Why was flour of poor quality? The impact of seigneurial laws and price controls on flour in colonial Quebec (with Alexis Lacombe)

After much work and re-do on my part regarding the details of the milling regulations in Canada and thanks to the help of my co-author, Alexis Lacombe (University of Sherbrooke, Collège de Granby), who conceived the mathematical model, we have finished our paper on the quality of flour in Canada. Prior to 1850, we argue that the sets of price controls and milling monopolies created a system in which consumer welfare was hurt considerably. More precisely, we argue that the regulations in place incited millers to produce low quality flour which was often uncleaned and very coarse.

The paper can be found here and the abstract is below.

Abstract: The literature on Quebec’s economic history often portrays its agriculture during the Pre-Confederation era as poor. This is believed to be true from the beginnings of the colony when it was settled by France. Most of the people who took up farming when they arrived in the colony had not been familiar with this type of work when they were in France. One recurrent problem mentioned in the literature is that the flour produced in the colony was of very poor quality. This judgment was only extended towards flour found within the colony, not on foreign markets where Canadian flour seems to have enjoyed a slightly better reputation even if exports were quite small in terms of volume. This paper tackles the sources of this problem of quality on the domestic market and argues that a compilation of land tenure regulations under the system of seigneurial tenure and of price regulations led to this situation.

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