1895. 45 Ibid. 46 Parry Sound North Star, 2 May 1895. 47 Parry Sound North Star, 21 July 1895. 48 Ontario, Report of the Ontario Game and Fish Commissioners, 289. 49 Canada, Parliament, “Report of the Dominion Fishery Commission on the Fisheries of the Province of Ontario 1893,” in Sessional Papers, No. 10c (1894), vi.

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50 Ontario, Fourth Annual Report of the Department of Fisheries of the Province of Ontario 1902 (1903), 48. 51 S.B. Bastedo to F. Gourdeau, 25 October 1901, R G 23, vol. 163, file 565, Library and Archives Canada. 52 Canada, “Report of the Dominion Fishery Commission,” 33. 53 S.B. Bastedo to F. Gourdeau, 5 July 1901, R G 23, vol. 163, file 565, Library and Archives Canada. 54 Canada, “Report of the Dominion Fishery Commission,” xiv. 55 Ontario, First Annual Report of the Fisheries Branch of the Province of Ontario (1899), 43. 56 Samuel Strickland, Twenty-Seven Years in Canada West (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1974), 75. 57 Small, Animals of North America, 136. Small called spear fishing on Lake Couchiching “a romantic and exciting sport.” 58 Canada, Annual Report of the Department of Fisheries, Dominion of Canada, for the Calendar Year 1889 (1890), 218. 59 James Dickson, A Nineteenth-Century Algonquin Adventure, ed. Gary Long (Huntsville, ON : Fox Meadow Creations, 1997), 36. 60 Ibid., 121.

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3 Spinning Flax in Mills, Households, and the Canadian State, 1850–1870 j o s h ua m ac fa dy e n

The groundswell in buy-local, buy-handmade, and buy-nothing movements at the start of the twenty-first century stems in some part from disillusionment with supposedly anonymous and inauthentic consumer goods. The founder of Etsy.com, a popular virtual marketplace exclusively for handmade and vintage goods, explains the business’s success by arguing that “two hundred years [ago] everything was handmade.” Consumers, he says, were no longer satisfied with “all these goods … that are basically anonymous.”1 However, craft companies like Etsy are quickly faced with the challenge of defining what is handmade, and historians such as E.W. Barber have argued that “almost none of the objects that we think of as handmade truly are.”2 An examination of flax fibre in the nineteenth century casts further doubt on this picture of a world made by hand. Flax has been presented by museums and popular historians as the ultimate subsistence crop, produced on every farm in order to supply the family’s need for cloth. In fact, flax shows that subsistence and market processes could be intertwined on Mennonite and other mid-nineteenth-century Canadian farms and that (as R.W. Sandwell also discusses in this volume) agricultural statistics and expert literature often mask the importance of these complex relationships between ­people and place. The simple dichotomy between subsistence and market farming (like that between subsistence and market fishing, as shown by William Knight and by Jennifer Lee Johnson and Bakaaki Robert in this volume) has been found by historians to be wanting. Rural people regularly harvested fields, gardens, woodlots, marshes, meadows, and streams and

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delivered the products both to their own households and to distant consumers. Outputs were sold to wholesalers, used to settle debts with merchants and other creditors, consumed on the farm as inputs in human and livestock energy demands, or used to make other goods, such as potash or textiles. Yet most of the products of these natural and cultivated environments have been wedged into the categories of subsistence and market production. As R.W. Sandwell discusses in this volume, the Census of Agriculture – along with other official statistics – enumerated only those farms with a certain level of gross output, and it usually recorded only products that passed the farm gate.3 The flax story demonstrates that the farm gate swung both ways and that exchange was rarely a simple transfer between farmers and nonfarmers. A better definition of subsistence in agriculture might include anywhere we observe feedback loops in farm production – where outputs in one activity become inputs in another on the same farm. We call this phenomenon subsistence when it happens within the confines of the basic unit of production, the farm family, but the same feedback loops are also visible in the context of farming communities, watersheds, and larger regions. Indeed, feedback loops were central to the metabolism of mixed husbandry, where the so-called waste and “by-products” of plants and animals were actually critical inputs within the agro-ecosystem.4 The specialized and capital-intensive nature of flax production created, in many ways, the opposite of a subsistence relationship, yet elements of direct provisioning and homespun textile manufacturing were present even in this system. Heavily capitalized businesses owned either by local elites or by external companies mobilized large units of land and seasonal labour, flooding the countryside with flaxseed and harvest gangs and injecting small towns with mill infrastructure and temporary labour. Very few individual farmers had the knowledge or resources necessary to grow large crops of flax. Nor could they afford to harvest, let alone process, the plant for distant and volatile markets. Textile histories have demonstrated that farmers did not have to grow flax in order to acquire linen. In rural Pennsylvania, Adrienne Hood’s findings show that “a significant number of households did not possess the raw materials needed to make cloth.”5 In Quebec, flax was not a timeless standard on every farm but a specialized commodity that appeared and declined based on other developments in commercial farming.6 Flax is one of the oldest domesticated plants and is almost certainly the most ancient manufactured fibre.7 Its products have been used in many manufactured goods, and even its name, Linum usitatisimum

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(most useful thread), denotes a spectrum of outputs. The restored Mennonite home in figure 3.1, Joseph Schneider Haus in Kitchener, Ontario, is literally covered in flax. The grounds display flax fibres in various states of cultivation and production, the interior presents flax in the form of linens and upholstery, and the walls, windows, and wood trim are covered in flax in the form of linseed oil, the main ingredient in paints and putties. The flax plant’s fibre is found in its stalk, and linseed oil is encased in its seeds. Other products from the plant are batting and fuel from the stalk waste, and animal feed from the seed husks. The fibre itself contains long “line” fibres, which were used to make linen, and shorter “tow” fibres, which were used in rough textiles and cordage. Each of these fibre products was divided into various grades – some grades could produce fine linen thread, whereas others were only suitable for textiles such as crash and towelling. Linseed oil was used as a protective covering, and after boiling and other refining processes, it became the main drying vehicle in oil paints. A nineteenth-century shift in the use of colour and the steady expansion in urban housing, vehicles, and other manufactured goods quickly made linseed oil the plant’s most valuable product in North America. Out of all these products, rough linen and towelling were the most likely to appear in Canadian home manufacturing. Textile production was important in many Mennonite homes, for example, and when flax production increased in Waterloo County as a result of capital investment and mill construction, the ability of Mennonite families to produce certain textiles followed suit. The many material stages of the flax industry – from cultivation to consumer goods – all began with a seed. Planted in prepared earth and combined with solar energy, it produced a flax plant. Planting usually occurred in the last week of April or first half of May, but the flax calendar was particularly flexible, as spring frosts were not a serious threat to the seed and because the crop matured in about ninety-five days.8 Seeding and weeding were followed by either pulling or cutting the crop at harvest. Pulling flax stalks from the ground involved expensive and difficult labour, but cut stalks were as much as six inches shorter and less useful for making fibre.9 Harvesting was followed by separating the fibrous straw from the seed bolls at the upper ends of the stalk and branches, a process known as “rippling.” Here the commodity bifurcated, and the fibre and seed were used for very different purposes. The fibre production process began with “retting,” or partially rotting, the fibrous straw in the dew of fields or mill yards to break down the woody fibres and allow them to be removed by breaking and scutching.10 Breaking was

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Figure 3.1  Flax in two forms: an interpreter hackles flax fibre on a bench coated with linseed oil paint at Joseph Schneider Haus Museum and Gallery, 466 Queen Street South, Kitchener, Ontario, 2014

done manually using a wooden frame or mechanically by feeding the flax straw through a roller with sharp ridges. This loosened the woody exterior of the straw from the fibrous interior. Scutching involved removing the exterior by striking the straw with a wooden blade or with a mechanical knife. Finally, hackling required pulling the scutched fibre through a comb or a series of combs to separate it into its long fibres (line) and short fibres (tow). These fibre production processes are demonstrated and replicated at dozens of pioneer museums across North America every year, sometimes

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with flax grown on site. Flax was one of the first “crops” planted by Upper Canada Village in 1961, and when visitors arrive at Joseph Schneider Haus, they are transported to the 1850s, where interpreters re-enact Mennonite families growing flax on their own land and women spinning fibre into linen.11 The Schneider Haus has been meticulously researched and restored, but this chapter suggests a larger context in which Mennonite and other women spun flax that had been grown with seed, land, and labour from a variety of local farms and mills. Mennonites’ participation in mills and markets actually increased their ability to grow flax and spin linen for subsistence and sale. Many historians and curators have suggested that flax was grown for subsistence or for household manufacturing. Others suggest that flax was mostly exported, and some have shown brief episodes where flax was purchased by government agencies for poor relief or prison labour.12 What almost no one has seen is that the crop was so problematic to ordinary farmers that the millers themselves had to initiate cultivation. One explanation for the widespread reluctance to produce flax for either subsistence or market production is provided in the diary of John Tidey. This document chronicles the young family’s daily chores and accomplishments in Brock District, Upper Canada (now Ontario). He describes his home as “a hive of bees,” with incessant clearing, planting, chopping, carrying, repairing, cleaning, and cooking. His wife was involved in all but the heaviest lifting, “and a stranger that had heard her would believe that there was nothing left for anyone else to do.” However, when it came to clothing, he complained that he had no way to buy any and that his wife, who had access to a hired girl, plenty of flax tools, and her own skills in spinning and weaving, did not produce enough clothes to improve her “shamefully slovenly personal appearance.”13 Tidey recorded seeing homespun clothes on his neighbours, and they were clearly valuable to Canadian families. Yet, even when pioneer families possessed the skills and equipment for flax production, they had to weigh the value of time spent producing cloth against the range of other important farm activities. Flax production was difficult enough that no single grower in North America could afford to devote a significant portion of land and resources to its cultivation. Other crops simply paid a better rent for the land. However, it was familiar enough that when certain conditions were in place, most critically a strong market price but sometimes a farm or household need, farmers could pick it up with little adjustment to their normal work patterns and infrastructure.

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In the early nineteenth century, flax was at best a secondary crop in British North America, and when it was grown by early Ontarian pioneers, it was limited to small areas. In the 1840s, according to J. David Wood, flax concentrations appeared in the earliest resettled areas of Upper Canada, including Niagara, near and north of Toronto, and to the east.14 What his presentation overlooks is the extremely small scale of the commodity. The four districts containing these concentrations produced less than 24,000 pounds of flax in total, and although this represented over half of the province’s output of flax, it was likely the product of about ninety-two acres. In 1850 provincial production had increased to a little less than 60,000 pounds, and four counties – Perth, York, Halton, and Waterloo – raised almost half of this amount. The most striking feature of these data for Ontario is that most other counties, including pioneer areas such as Huron and Grey, produced less than 800 pounds, or about three acres, of flax (see figure 3.2). There were also regional specializations in fibre production and in linen and cloth production in other parts of the country.15 In Lower Canada (Quebec) a much larger concentration of flax cultivation emerged in the Montreal Plain and the Centre-du-Québec regions at mid-century in response to a demand for locally produced linen. In New Brunswick, as both Beatrice Craig and Judith Rygiel have pointed out, there were concentrations of subsistence and market cloth production in various regions, but like Wood, Craig and Rygiel overlook the extremely small scale of flax production in the province.16 For instance, linen shirts were popular with farmers in Madawaska, New Brunswick, and many people produced cloth of various kinds in the parish, but the 1861 and 1871 censuses show only between 2,500 and 4,500 pounds of flax, or the product of eight to eighteen acres.17 In a county with over 30,000 acres of cleared land for agriculture, it appears that very few farmers were producing any flax at all. It is possible that linen thread was being imported for manufacturing linen, but far more likely is that local weavers had switched to imported cotton for their household production of light textiles. The paucity of flax supports Craig’s argument that market relationships were critical to “homespun” linen production in New Brunswick and eastern Quebec. In the 1850s the landscape of Canadian flax farming shifted; Quebec’s flax all but disappeared, and the growth of manufacturing in what is now Ontario opened new opportunities for subsistence and market activity in the production of cordage, rough textiles, and other everyday

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Figure 3.2  Flax in the Canadas, 1850–1870

goods. These transitions were rapid and dramatic. The Ontario flax crop had expanded twentyfold by 1861, and in Waterloo and Halton Counties it had increased almost sixty times. Production then continued to rise incrementally in southwestern Ontario until the First World War, according to the decennial censuses, but anecdotal sources show another rapid expansion and decline between census years in the 1860s. Concentrated flax production was usually tied quite directly to a handful of flax-­processing mills with connections to capital and to

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markets for rough textiles in the United States. Before these mills appeared, there was little flax grown for subsistence in what became Ontario. The history of flax and linen production in Canada is more complicated than the picture presented at museums like Joseph Schneider Haus; household production occurred only in a market relationship, and as we will see, subsistence production required a unique arrangement with industry. spinning flax in mills and households

Individual farmers rarely possessed all of the knowledge and resources necessary to produce flax crops from their land. Instead, they were more likely, when a strong market and a guaranteed price for flax appeared, to rent their land and labour to millers in exchange for low-risk income and the potential for increased household production of linen. In 1860 the new flax landscape revealed by the 1861 Census of Canada demonstrated the importance of place in the flax industry. Proximity to mills was critical, especially for the larger producers. Figure 3.3 shows the spatial arrangement of the farmers who reported flax cultivation and linen manufacturing to the census. These data focus on Waterloo County, the home of Ontario’s largest flax mills. Twenty-eight per cent of farmers grew the crop, and although they were spread relatively evenly across the county, there were areas in the northwest and southwest where flax clearly did not appeal to farmers at all. Growers of flax were not necessarily makers of linen. There were many small producers in the northwest who produced no linen, and some very large producers – especially in the south – also avoided textile production. Two hundred and forty seven households did produce linen, averaging twenty-three yards per family. Almost all of these produced some flax, but as we will see, spinners obtained their raw material from a variety of sources, and this too hinged on their relationship with the millers. E.F. Deman’s The Flax Industry, an industrial manual for flax scutchers, explained and promoted what had become a standard primary processing system in Flanders, Belgium: flax factorship.18 Factorship was the practice of a miller either buying standing crops of flax from producers before the harvest or renting land from farmers to grow it, with little or no inputs from the landowner. The millers organized the labour and equipment necessary to harvest their rented flax crops at just the right time; sometimes they subcontracted planting, harvest, and transportation work to the same people who rented the land to the mill. One mill

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Figure 3.3  Flax and linen in Waterloo County, 1860

performing all of the field work and primary processing could manage about 500 acres, although many had smaller sources of raw material. The appearance of the practice of flax factorship explains the dramatic increase in production in Waterloo County in the 1850s. Waterloo was home to three of the province’s four flax-scutching mills, as well as two smaller operations that crushed flaxseed in mill complexes in Bridgeport and Chicopee. The scutching mills were established in Doon, Conestogo, and Baden by the Perines, a family from Troy, New York. Following a

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pattern of American flax production, the three Perine brothers built flax mills in Ontario with the intention of selling the processed fibre to textile and cordage mills in Massachusetts and New York State. What they knew about flax most certainly came from their home region around Troy, where flax was cultivated extensively and where several scutching mills were in operation on the Battenkill and Upper Hudson Rivers. Procuring raw materials and persuading farmers to grow flax was a constant problem for the Perines. In March 1856 the brothers placed a notice to farmers in the local English-language press. It was simply titled “Flax Wanted,” and it promised to “pay cash for any quantity of well rotted and well handled flax straw, delivered at their mills.”19 Christian B. Snyder, a local Mennonite farmer, recorded a diary that year, and although he did not grow any flax in 1856, he travelled in the fall “to Conestoga village [sic] to see Wm Perine.”20 His visit to the Perine flax mill was likely to discuss ways the farmer could add flax to his already broad spectrum of agricultural outputs. It is not clear what Snyder discussed with William Perine or whether he ever did business with the flax miller in the future. But many of Snyder’s neighbours did. In the mid-1860s articles in the Canada Farmer claimed that the Waterloo flax millers could offer unlimited seed to farmers, and the amount borrowed to sow could be returned from the harvest or deducted from the sale of the flax. This form of exchange was followed in many transactions in the Perines’ account books. On 9 December 1861 Christian Furtney was credited for over 4,600 pounds of flax and 40 bushels of flaxseed “less 4 bu. used for sowing.”21 In the factorship system, the mills also hired gangs to cultivate flax grown on property owned or rented by the mills. In the 1860 agricultural census for Wilmot Township, “Perine brothers” appeared on a lot adjacent to their mill in Baden, but their entry recorded none of the basic farm details. Rather, the census simply stated the lot number and “27 acres land rented.” The yield columns predictably listed only flax and flaxseed. More evidence is given for the contracting-out of flax land in the 1871 industrial census, where one enumerator noted that one large flax mill in Oxford County “raised 325 acres of flax in other townships on rented land of which the owner knows nothing of the production.”22 The accounts show that the Perines’ flax was processed by a variety of actors, including outworkers, millworkers, and in some cases the same farmers whose land provided the raw material. As early as 1859 farmers bought small quantities of flax, which the Perines simply noted was “to spin.”23 The accounts do not indicate why the farmers wanted to spin

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flax or whether they used it for subsistence or sold it to local merchants. The millers sold many other small batches of flax fibre at similar prices but without indicating whether it was “to spin”; most flax debits in the daybooks were for less than 100 pounds, and even though the intended purpose of the outgoing fibre was rarely given, it is hard to imagine such small amounts being useful for anything other than subsistence production. The accounts indicated ninety individuals who purchased “flax to spin” or dressed flax in small quantities. These purchases occurred in only 147 different transactions between 1857 and 1865, or fewer than two purchases per customer.24 Over half of the people who bought flax to spin were also flax producers, although many flax buyers did not appear in the accounts this way and were probably outworkers, millworkers, and possibly farmers who did not grow any flax. The average amount purchased for household production was about sixty-four pounds of fibre. A dozen customers bought only six pounds or less. The most active customers visited the mill four times each to make these purchases, but the vast majority bought flax to spin only once between 1857 and 1865. In other words, there were very few repeat customers, and sixty pounds appears to have been enough flax to add to the family’s work at home. One of the regular customers was Henry Bemer, who the Perines referred to as “the old gentleman.” He bought seventy-one pounds of flax to spin in April 1863, in addition to some flaxseed for his spring sowing, and he continued to buy flax this way for the next two years.25 The Perines did not record the amount of land they rented, but the census farmers in figure 3.3 were clearly a small part of the flax industry. The farms in Waterloo were actually home to an additional crop of up to 2,000 acres in 1860. Deman suggested that the average mill managed about 500 acres, and reports in contemporary farm journals noted that the Perines harvested flax from thousands of acres of land in Waterloo.26 Thus the household linen producers had access to raw materials from a much larger flax crop and almost certainly purchased some fibre from the Perines for making “homespun” linen. The Perines’ system of paying their suppliers in part with processed flax demonstrates that Waterloo farmers had a knowledge of spinning, a desire to produce textiles in the home, and a demand for flax fibre products such as bags, cordage, and rough textiles. Subsistence worked well in Waterloo partly because local Mennonite families had cultural reasons for valuing home production. One Mennonite farmer who regularly brought the mill’s flax home to spin

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was Isaac Meyers. John Meyers described his childhood life on this farm in Waterloo and his father’s complex dealings with the Perine flax mills. As John explained it, the Perines would “get” his father to sow a field of flax, and they would bring “a gang of flax-pullers” to pull and stook the flax. The Meyers would draw the flax to the barn and thresh it using the mill’s equipment, and then spread it in the fields to “rett,” or break down, in the dewy moisture.27 A male or female millworker was sent to turn the rotting flax over; the gang would return to rake and bind the flax; and Mr Meyers would transport it to the mill with his horses. All this while the mill owner checked on the flax to gauge its readiness. The miller then processed the flax straw and bought the finished fibre from Meyers after “deducting the price of the labor.” Meyers kept some fibre for his wife and daughters to spin into thread.28 In these intertwined strands of subsistence and market production, the millers and their gangs visited the farms on numerous occasions. The farmers provided land, carried flax to and from the mill, took flaxseed from the millers in the spring, and spun some flax fibre into linen in their homes. The Mennonites buying seed and taking factory-processed flax home to spin were no more self-sufficient than the Mennonites who sell supposedly authentic goods at country markets today. They were, however, likely less commercially minded: their actions were consistent with recent scholarship that sees Mennonite market behaviour as a strategy for family and cultural cohesion, not economic self-sufficiency.29 Gérard Bouchard refers to this strategy as “co-integration” – people participating in the marketplace so that they can survive outside of it.30 For Mennonites, and possibly many French Canadians, working with the millers increased household productivity and cultural co-integration. Home production of linen was an important part of the industry; the Perines considered it an important Canadian contribution to flax processing. In 1895 an elderly Moses Perine recalled that “the settlers’ wives after the straw was brought in to be scutched, would take the dressed line [fibre] back and spin [and weave] it up into cloths, towelings, etc.”31 In Stratford the mills of Brown and Company involved themselves in the spinning and weaving process as well, employing farmers as outworkers. Outwork weavers produced cloth in their own homes using flax fibre provided by the millers. They were paid for each finished product, minus the cost of materials. Outworkers were a regular part of rural textile production in the nineteenth century in the United States but were much less common in Canada, and the Perines appear to have employed them only in the nascent stages of their production.32 Ernst Firey was their

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most adroit cordage maker, producing cords and twines that were then sold to customers of the Perines’ store. His production was highest in the fall of 1860 and the winter of 1861, when he was credited $141 for bed cords, twine, and other rope. In the following years, his credits included time worked for the Perines, mostly in the first few months of the year, and in two cases in January 1862 he was credited for “spinning broom twine from tow.”33 He continued to work for the Perines until 1863, at which point the mill’s cordage operations expanded and probably made outwork less necessary. By 1864 most of the weavers worked in the mill, except for one outworker, George Ellendorf. Ellendorf was debited for yarn and credited mostly for “yarn returned in cloth.”34 Thus there were three different forms of textile production in the flax factorship system: some farmers took flax to spin at home and offered their land and labour for a combination of cash, store credit, and semiprocessed fibre; weavers worked in the mill for a combination of cash and store credit; and outworkers bought and finished semiprocessed fibre, knowing that they could sell the consumer goods to the mill and to other customers. Did the outwork system employed by the Perines and other flax millers signal the final stages of alienation from subsistence farming and the arrival of capitalism in the countryside, as Thomas Dublin has argued for New England in the early nineteenth century?35 An examination of flax production in the census and the Perines’ account books reveals a more complicated story. Very few farmers reported growing flax for subsistence in the province before millers like the Perines arrived, and after flax factorship stimulated and directed concentrations of flax production, family production and subsistence increased. Mennonite families like the Meyers and Schneiders adapted to the growth of rural industry by growing their first large crops of flax and taking some of the processed fibre back to the home to be spun by women and children. Women were “adapting their skills to new opportunities and new settings,”36 taking advantage of opportunities presented by the market in order to increase home production. Family labour was essential in many branches of flax production, and the willingness of these rural families to work in flax is partly what made the Ontario industry viable in the mid-nineteenth century. Women and children worked in fields, mills, and their own households. Craig Heron shows that the flax-scutching industry was Ontario’s sixth largest employer of children under the age of sixteen, with 336 boys and 90 girls working in 1891. These children represented 30 per cent of the industry’s employees, a higher percentage than any other manufacturing

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business.37 Flax factorship, outwork, and household manufacturing made sense to families because it was labour on the farmers’ terms with minimal risk, flexible arrangements, and opportunity for increased family productivity. Joy Parr argues that the nineteenth-century agricultural wage labour force was made not of landless but of landowning farmers – people “captivated by the agricultural dream” and working to be able to afford land ownership.38 A common interpretation of family labour in nineteenth-century Ontario was that “Women didn’t do field work,”39 but the flax factorship system operated in large part on the willingness of women and children to harvest and process flax in fields and farmyards. After the downturns in the late 1860s, the Montreal Trade Review took a flax tour on the Grand Trunk Line, near Stratford, and witnessed “field after field … In some fields we saw as many as twenty men, women, and children engaged in pulling it by hand, which requires to be carefully and well done.”40 If field work provided extra income to women and children in the summer, buying small quantities of flax from the mill to spin at home created extra income by allowing families with resources to leverage household labour and time off in the winter.41 In this way, participation in subsistence production, outwork systems, and milldirected field labour looks something like a continuation of Jan de Vries’s notion of the “industrious revolution,” where families increased their own production in order to increase their ability to consume.42 s p i n n i n g f l a x to t h e c a n a d i a n p u b l i c

The flax plant itself has had a special hold on the North American imagination, and the production of flax and hemp for fibre has been systematically promoted, encouraged, and financed by English and French governments and special interest groups at regular intervals since the seventeenth century.43 Nonetheless, the vast majority of producers went on ignoring flax fibre production throughout this entire period. By virtue of its suitability to northern climates and utility in multiple fibre products, flax was expected by many promoters to be a successful part of crop rotations, to counter the hegemony of southern cotton producers, and to create a new staple export that would supplement wheat. In reality, flax appeared in concentrated areas such as Waterloo County, and the press and promoters misunderstood the crop’s production through factorship and its processing through a combination of mill and household output. They were, in a sense, the opposite of those historians and curators who would later see flax as a pure subsistence crop. Thinking

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only in terms of commodity production, they missed the complex mixture of subsistence and market, home, farm, and mill that actually produced flax in Ontario. Flax offers a case study in promotion of and state and corporate intervention in agriculture. Two of the most outspoken Canadian flax promoters were Alexander Kirkwood and John A. Donaldson, Ulster Protestants who brought to Ontario knowledge of the trade and experience in the flax industries of Ireland and New York State. Both were public servants who devoted part of their time to flax promotion. Alexander Kirkwood was a native of County Antrim who farmed briefly in New York State before immigrating to Canada and taking a clerical position at the Crown lands office. He was the author of a flax article in the Canadian Agriculturalist, a report on flax to the Department of Agriculture, and a pamphlet titled Flax and Hemp.44 He later became a leader in Ontario natural resource management and helped to create Algonquin Park, the province’s most famous park and forest reserve. Kirkwood argued that Irish spinning mills would provide a market for all and any flax that Canadians could produce, and he thought eastern Ontario’s Ottawa Valley had the perfect geography for flax growth.45 A relative latecomer to flax promotion, John A. Donaldson was an emigration agent and the author of Practical Hints on the Cultivation and Treatment of the Flax Plant, published in 1865, and numerous promotional articles in the Canada Farmer, Ontario Farmer, and Irish Canadian over the next twenty years. He argued that the flax in Canada grew as well as any he had seen cultivated in Ireland and that flax, with proper knowledge, could be more remunerative than wheat.46 Excited attempts to promote flax in Canada were common in agricultural journals. In 1864 the Canada Farmer, published in Toronto, printed at least fifty-two articles and letters related to flax, more than those it printed about most other crops or animals. In subsequent years, it continued its interest in flax, specifically the ways that it could be substituted for cotton. Most commentators were strongly in favour of commercial factory systems of production as long as the mills used locally grown flax. One contributor to the Canada Farmer, despite extolling handmade and local goods, argued that factory production of flax-based goods would “render a great service to the good wives of Canada and the public at large.”47 One of the few critics of the factory system was the Canadian minister of agriculture, J.C. Taché, who wrote in 1865 that “in Lower Canada [Quebec] especially amongst the French population the operations of preparing the fibre & of putting it into

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yarn & linen are exclusively done by the hand at home, a mode of manufacture which in my humble opinion [is] much the better system.”48 For the most part, however, the writers in English-Canadian farm periodicals were mill enthusiasts. In several dozen articles on flax, they mentioned nothing about the Quebec flax industry or its household methods of production. Promoters like Kirkwood and Donaldson and the editors of the farm periodicals did not appear to think factorship was necessary in Ontario, ignoring the fact that it was key to the industry there. In their opinion, flax could be a profitable part of any farmer’s crop rotation. The rare objection to this argument almost always rested on how labour intensive it was to harvest the crop by pulling. In 1865 a farmer named “E.M.” wrote to the Canada Farmer refuting its constant endorsement of flax and claiming, “In my own case the crop did not pay for pulling.” Another writer agreed; calling flax the “gambler’s crop,” he claimed it required twelve hands per acre to harvest in time, asking, “what small farmer’s establishment is able to cultivate a large breadth of flax, since this is the case?” The journal’s standard response to such objections was to print long rejoinders questioning the vigour of anyone who complained about the crop. “The pulling which ‘E.M.’ seems to make such a bugbear of,” one response taunted, “is not a job for kid gloves.”49 If the farm journal editors can be believed, this promotional literature encouraged frequent meetings of people interested in starting flax-scutching mills in the 1860s. Such promotion had positive effects for the periodicals by attracting outlandish new advertisements for flax fertilizers, machinery, and seed.50 Equally vigorous in their promotion of flax were agricultural societies and their patrons, namely the agriculture departments of provincial and  national governments. In addition to Kirkwood’s report to the Government of Canada, the US Congress reviewed flax promotional work in the early 1860s. In 1861 the Canadian Bureau of Agriculture and Statistics assembled a small set of agricultural questionnaires that it had been circulating to agricultural societies as an information supplement to the Census of Agriculture. In these questionnaires the minister of agriculture asked select respondents to provide information on all agricultural activity in their region, but the questions pertaining to flax and hemp were particularly detailed. He wanted to know about the extent of flax cultivation and about increases or decreases in output. In particular, the questionnaires asked whether flax was processed mechanically or by hand and how much flax “ready for the spinning wheel” an acre would produce. All of the respondents were elite members of their

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communities and agricultural societies, most owning 200 acres of land or more. The two dozen respondents from Ontario reported very little flax, and they seemed unaware of the Perines’ operations in Waterloo. The respondent from Elgin County argued, “I cannot give either the weight nor the quantity of seed per acre as I have never seen an acre sowed in one place in Canada.” Another agricultural society president claimed there was “no machinery to prepare it and no market to encourage it.” The only three responses from Quebec indicated that there was no machinery for processing flax and no export market to receive it, but they also said that there was a manual flax industry, which would benefit from mechanization.51 The bureau’s interest in flax began before these questionnaires and even before Kirkwood’s reconnaissance of the flax industry in northern Europe, but it did not begin to invest in promotion in earnest until the  1860s. Early in 1862 it commissioned emigration agent John A. Donaldson to purchase six flax-scutching machines in Ireland to be divided between Canada’s provincial bureaus of agriculture for demonstration purposes at Canadian exhibitions.52 The following year, Donaldson was back in Canada, and although he was still an agent, flax promotion was a personally funded side project. In that year, he published his first treatise on flax cultivation,53 delivered lectures on the topic, and accompanied the government’s new flax scutchers to fairs for the demonstrations. Around this time, an interest developed in importing flaxseed for distribution to the agricultural societies at a subsidized rate. Donaldson helped agitate for this activity by informing the bureau that the recently formed Belfast India Flax Company had sent £2,000 worth of seed to India with instructions for its cultivation. In addition, the bureau wrote to the Elgin Flax Association to share information about the practice of offering subsidized seed in Europe.54 Bureau members discussed the best variety of seed for use in Canadian fibre production, agricultural societies were asked for the quantities they expected to dispose of, and arrangements were made with Leeming Brothers to purchase the total amount from Riga, the port of the best known flax region in the Russian Empire. At first, they imagined importing between 1,000 and 2,000 bushels of seed, but after petitioning agricultural societies, they decided to limit their order to 1,000 bushels. Georges Leclerc replied on behalf of the Quebec agricultural societies and explained why they spoke for such a disappointingly low amount of seed. He argued that local societies had tried this before and failed. The problems, in his opinion, were the risk

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of receiving poor seed and the reality that even if it was good seed, the local farmers still had no machines to process the fibre or markets to receive it.55 But even with the Riga seed project in motion, there was some disagreement over the form of production being encouraged by Donaldson and by extension the bureau, especially from French Canadians. In the summer of 1862, E. Simays of Montreal wrote to A.A. Dorion, the provincial secretary, with the first major critique of the English-Canadian factory system for producing linen. He suggested strengthening the domestic flax and linen industry by helping farmers convert the crop to linen by hand (“fabrication interne indigene manuelle”). This aim would be best accomplished, he argued, using Belgian techniques and training, and it would ultimately insulate Quebec farmers from industrial production.56 Shortly after Taché was appointed deputy minister of agriculture, he began to criticize the government’s interest in importing scutching machines, claiming it would “open the door to the commercial manufacturing system which brings in its wake agglomerations of population, misery, the proletariat, and above all demoralization.”57 Nevertheless, Taché gained control over his department well after the Riga seed project was in motion, and it was his duty to see it to completion. Unfortunately, almost everything was against him. When the seed arrived in Montreal, many of the barrels had been destroyed in transit, and the seed was wet and dirty. The shipment also took longer than expected and arrived at some destinations too late for distribution. The price of seed in Russia had been high due to poor harvests, and even with the Riga subsidy, local farmers found they could get better quality seed locally for similar prices. Canada’s largest flax millers, the Perine Brothers, wrote to say they were returning their order of almost nineteen bushels for two reasons. First, “it arrived ‘too late’ not for sowing but for leasing land for sowing it, and second the seed is so dirty that although we were to screen it we could not induce any farmer to allow us to sow it on his land for fear of introducing foul weeds.”58 What were the results of all the promotional efforts of experts, agents, editors, and officials in the 1860s? By the end of 1866 Donaldson possessed a surplus of over 1,000 copies of his flax booklet and resorted to petitioning the colonial government for an annual stipend to remunerate his educational efforts in flax promotion. The government was left with hundreds of bushels of dirty flaxseed, which it could not sell even at a loss.59 Donaldson continued to assure them that the seed would bring great benefit to the country. Ontarians were left with dozens of

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abandoned flax mills because, as the Montreal Trade Review explained, “The years 1866 and 1867 were undoubtedly bad ones for those engaged in this occupation, whether they simply performed the part of the scutching, or manufactured the raw material into linen, ropes, & c. Not a few losses occurred, and several large manufactories which had been erected and fitted up with machinery at a very heavy expense … not only stopped work but in some cases the machinery was sold off at a sacrifice, and the enterprise abandoned altogether.”60 The reasons for the sudden bust in the flax fibre industry were varied and certainly not all the fault of overenthusiastic promoters. The end of Reciprocity in 1866 must have had a negative effect on startups, which were designed only to export semiprocessed flax to mills in the United States. However, many of these had recovered by 1871, and others, such as the Perine linen mill in Doon, were in the process of consolidating their interests in secondary manufacturing. Other large linen businesses like Gooderham and Worts’s mill in Streetsville, near Toronto, burned and were not rebuilt. The farmers in Waterloo County who once grew flax either independently or for the Perines had replaced the crop with other commodities. The new flax growers were now located in the counties between Waterloo and Lake Huron, and they focused on flaxseed rather than fibre or linen production. Only a handful of large producers and practically no small producers remained in the north and west of Waterloo County. Flax had lost its appeal for most of the Mennonites and other farmers in the areas around Doon and Conestogo, although a series of new mills continued producing flax on the factorship system in the counties west of Waterloo. The Canadian Bureau of Agriculture and Statistics was not the only agency to promote the crop. Donaldson claimed that the State of New York had recently spent $20,000 to promote flax industries in this period.61 In the 1850s flax promotional efforts in Nova Scotia argued that the crop was useful for “clothing farm families but also suited to ‘industrial’ uses” and to easing the labour problem.62 In the same year that Leeming Brothers went to Russia to buy Canadian flaxseed, Prince Edward Island invested a slightly more modest £150 to import flaxseed for its agricultural societies. Then in 1869 land commissioners in Prince Edward Island were establishing values for the purchase of lands owned by absentee landlords, and they took it upon themselves to recommend areas where tenants should be further assisted by the promotion of flax. They suggested that the government help “by importing and setting up, in some central situation, flax breaking and scutching machinery” so

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that “dressed flax might shortly become an important article of export.” 63 By 1871 the Census of Prince Edward Island listed several scutching businesses where there was clearly no flax to scutch.64 The bureau had not always been unanimously in favour of promoting flax fibre production in Canada. In 1862 a clerk wrote to J. Manning, “Great Flax Agent,” in England to warn him that “the intending emigrant is not advised to risk his capital in flax” until more mills and machinery had been established for its production.65 There was also a general disagreement about how flax should be promoted. Taché preferred the system of household production in place in Quebec and believed that exposure to increased education and seed distribution could only benefit the producers. Donaldson, on the other hand, promoted the industry to millers and scientific farmers and believed that the best way to assist the public was by providing machinery and other technology, by educating farmers across the colony, and by helping communities to establish their own scutching cooperatives. Ultimately, millers chose a different path by providing seed to farmers or leasing their land and by marketing their products to a variety of household, local, and foreign markets. The main flax promoters writing for a Canadian audience in the 1850s and 1860s described and encouraged a production process (family-operated, ubiquitous, and focused on simple commodity production) that was nothing at all like what developed in certain communities (mill-operated, specialized, and combining subsistence with market-based production). conclusion

Putting agricultural commodities in their place and their proper historical context requires a judicious interpretation of promotional literature and a new understanding of both subsistence and market production. The history of flax fibre cultivation in North America has only ever been told as a story of timeless subsistence or placeless market production. On the one hand, the Census of Agriculture missed most forms of subsistence and all forms of agriculture that took place away from its rigid definition of a farm. As a result, it does not show how flax was grown by millers and spun, in part, by farmers. On the other hand, many cultural historians and curators have described flax as a ubiquitous subsistence crop that never entered the market at all. This narrative overlooks the realities of flax’s difficult labour and complex production processes, along with the temporal volatility and peculiar

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concentrations of nineteenth-century flax production. A more accurate telling of the flax story demonstrates how market expansion and household subsistence production were intertwined, and the mills and farms of Waterloo County are an important example of this phenomenon. Examining the life of this commodity offers new ways to understand the production and consumption of goods in nineteenth-century Canada. It also contributes to a new definition of subsistence activities and labourintensive production in a decidedly market economy like Ontario’s, characterized by growth and labour scarcities. What could subsistence look like in the midst of a fully industrial world? On its own, the term “subsistence” does not properly describe the activities of flax farmers in southwestern Ontario in the 1860s, even in Mennonite families, but there was an important element of family work in the home that sometimes led to direct provisioning in textiles. Daniel Samson, Douglas McCalla, and other rural historians have recently demonstrated the pitfalls of thinking that subsistence relationships were somehow simpler than markets or that they made rural life any more secure, predictable, or uniform than life anywhere else.66 The flax story shows the complexities of rural industry and household textile production, as well as the ways that the language of promoters and moralists has disguised flax as a market commodity in subsistence’s clothing.

n ot e s



Funding for this chapter was provided in part by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Fellowships Program and by the Canada Research Chair in Rural History at the University of Guelph. Technically, the phrase “Canadian state” in this chapter’s title refers to two different entities: the United Province of Canada (1841–67) and its successor, the current Canadian state, created in 1867 as the Dominion of Canada.   1 “What Is Etsy?” video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3nXprPfNOg. See also “What Is Etsy?” http://www.etsy.com/about.php.   2 Michele Krugh, “Joy in Labour: The Politicization of Craft from the Arts and Crafts Movement to Etsy,” Canadian Review of American Studies 44, no. 2 (2014): 281–301; Elizabeth Wayland Barber, “Etsy’s Industrial Revolution,” New York Times, 12 November 2013, 27.   3 By 1956 “a farm unit which has passed the subsistence stage” was one with products worth at least $1,200. Census of Canada 1956, vol. 2, Agriculture, x. In the section on “Products of the Forest,” some censuses differentiated between firewood and fence posts produced for farm use versus sale. It assigned value to products in each category.

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  4 Geoff Cunfer and Fridolin Krausmann, “Sustaining Agricultural Systems in the Old and New Worlds: A Long-Term Socio-Ecological Comparison,” in Simron Jit Singh, Helmut Haberl, Marian Chertow, Michael Mirtl, and Martin Schmid, eds, Long Term Socio-Ecological Research: Studies in Society-Nature Interactions across Spatial and Temporal Scales, 269–96 (New York: Springer, 2013).   5 Hood also demonstrated that farmers gave priority to flaxseed over fibre. Adrienne D. Hood, “The Material World of Cloth: Production and Use in Eighteenth-Century Rural Pennsylvania,” William and Mary Quarterly, 53, no. 1 (1996): 43–66, 50, 52; Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), 4.   6 Michel Boisvert, “La production textile au Bas-Canada: L’exemple Laurentien,” Cahiers de géographie du Québec 40, no. 111 (1996): 421– 37; Fernand Ouellet, Economic and Social History of Quebec, 1760– 1850: Structures and Conjunctures (Toronto: Gage, 1980), 265.   7 Eliso Kvavadze, Ofer Bar-Yosef, Anna Belfer-Cohen, Elisabetta Boaretto, Nino Jakeli, Zinovi Matskevich, and Tengiz Meshveliani, “30,000-Year-Old Wild Flax Fibers,” Science 325, no. 5946 (2009): 1359; Marion VaiseyGenser and Diane H. Morris, “Introduction: History of the Cultivation and Uses of Flaxseed,” in Alister D. Muir and Neil D. Westcott, eds, Flax: The Genus Linum (London: Routledge, 2003), 1–2; Füsun Ertug˘ , “Linseed Oil and Oil Mills in Central Turkey: Flax / Linum and Eruca, Important Oil Plants of Anatolia,” Anatolian Studies 50 (2000): 171–85.   8 Orange Judd Company, Manual of Flax Culture, Comprising Full Information on the Cultivation, Management, and Marketing of the Crop, Together with a Complete Glossary and Index (New York: Orange Judd Company, 1883), 37; Anatoly Marchenkov, Tatiana Rozhmina, Igor Uschapovsky, and Alister D. Muir, “Cultivation of Flax,” in Alister D. Muir and Neil D. Westcott, eds, Flax: The Genus Linum (London: Routledge, 2003), 86–7.   9 Jonathan Hamill, “The Irish Flax Famine and the Second World War,” in Philip Ollerenshaw, Brenda Collins, and Trevor Parkhill, eds, Industry, Trade and People in Ireland, 1650–1950: Essays in Honour of W.H. Crawford (Belfast, Ireland: Ulster Historical Foundation, 2005), 229. 10 Kenneth W. Keller, “From the Rhineland to the Virginia Frontier: Flax Production as a Commercial Enterprise,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 98, no. 3 (1990): 496; Alexander Kirkwood, Flax and Hemp (Toronto: W.C. Chewett, 1864), 28; Orange Judd Company, Manual of Flax Culture, 35–6. 11 Audrey Spencer, Spinning and Weaving at Upper Canada Village (Toronto: Ryerson, 1964), 9. See also “Things to See and Do in Ontario on

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Dominion Day,” Toronto Globe, 30 June 1965, 29, which included observing “craftswomen spinning and weaving wool and flax” in the typical nineteenth-century Upper Canadian village; and Susan MacFarlane Burke, with Kenneth McLaughlin and Stephanie Kirkwood Walker, This Old Haus: A Place in Time (Kitchener, ON: Friends of the Joseph Schneider Haus, 2008), 208. 12 Mavis Atton, Flax Culture: From Flower to Fabric (Owen Sound, ON: Ginger, 1988); Kax Wilson, A History of Textiles (Boulder, C O: Westview, 1979), 240; Victor Clark, History of Manufactures in the United States, vol. 1 (1929; reprint, New York: Peter Smith, 1949), 529; Clarence Albert Day, A History of Maine Agriculture, 1604–1860 (Orono: University of Maine Press, 1954), 155; Robert L. Jones, History of Agriculture in Ontario, 1613–1880 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1946), 221; Keller, “From the Rhineland,” 495; Rosemary Neering, The Canadian Housewife: An Affectionate History (Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 2005), 49; Ross D. Fair, “A Most Favourable Soil and Climate: Hemp Cultivation in Upper Canada, 1800–1813,” Ontario History 96, no. 1 (2004): 41–61; Nian-Sheng Huang, “Financing Poor Relief in Colonial Boston,” Massachusetts Historical Review 8, no. 1 (2006): 72–103. 13 Beth Light and Alison L. Prentice, eds, Pioneer and Gentlewomen of British North America, 1713–1867 (Toronto: New Hogtown, 1980), 121–2. 14 Upper Canada and Lower Canada are the regions that in 1867 became Ontario and Quebec respectively, although after 1840 they were formally known as Canada West and Canada East. David Wood, Making Ontario: Agricultural Colonization and Landscape Re-creation before the Railway (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000), 88–90, 100. 15 Kris E. Inwood and Phyllis Wagg, “The Survival of Handloom Weaving in Rural Canada, circa 1870,” Journal of Economic History 53, no. 2 (1993): 346–58. 16 Béatrice Craig, Backwoods Consumers and Homespun Capitalists: The Rise of a Market Culture in Eastern Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), 187–9; Judith Rygiel, “‘Thread in Her Hands – Cash in Her Pockets’: Women and Domestic Textile Production in 19th-Century New Brunswick,” Acadiensis 30, no. 2 (2001): 56–70; Cyril Simard, “Le lin au Madawaska au 19e siècle: Les ‘Brayons’ n’etaient pas les seuls a ce ‘mauvais coton,’” Revue de la Societe historique du Madawaska 15, no. 1 (1987): 9–25. 17 Craig, Backwoods Consumers, 187–9. 18 E.F. Deman, The Flax Industry: Its Importance and Progress, Also Its Cultivation and Management and Instructions in the Various Belgian

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Methods of Growing and Preparing It for Market, with Extracts from the Annual Report of the Royal Irish Flax Society, and a Word on Chevalier Claussen’s Invention of Cottonizing Flax (London: J. Ridgway, 1852). 19 “Flax Wanted,” Berlin Chronicle, 12 March 1856. 20 Diary of Christian B. Snyder, 24 November 1856, Historical Mss. 17.12, photocopy, Conrad Grebel College, Mennonite Archives of Ontario. 21 Perine Brothers, “Daybook,” 192, 2006.023.024.2, Doon Heritage Crossroads (DHC). 22 Census of Canada 1871, Industrial Schedule, Oxford West, Oxford County, Kris E. Inwood dataset. 23 Perine Brothers, “Daybook,” 72–4, 176, 2006.023.024.1, DHC ; Perine Brothers, “Daybook,” 72–4, 232, 237, 2006.023.024.2, DHC . 24 Most of these purchases were made in the last two years covered by the accounts, indicating that the practice increased in popularity and effect. 25 Perine Brothers, “Daybook,” 378, 2006.023.024.2, DHC . 26 Deman, Flax Industry, 98, 111–12; John A. Donaldson, “Flax Works at Norval: Harvesting Flax,” Canada Farmer, 1 August 1864, 211; “Flax Progress,” editorial, Canada Farmer, 1 November 1864, 318. 27 Sometimes the work of retting was done in the farmer’s field, and sometimes it was done at the mill. S.B. McCready recalled spreading the flax for retting in a “field beside the mill” of John Garbig’s flax mill in Harriston, Ontario. Cited in Judy Tuck, A History of Harriston: A Commemorative Book for the Harriston Centennial, July 1–8, 1978 (Harriston, ON : Town Crier, 1978), 49. 28 Miriam H. Snyder and Joseph M. Snyder, Hannes Schneider and His Wife Catharine Haus Schneider: Their Descendants and Times, 1534–1939 (Kitchener, ON : Miriam H. Snyder, 1937), 160G. 29 Royden K. Loewen, Family, Church, and Market: A Mennonite Community in the Old and the New Worlds, 1850–1930 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993), 76–9. 30 Gérard Bouchard, “Marginality, Co-Integration and Change: Social History as a Critical Exercise,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 8, no. 1 (1997): 19–38. 31 “M. B. Perine,” Canadian Journal of Fabrics 12, no. 3 (1895): 74. 32 Thomas Dublin, “Women’s Work and the Family Economy: Textiles and Palm Leaf Hatmaking in New England, 1830–1850,” Tocqueville Review 5, no. 2 (1983): 297–316. 33 Perine Brothers, “Daybook,” 72–4, 208, 2006.023.024.2, DHC . 34 Perine Brothers, “Ledger,” 164, 2006.023.024.6, DHC . 35 Dublin, “Women’s Work.” 36 Ulrich, Age of Homespun, 376.

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37 Craig Heron, “Factory Workers,” in Paul Craven, ed., Labouring Lives: Work and Workers in Nineteenth-Century Ontario (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), 491, 523. 38 Joy Parr, “Hired Men: Ontario Agricultural Wage Labour in Historical Perspective,” Labour / Le Travail 15 (1985): 96; Peter A. Russell, “Forest into Farmland: Upper Canadian Clearing Rates, 1822–1839,” Agricultural History 57, no. 2 (1983): 326–39. 39 R.M. McInnis, “Perspectives on Ontario Agriculture, 1815–1930,” Canadian Papers in Rural History 8 (1992): 105. 40 Quoted in “Flax Seed Growing,” Country Gentleman’s Magazine (London) 4 (1870): 32. 41 This was long recognized as one of the benefits of textile production in Quebec. Colin Coates, The Metamorphoses of Landscape and Community in Early Quebec (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000), 44–5; Boisvert, “La production textile,” 422. 42 Jan de Vries, “The Industrial Revolution and the Industrious Revolution,” Journal of Economic History 54, no. 2 (1994): 249–70; Adrienne D. Hood, The Weaver’s Craft: Cloth, Commerce, and Industry in Early Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), 9; Ulrich, Age of Homespun, ch. 8. Canadian examples of this phenomenon are visible in Elizabeth Manke, “At the Counter of the General Store: Women and the Economy in Eighteenth-Century Horton, Nova Scotia,” in Margaret Conrad, ed., Intimate Relations: Family and Community in Planter Nova Scotia, 1759–1800, 167–81 (Fredericton, NB: Acadiensis, 1995). 43 Joshua MacFadyen, “Fashioning Flax: Industry, Region, and Work in North American Fibre and Linseed Oil, 1850–1930” (PhD diss., University of Guelph, 2009), 15–16. 44 Alexander Kirkwood, “Report on the System of Cultivation and Preparation of the Flax, as Practised in Belgium and the British Islands,” in Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada (1854), vol. 18, appendix 1.1, 34–40; Kirkwood, Flax and Hemp. 45 Gerald Killan, “Alexander Kirkwood,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8; Richard S. Lambert and A. Paul Pross, Renewing Nature’s Wealth: A Centennial History of the Public Management of Lands, Forests and Wildlife in Ontario, 1763–1967 (Toronto: Ontario Department of Lands and Forests, 1967), 277–80; Kirkwood, Flax and Hemp, 9. 46 John A. Donaldson, Practical Hints on the Cultivation and Treatment of the Flax Plant (Toronto: Globe Steam, 1865). See, for example, John A. Donaldson, “Flax Prospects,” Canada Farmer, 16 May 1864, 130; John A. Donaldson, “Flax Culture,” Irish Canadian, 11 August 1887, 4; and John

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47

48

49

50 51 52

53

54

55

56 57

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A. Donaldson to Hon. G. Alexander, Journals of the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada, 1863 (Quebec: R. Stanton, 1863), appendix 18. James Buik, “Flax Thread,” Canada Farmer, 15 March 1864, 67. Buik also argued that “the sooner the young lasses of Canada begin to rattle away at the twa-handed wheel, the better both for back and bed, and bags to hold their father’s wheat in, for the bags they buy now are nothing but trash.” James Buik, “The Twa-Handed Wheel,” Canada Farmer, 15 February 1865, 62. J.C. Taché to the Commissioner of Crown Lands, Prince Edward Island, 7 November 1865, RG 17, series Ai2, “Letter Books,” vol. 1495, reel T113, Library and Archives Canada (LA C ). “Experience in Flax Growing,” Canada Farmer, 2 January 1865, 2; “The Sidney Flax Crop,” Canada Farmer, 15 February 1865, 57; “‘E.M.’s’ Experience in Raising Flax,” Canada Farmer, 1 February 1865, 35; Untitled, Canada Farmer, 15 April 1865, 123. See, for example, “Coe’s Super Phosphate of Lime as a Manure for Flax,” advertisement, Canada Farmer, 2 January 1865, 1. “Circular of Agricultural Queries from the Minister of Agriculture,” RG 17, vol. 2326, LAC. Campbell to Thompson, 1 April 1862, Campbell to Belleau, 9 April 1862, and Campbell to Donaldson, 1 September 1863, R G 17, series Ai2, “Letter Books,” vol. 1495, reel T113, LAC; Jean-Guy Nadeau, “Joseph-Charles Taché,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7. See for example, Donaldson, “Flax Prospects,” 130; John A. Donaldson to Hon. G. Alexander, in Journals of the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada, 1863 (Quebec: R. Stanton, 1863), appendix 18; and John A. Donaldson, Practical Hints on the Cultivation and Treatment of the Flax Plant (Toronto: Globe Steam, 1865). Donaldson, Londonderry, to Vankoughnet, 10 February 1862, R G 17, vol. 1663, LAC; Campbell to Benjamin Walker, St Thomas, 29 December 1862, R G 17, series Ai2, “Letter Books,” vol. 1495, reel T113, LA C . H.C. Thomson to Bureau of Agriculture, Upper Canada, 29 December 1865, R G 17, vol. 7, LAC; “Order in Council,” 6 January 1866, R G 17, vol. 7, file 12, LAC; “Riga Pamphlet,” R G 17, vol. 8, file 586, LA C ; Georges Leclerc to BAS , 30 January 1866, R G 17, vol. 8, LA C . E. Simays, Montreal, to A.A. Dorion, 9 August 1862, RG, 17, vol. 2393, LAC. Taché to T. Robitaille, M PP, 4 February 1865, R G 17, series Ai2, “Letter Books,” vol. 1495, reel T113, LAC, translated in Bruce Curtis, The Politics of Population: State Formation, Statistics, and the Census of Canada, 1840–1875 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), 253.

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58 Perine and Young to Fleming and Company, 7 May 1866, R G 17, vol. 11, file 840, LAC. 59 Clerk ex. co. memo, 1 September 1866, R G 17, vol. 11, LA C ; Thomas Leeming to Bureau of Agriculture, 6 September 1866, R G 17, vol. 12, L A C ; Buchanan to Bureau of Agriculture, 13 September 1866, R G 17, vol. 12, L A C . 60 Quoted in “Flax Seed Growing,” Country Gentleman’s Magazine (London) 4 (1870): 32. 61 J.A. Donaldson to Bureau of Agriculture, 19 September 1865, R G 17, vol. 8, L A C. 62 Daniel Samson, The Spirit of Industry and Improvement: Liberal Government and Rural-Industrial Society, Nova Scotia, 1790–1862 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008), 263. 63 Act of Assembly P.E.I., 29 Vict. 1866, “An Act for Appropriating Certain Moneys therein Mentioned for the Service of the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty-Six.” See also Elinor Vass, “The Agricultural Societies of Prince Edward Island,” Island Magazine 7 (1979): 33; and “Appendix X: Report of the Commissioners Appointed by the Government to Report on Certain Proprietory Estates Offered to the Government for Sale, with Memorandum of Annual Rent Thereof: Estate of Daniel Hodgson, Esq., Township No. 23,” Journal of the PEI House of Assembly for 1870. 64 Public Archives and Records Office, Census of Prince Edward Island 1871. 65 C. Cambie to J. Manning Esq., Great Flax Agent, England, 9 July 1862, R G 17, vol. 2398, LAC. 66 Samson, Spirit of Industry, 223; Douglas McCalla, Consumers in the Bush: Shopping in Rural Upper Canada (Montreal and Kingston: McGillQueen’s University Press, 2015), 11–15.

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4 Rural Households, Subsistence, and Environment on the Canadian Shield, 1901–1940 r.w. sandwell

Canada was predominantly a rural country for the first half of the twentieth century. Many rural households and rural communities were, from the late nineteenth century onward, well integrated into ever-growing global, capitalist networks of mercantile and industrial relationships through the sale of labour for wages and the sale and purchase of commodities for cash or credit. At the same time, however, “old” forms of social and economic organization persisted. Notably, rural labour continued to be largely uncommodified and organized according to kinship, and rural households continued to produce an important portion of what they consumed, as well as to consume much of what they produced. Neither “traditional” nor “modern,” neither fully capitalist nor “peasant,” the rural populations of Canada were still, in 1941, a recognizable part of the Canadian social, political, and economic fabric that differed in some significant ways from the urban, industrial, and capitalist milieu growing up in a small number of centres across the country. This chapter takes on two tasks. I begin by documenting the dominance of Canada’s rural populations in the first half of the twentieth century, arguing that the distinct nature of the household- and landbased rural economy played a key, if underresearched, role in the remarkable economic development of the country in the twentieth century. Rural households stood on the three pillars of economic support: offfarm wage work, the sale of commodities – grown, raised, tended, extracted, and often processed by the household – and a wide and varying range of subsistence activities carried out by all household members. As Joshua MacFadyen also demonstrates in this volume for

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nineteenth-century flax growers, these varied household strategies were worked out in a fruitful, flexible symbiosis with a growing capitalist state, meeting its needs for a reserve army of cheap, part-time, and seasonal labour, for agricultural and other land-based commodities, and for the kind of stable social and political infrastructure required for a growing economy. After claiming the importance of subsistence activities to the complex rural household economies that were in turn so vital to the growth of modern and industrial Canada, this chapter notes that subsistence behaviours are particularly difficult to “see” through the lens of official records created by the Canadian state. The state was primarily interested in tracing the production and trade of commodities that were more directly tied to taxable commodity markets, including wage labour, and to the growth of the capitalist economy. Indeed, as Sarah J. Martin demonstrates in this volume, the Canadian state actively worked to stamp out subsistence practices, particularly among First Nations people. However, notwithstanding the state’s strong preference for market capitalism, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics – the first Canadian government department charged with compiling statistics about the entire population of the country – did gather some information about households in its decennial censuses that can help historians to answer the question “How important, exactly, were such subsistence activities to Canadian households?” Unfortunately for historians, a particularly valuable source of information about the economic behaviour of Canadian households has been lost: the agricultural data meticulously recorded in the agricultural schedule of the census by individual enumerators, farm household by farm household, in each census year. This information no longer exists. The single most important source now remaining to document the nonwage economic behaviours of rural and agricultural populations of the country is the aggregate data, drawn from the individual agriculture and other schedules by census statisticians and compiled into tables published in the various volumes of each census. But even where manuscript-level information exists – relating to occupation, household composition, gender, and age – for other census years, the volume of this information (even if it exists in digital form) makes it cumbersome to use and complicated to interpret across a large region or country. It is, nevertheless, the most consistent, the most detailed, and the most quantifiable data about the economic activities of Canadian households in the first half of the twentieth century. This

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105

chapter takes on the task of exploring just what, exactly, the published census data can reveal to the historian interested in household subsistence activities in the early decades of the twentieth century. Because subsistence activities are so deeply connected to particular places and kinds of places, I decided to use the census to explore households in one place in Canada and chose the largest rural place, the Canadian Shield. The chapter presents my findings and some reflections on census data, place, households, and the nature of economic and social change in the twentieth century. t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u ry c a n a d a a s a r u r a l p l a c e

The history of Canada in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries is generally told as the story of rapid urbanization and industrialization. The census year in which the country officially became more urban than rural is noted to be 1921, and it is often associated with a time when Canada became more industrial than agricultural, more “modern” than traditional. There are some significant ways, however, in which Canada remained a predominantly rural country well into the twentieth century. Notwithstanding the rapid growth of urban places, and unlike the rural populations of Britain, Canada’s rural population grew continuously in the century after 1871, doubling from 3 million to about 7.5 million by 1971 (see figure 4.1). The number of farm holdings doubled between 1871 and 1941, and although the number declined after that date, the amount of land being actively farmed continued to increase into the 1970s.1 Furthermore, our understanding of the relative size of “urban” and “rural” populations is confused by definitions of these terms. Official definitions of “urban” bore no relation to community size before 1951; “urban” referred simply to the “population living in incorporated villages, towns and cities regardless of size,”2 with “rural” defining all the remaining population. Official statistics about rural and urban populations include some strange anomalies as a result. Notwithstanding the official dominance of Canada’s urban populations after 1921, it was not until 1941 that for the first time a slight majority, 51 per cent, of Canadians were living in communities larger than 1,000 people (see figure 4.2). It was not until 1961, remarkably, that for the first time a slight majority of Canadians were living in communities larger than 5,000 people (see figure 4.3). In 1971 there were still 12.8 million people living in rural areas or communities smaller than 30,000 people, ­

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1901

1911

1921

1931

1941

1951

1956

1961

1966

1971

1976

Figure 4.1  Urban, rural, and farm populations in Canada, selected years, 1871–1976

Rural population 2,966,914 3,215,303 3,296,141 3,357,093 3,933,696 4,435,827 4,804,728 5,254,239 6,068,207 6,794,665 7,169,399 7,389,096 7,453,340 5,625,635

722,343 1,109,507 1,537,098 2,014,222 3,272,947 4,352,122 5,572,058 6,252,416 7,941,222 9,286,126 11,068,848 12,625,784 14,114,970 17,366,970

1891

Urban population

1881

3,237,717 3,112,768 2,815,695 2,631,587 2,072,785 1,913,714 1,419,795 1,034,560

1871

Farm population

20,000,000 18,000,000 16,000,000 14,000,000 12,000,000 10,000,000 8,000,000 6,000,000 4,000,000 2,000,000 0

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1881

1891

1901

1911

1921

1931

1941

1951

1961

1971

647,370

976,040 1,440,605 1,867,260 3,007,576 3,977,064 5,160,901 5,853,603 7,511,539 10,631,641 13,663,160

Figure 4.2  Number of people living in communities larger and smaller than 1,000, Canada, 1871–1971

>999

4,999

660,040

3,664,770

1881 1,013,295

3,819,944

1891 1,322,223

4,049,092

1901 2,352,479

4,854,164

1911 3,212,228

5,575,721

1921 4,330,159

6,046,627

1931

4,943,875

6,562,780

1941

8,979,272

1961

9,441,773

1971 6,355,955 9,258,975 12,126,537

7,653,474

1951

Figure 4.3  Number of people living in communities larger than 4,999 and smaller than 5,000, Canada, 1871–1971

3,237,887