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Staple Trades, Subsistence Agriculture, and Nineteenth-Century Cape Breton Island

Stephen J. Hornsby
Annals of the Association of American Geographers
Vol. 79, No. 3 (Sep., 1989), pp. 411-434
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2563726
Page Count: 24
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Staple Trades, Subsistence Agriculture, and Nineteenth-Century Cape Breton Island
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Abstract

In the territory that eventually became Canada, the early pattern of European settlement and economic development was largely shaped by staple trades and subsistence agriculture. Staple trades were heavily dependent upon foreign capital, technology, labor, and markets; subsistence farming rested upon European settlers, the family farm, and local markets. These two ingredients of the early pattern of Canada were found on Cape Breton Island in the nineteenth century. Cod fishing, coal mining, and mainly subsistence farming created much of the Island's settlement, economy, and society. Each of these economies occupied relatively discrete areas, forming a mosaic of different ways of life and work on the Island. Woven through this pattern was a demographic cycle of primarily Scottish immigration, population growth, and emigration. These elements created a highly complex pattern, a regional human geography that is suggestive of other parts of nineteenth-century Canada.

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