This paper – written with my good friend Alexis Lacombe of the Collège de Granby – contends that supply-side factors related to the maritime’s industry response to conflicts are quite important in explaining the predominant role of the fur trade in the early economy of Canada. Exports and imports of non-fur industries in Canada tended to be bulky with a low value to weight compared to furs and inputs needed for the fur trade which were of higher value to weight. As a result, ship-owners – when assuming the higher transport costs induced by warfare – preferred not to ship low-value-to-weight goods and reorganized their cargo compositions to ship high-value-to-weight goods. Both the inputs and the outputs of non-fur industries tended to be low-value-to-weight, which was not the case for the fur trade. The result is that war meant important increases in costs for non-fur industries and important reductions in demand for their goods. The frequency of wars acted to depress the output of non-fur industries.
At the present time, this is a working paper with numerous flaws that we would like to work out and we are presenting this paper at the Economic and Business History Society meeting in Montreal at the end of may. The paper can be consulted here.