WiSe 13/14: The Dirty '30s: The Great Depression in Canada
Canada was among the countries hardest hit by the greatest economic crisis of the 20th century, which originated in the United States in 1929, quickly affected its neighbour to the north, and ended ... read more
Canada was among the countries hardest hit by the greatest economic crisis of the 20th century, which originated in the United States in 1929, quickly affected its neighbour to the north, and ended with the advent of the Second World War. By the early 1930s, unemployment rates in Canada had reached 30 percent, industrial production had plummeted, and prices, especially for farm commodities, had tumbled. A severe drought added to the desperate situation of Canadian farmers on the prairies, a vast area that came to be known as the Dust Bowl.
This course explores the history and culture of Canada during the Great Depression. Following a brief overview of the major developments of the 1920s that led to the depression, we will investigate how the Great Depression affected the lives of Canadians and examine the political reactions it triggered. Through the analysis of historical documents, oral history interviews, film material, and secondary historiographical literature, we will study the impact the depression had on various societal groups - uncovering in the process how the depression's burdens were distributed by class, race, gender, and region - and on Canadian culture in general. For a political perspective, we will examine Prime Minister R.B. Bennett's attempt to introduce relief measures modelled after Roosevelt's New Deal in the United States ("Bennett's New Deal"), the emergence of political reform movements and their respective theories (e.g., the democratic socialism of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and the social credit theories associated with the Social Credit Party), and organized protests against social conditions and government policies (e.g., the On-to-Ottawa Trek).
The goal of the course is to encourage students to critically analyze primary historical sources, to enable them to understand historiographical debates, and to familiarize them with various historical sub-disciplines and their respective approaches, including economic history, social history, cultural history, political history, and histoire croisée. It further aims to raise awareness of the causes and effects - both immediate and long term - of economic and social crises and their importance in national histories and public memory.