Economic and social relations of production on the Northeast-Coast of Newfoundland, with special reference to Conception Bay, 1785-1855

Cadigan, Sean T.(Sean Thomas) (1991) Economic and social relations of production on the Northeast-Coast of Newfoundland, with special reference to Conception Bay, 1785-1855. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This thesis examines aspects of northeast-coast Newfoundland society and economy from 1785 to 1855, giving particular attention to Conception Bay as the longest settled and most economically developed part of the coast. While a well-established Newfoundland historiography suggests that it is no longer acceptable to see fish merchants as responsible for Newfoundland underdevelopment, this view has still found a home in some recent Marxist writing. This study departs from the view that fish merchants alone caused the colony's underdevelopment, finding instead a dynamic class relationship based on accommodation between fish merchants and fishing families. Relations between these two groups unfolded within a society and economy shaped not only by a limited resource endowment, but also by the political and legal infrastructure of a region and of a fishing industry often marked by antagonistic capitalist, colonial and imperial interests. -- Fishing families, unable to see any way of producing a significant amount of subsistence or capital goods, had no choice but to rely on merchant credit and purchase imported goods. Merchants were able to manipulate prices to insulate themselves from cyclical variations in prices and catches, in exchange for accepting the risk of extending credit in both good years and bad. Merchants did not thwart agricultural or industrial alternatives to the fishery because local commodity producers could find no resource base from which successfully to begin such activity. The overhead costs of credit, in addition to the fishery's labour requirements and legal infrastructure, ensured that fish producers continued to rely on family labour. Only with the advent of the Reform and Liberal struggles for constitutional reform in the 1820s would merchants be cast as the class antagonists of fishing families, stifling the latter's every attempt to break the merchants' hold over their livelihoods.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/757
Item ID: 757
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [424]-440
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 1991
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Fish trade--Newfoundland and Labrador--History; Fisheries--Economic aspects--Newfoundland and Labrador

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