This Week in History
One of Canada's Great Scholars: Harold Adams Innis
For the week of Monday November 1, 2010
On November 5, 1894, Harold Adams Innis was born near Otterville, Ontario. He was an academic pioneer whose research revolutionized the fields of history, economics and communication theory.
In 1920, Innis began a lifelong career at the University of Toronto’s Department of Political Economy. Innis soon concluded that British and American professors, who dominated the teaching of economics at Canadian universities, misunderstood the structure of the Canadian economy. In response, Innis wrote The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History (1930) in which he outlined his own economic model, the Staples Theory. Using the history of the fur trade, he illustrated the dependency of the Canadian economy on trade with Europe, especially Britain. He argued that from the 16th century onwards Canadian politics and society were influenced by an economy based upon dominant export commodities or staples, such as fur, fish, wood and wheat. Due to its truly Canadian perspective and its insights into economics and history, The Fur Trade in Canada and the Staples Theory influenced generations of economists and historians both in Canada and abroad.
For his excellent work as a historian and economist, as well as his groundbreaking work in communication theory, Harold Adams Innis was designated a National Historic Person in 1972. Marshall McLuhan was designated a National Historic Person in 2007. For more information on Marshall McLuhan, please see Marshall McLuhan – A Media Guru.
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