Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Professor D.L. Smith


The impact of railroad development on Canadian society has recently become a much debated topic. A significant interpretation of Canadian economic development posits a fundamental contradiction between mercantilists and industrialists, arguing that the former have maintained supremacy over the latter and that this has retarded the emergence of industrial capitalism. Further, it in claimed that Canada's railways were designed to promote mercantile interests and functioned to impede the transition from a mercantile to an industrial economy. The above formulation, however, largely employs strictly economic criteria to characterize Canadian society. This thesis presents an alternate framework, one which attempts to view social reality from the bottom-up; that is from the point of view of the producers and their work relationships. Using the criteria developed for this framework, it is argued that railroad development between 1850 to 1879 marked tho transition from a mercantilist to an industrial capitalist society and, moreover, that these transportation projects were the backbone of this social change.

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