Harold Innis

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North American beaver, castor canadensis. Innis argued that it is impossible to understand Canadian history without some knowledge of the beaver's life and habits. Beaver-Szmurlo.jpg
North American beaver, castor canadensis. Innis argued that it is impossible to understand Canadian history without some knowledge of the beaver's life and habits.

Harold Innis's interest in the relationship between empires and colonies was developed in his classic study, The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History (1930). The book chronicles the trade in beaver fur from the early 16th century to the 1920s. Instead of focusing on the "heroic" European adventurers who explored the Canadian wilderness as conventional histories had done, Innis documents how the interplay of geography, technology and economic forces shaped both the fur trade and Canada's political and economic destiny. [54] He argues that the fur trade largely determined Canada's boundaries, and he comes to the conclusion that the country "emerged not in spite of geography but because of it." [49]

In line with that observation, Innis notably proposes that European settlement of the Saint Lawrence River Valley followed the economic and social patterns of indigenous peoples, making for a Canadian historical and cultural continuity that predates and postdates European settlement. Unlike many historians who see Canadian history as beginning with the arrival of Europeans, Innis emphasizes the cultural and economic contributions of First Nations peoples. [55] "We have not yet realized," he writes, "that the Indian and his culture was fundamental to the growth of Canadian institutions." [56]

The Innisian perspective on the development of Canadian political, economic and social institutions was an early form of neo-institutionalism, which became an accepted part of the Canadian political science tradition well before American and European counterparts. [57] The Fur Trade in Canada concludes by arguing that Canadian economic history can best be understood by examining how one staple product gave way to another—furs to timber, for example, and the later importance of wheat and minerals. [58] Reliance on staples made Canada economically dependent on more industrially advanced countries and the "cyclonic" shifts from one staple to another caused frequent disruptions in the country's economic life. [48]

The Fur Trade in Canada also describes the cultural interactions among three groups of people: the Europeans in fashionable metropolitan centres who regarded beaver hats as luxury items; the European colonial settlers who saw beaver fur as a staple that could be exported to pay for essential manufactured goods from the home country, and First Nations peoples who traded furs for industrial goods such as metal pots, knives, guns and liquor. [59] Innis describes the central role First Nations peoples played in the development of the fur trade. Without their skilled hunting techniques, knowledge of the territory and advanced tools such as snowshoes, toboggans and birch-bark canoes, the fur trade would not have existed. [60] However, dependence on European technologies disrupted First Nations societies. "The new technology with its radical innovations," Innis writes, "brought about such a rapid shift in the prevailing Indian culture as to lead to wholesale destruction of the peoples concerned by warfare and disease." [61] Historian Carl Berger argues that by placing First Nations culture at the centre of his analysis of the fur trade, Innis "was the first to explain adequately the disintegration of native society under the thrust of European capitalism." [62]

Cod fishery

After the publication of his book on the fur trade, Innis turned to a study of an earlier staple, the cod fished for centuries off the eastern coasts of North America. The result was The Cod Fisheries: The History of an International Economy published in 1940, 10 years after the fur trade study. Innis tells the detailed history of competing empires in the exploitation of a teeming natural resource, a history that ranges over 500 years. While his study of the fur trade focused on the continental interior with its interlocking rivers and lakes, The Cod Fisheries looks outward at global trade and empire, showing the far-reaching effects of one staple product both on imperial centres and on marginal colonies such as Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New England.

Communications theories

Innis's study of the effects of interconnected lakes and rivers on Canadian development and European empire sparked his interest in the complex economic and cultural relationships between transportation systems and communications. [63] During the 1940s, Innis also began studying pulp and paper, an industry of central importance to the Canadian economy. The research provided an additional crossover point from his work on staple products to his communications studies. [64] Biographer Paul Heyer writes that Innis "followed pulp and paper through its subsequent stages: newspapers and journalism, books and advertising. In other words, from looking at a natural resource-based industry he turned his attention to a cultural industry in which information, and ultimately knowledge, was a commodity that circulated, had value, and empowered those who controlled it." [1]

A Greek copy of Plato's Symposium from a papyrus roll. Innis argued that Plato's dialogues combined the vitality of the spoken word with the power of writing, a perfect balance between time and space. Plato Symposium papyrus.jpg
A Greek copy of Plato's Symposium from a papyrus roll. Innis argued that Plato's dialogues combined the vitality of the spoken word with the power of writing, a perfect balance between time and space.

One of Innis's primary contributions to communications studies was to apply the dimensions of time and space to various media. He divided media into time-binding and space-binding types. Time-binding media are durable and include clay or stone tablets. Space-binding media are more ephemeral and include modern media such as radio, television, and mass circulation newspapers. [65]

Innis examined the rise and fall of ancient empires as a way of tracing the effects of communications media. He looked at media that led to the growth of an empire; those that sustained it during its periods of success, and then, the communications changes that hastened an empire's collapse. He tried to show that media 'biases' toward time or space affected the complex interrelationships needed to sustain an empire. The interrelationships included the partnership between the knowledge (and ideas) necessary to create and maintain an empire and the power (or force) required to expand and defend it. For Innis, the interplay between knowledge and power was always a crucial factor in understanding empire. [66]

Innis argued that a balance between the spoken word and writing contributed to the flourishing of Ancient Greece in the time of Plato. [67] The balance between the time-biased medium of speech and the space-biased medium of writing was eventually upset, Innis argued, as the oral tradition gave way to the dominance of writing. The torch of empire then passed from Greece to Rome. [68]

Innis's analysis of the effects of communications on the rise and fall of empires led him to warn grimly that Western civilization was now facing its own profound crisis. The development of powerful communications media such as mass-circulation newspapers had shifted the balance decisively in favour of space and power, over time, continuity and knowledge. The balance required for cultural survival had been upset by what Innis saw as "mechanized" communications media used to transmit information quickly over long distances. The new media had contributed to an obsession with "present-mindedness", wiping out concerns about past or future. [69] Innis wrote,

The overwhelming pressure of mechanization evident in the newspaper and the magazine, has led to the creation of vast monopolies of communication. Their entrenched positions involve a continuous, systematic, ruthless destruction of elements of permanence essential to cultural activity. [11]

Western civilization could be saved, Innis argued, only by recovering the balance between space and time. For him, that meant reinvigorating the oral tradition within universities while freeing institutions of higher learning from political and commercial pressures. In his essay, A Plea for Time, he suggested that genuine dialogue within universities could produce the critical thinking necessary to restore the balance between power and knowledge. Then, universities could muster the courage to attack the monopolies that always imperil civilization. [70]

Although Innis remains appreciated and respected for the grand and unique nature of his later efforts regarding communications theories, he was not without critics. Particularly, the fragmentary and mosaic writing style exemplified in Empire and Communications has been criticized as ambiguous, aggressively nonlinear, and lacking connections between levels of analysis. [71] Biographers have suggested that the style may have been a result of Innis's illness late in his career. [72]

Academic and public career

Influence in the 1930s

Aside from his work on The Cod Fisheries, Innis wrote extensively in the 1930s about other staple products such as minerals and wheat as well as Canada's immense economic problems in the Great Depression. During the summers of 1932 and 1933, he travelled to the West to see the effects of the Depression for himself. [73] The next year, in an essay entitled, The Canadian Economy and the Depression, Innis outlined the plight of "a country susceptible to the slightest ground-swell of international disturbance" but beset by regional differences that made it difficult to devise effective solutions. He described a prairie economy dependent on the export of wheat but afflicted by severe drought, on the one hand, and the increased political power of Canada's growing cities, sheltered from direct reliance on the staples trade, on the other. The result was political conflict and a breakdown in federal–provincial relations. "We lack vital information on which to base prospective policies to meet this situation," Innis warned, because of "the weak position of the social sciences in Canada." [74]

Radio, a new medium, drew a scathing rebuke from Harold Innis for promoting "small talk" and "bores." Innis believed that both radio and mass circulation newspapers encouraged stereotypical thinking. Old radio.jpg
Radio, a new medium, drew a scathing rebuke from Harold Innis for promoting "small talk" and "bores." Innis believed that both radio and mass circulation newspapers encouraged stereotypical thinking.

Innis's reputation as a public intellectual was growing steadily and, in 1934, Premier Angus Lewis Macdonald invited him to serve on a Royal Commission to examine Nova Scotia's economic problems. The next year, he helped establish The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science. In 1936, he was appointed a full University of Toronto professor and a year later, became the head of the university's Department of Political Economy. [75]

Innis was appointed president of the Canadian Political Science Association in 1938. His inaugural address, The Penetrative Powers of the Price System, must have baffled his listeners as he ranged over centuries of economic history jumping abruptly from one topic to the next linking monetary developments to patterns of trade and settlement. [76] The address was an ambitious attempt to show the disruptive effects of new technologies culminating in the modern shift from an industrial system based on coal and iron to the newest sources of industrial power, electricity, oil, and steel. Innis also tried to show the commercial effects of mass circulation newspapers, made possible by expanded newsprint production, and of the new medium of radio, which "threatens to circumvent the walls imposed by tariffs and to reach across boundaries frequently denied to other media of communication." Both media, Innis argued, stimulated the demand for consumer goods and both promoted nationalism. [77]

Innis was also a central participant in an international project that produced 25 scholarly volumes between 1936 and 1945. It was a series called The Relations of Canada and the United States overseen by James T. Shotwell, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Innis edited and wrote prefaces for the volumes contributed by Canadian scholars. His own study of the cod fisheries also appeared as part of the series. His work with Shotwell enabled Innis to gain access to Carnegie money to further Canadian academic research. As John Watson points out, "the project offered one of the few sources of research funds in rather lean times." [78]

Politics and the Great Depression

R. B. Bennett was the Conservative Prime Minister of Canada from 1930 to 1935, during the depths of the Great Depression. Although Innis advocated staying out of politics, he did correspond with Bennett urging him to strengthen the law against business monopolies. Richard Bedford Bennett.jpg
R. B. Bennett was the Conservative Prime Minister of Canada from 1930 to 1935, during the depths of the Great Depression. Although Innis advocated staying out of politics, he did correspond with Bennett urging him to strengthen the law against business monopolies.

The era of the "Dirty Thirties" with its mass unemployment, poverty and despair gave rise to new Canadian political movements. In Alberta, for example, the radio evangelist William "Bible Bill" Aberhart led his populist Social Credit party to victory in 1935. Three years earlier in Calgary, Alberta, social reformers had founded a new political party, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). It advocated democratic socialism and a mixed economy with public ownership of key industries. Frank Underhill, one of Innis's colleagues at the University of Toronto was a founding member of the CCF. Innis and Underhill had both been members of an earlier group at the university that declared itself "dissatisfied with the policies of the two major [political] parties in Canada" and that aimed at "forming a definite body of progressive opinion." In 1931, Innis presented a paper to the group on "Economic Conditions in Canada", but he later recoiled from participating in party politics, denouncing partisans like Underhill as "hot gospellers." [79]

Innis maintained that scholars had no place in active politics and that they should instead devote themselves, first to research on public problems, and then to the production of knowledge based on critical thought. He saw the university, with its emphasis on dialogue, open-mindedness and skepticism, as an institution that could foster such thinking and research. "The university could provide an environment," he wrote, "as free as possible from the biases of the various institutions that form the state, so that its intellectuals could continue to seek out and explore other perspectives." [80]

Although sympathetic to the plight of western farmers and urban, unemployed workers, Innis did not embrace socialism. Eric Havelock, a left-leaning colleague explained many years later that Innis distrusted political "solutions" imported from elsewhere, especially those based on Marxist analysis with its emphasis on class conflict. He worried, too, that as Canada's ties with Britain weakened, the country would fall under the spell of American ideas instead of developing its own based on Canada's unique circumstances. Havelock added:

He has been called the radical conservative of his day — not a bad designation of a complex mind, clear sighted, cautious, perhaps at bottom pessimistic in areas where thinkers we would label 'progressive' felt less difficulty in taking a stand; never content to select only one or two elements in a complicated equation in order to build a quick-order policy or program; far ranging enough in intellect to take in the whole sum of the factors, and comprehend their often contradictory effects. [81]

Late career and death

In the 1940s, Harold Innis reached the height of his influence in both academic circles and Canadian society. In 1941, he helped establish the American-based Economic History Association and its Journal of Economic History . He later became the association's second president. Innis played a central role in founding two important sources for the funding of academic research: the Canadian Social Science Research Council (1940) and the Humanities Research Council of Canada (1944). [82]

In 1944, the University of New Brunswick awarded Innis an honorary degree, as did his alma mater, McMaster University. Université Laval, the University of Manitoba and the University of Glasgow would also confer honorary degrees in 1947–48. [83]

In 1945, Innis spent nearly a month in the Soviet Union where he had been invited to attend the 220th anniversary celebrations marking the founding of the country's Academy of Sciences. [84] Later, in his essay Reflections on Russia, he mused about the differences between the Soviet "producer" economy and the West's "consumer" ethos:

[A]n economy which emphasizes consumer's goods is characterized by communication industries largely dependent on advertising and by constant efforts to reach the largest number of readers or listeners; an economy emphasizing producer's goods is characterized by communications industries largely dependent on government support. As a result of this contrast, a common public opinion in Russia and the West is hard to achieve. [85]

Innis's trip to Moscow and Leningrad came shortly before US–Soviet rivalry led to the hostility of the Cold War. Innis lamented the rise in international tensions. [86] He saw the Soviet Union as a stabilizing counterbalance to the American emphasis on commercialism, the individual and constant change. For Innis, Russia was a society within the Western tradition, not an alien civilization. He abhorred the nuclear arms race and saw it as the triumph of force over knowledge, a modern form of the medieval Inquisition. "The Middle Ages burned its heretics," he wrote, "and the modern age threatens them with atom bombs." [87]

In 1946, Innis was elected president of the Royal Society of Canada, the country's senior body of scientists and scholars. The same year, he served on the Manitoba Royal Commission on Adult Education and published Political Economy in the Modern State, a collection of his speeches and essays that reflected both his staples research and his new work in communications. In 1947, Innis was appointed the University of Toronto's dean of graduate studies. In 1948, he delivered lectures at the University of London and Nottingham University. He also gave the prestigious Beit lectures at Oxford, later published in his book Empire and Communications . In 1949, Innis was appointed as a commissioner on the federal government's Royal Commission on Transportation, a position that involved extensive travel at a time when his health was starting to fail. [88] The last decade of his career, during which he worked on his communications studies, was an unhappy time for Innis. He was academically isolated because his colleagues in economics could not fathom how the new work related to his pioneering research in staples theory. Biographer John Watson writes that "the almost complete lack of positive response to the communications works, contributed to his sense of overwork and depression." [89]

Innis died of prostate cancer on November 8, 1952, a few days after his 58th birthday. In commemoration, Innis College at the University of Toronto and Innis Library at McMaster University were named in his honour.

Following his premature death, Innis' significance increasingly deepened as scholars in several academic disciplines continued to build upon his writings. Marshall Poe's general media theory that proposes two sub-theories were inspired by Innis. Douglas C. North expanded on Innis' "vent for surplus" theory of economic development by applying it to regional development in the United States and underdeveloped countries. [90] In addition, James W. Carey adopted Innis as a "reference point in his conception of two models of communication."

Innis and McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan was a colleague of Innis's at the University of Toronto. As a young English professor, McLuhan was flattered when he learned that Innis had put his book The Mechanical Bride on the reading list of the fourth-year economics course. [91] McLuhan built on Innis's idea that in studying the effects of communications media, technological form mattered more than content. Biographer Paul Heyer writes that Innis's concept of the "bias" of a particular medium of communication can be seen as a "less flamboyant precursor to McLuhan's legendary phrase 'the medium is the message.'" [92] Innis, for example, tried to show how printed media such as books or newspapers were "biased" toward control over space and secular power, while engraved media such as stone or clay tablets were "biased" in favour of continuity in time and metaphysical or religious knowledge. [93] McLuhan focused on what may be called a medium's "sensory bias" arguing, for example, that books and newspapers appealed to the rationality of the eye, while radio played to the irrationality of the ear. [94] The differences in the Innisian and McLuhanesque approaches were summarized by the late James W. Carey:

Both McLuhan and Innis assume the centrality of communication technology; where they differ is in the principal kinds of effects they see deriving from this technology. Whereas Innis sees communication technology principally affecting social organization and culture, McLuhan sees its principal effect on sensory organization and thought. McLuhan has much to say about perception and thought but little to say about institutions; Innis says much about institutions and little about perception and thought. [95]

Biographer John Watson notes that Innis's work was profoundly political while McLuhan's was not. He writes that "the mechanization of knowledge, not the relative sensual bias of media, is the key to Innis's work. That also underlies the politicization of Innis's position vis-a-vis that of McLuhan." Watson adds that Innis believed very different media could produce similar effects. "For Innis, the yellow press of the United States and the Nazi loudspeaker had the same form of negative effect: they reduced men from thinking beings to mere automatons in a chain of command." Watson argues that while McLuhan separated media according to their sensory bias, Innis examined a different set of interrelationships, the "dialectic of power and knowledge" in specific historical circumstances. For Watson, Innis's work is therefore more flexible and less deterministic than McLuhan's. [96]

As scholars and teachers, Innis and McLuhan shared a similar dilemma since both argued that book culture tended to produce fixed points of view and homogeneity of thought; yet both produced many books. In his introduction to the 1964 reprint of The Bias of Communication, McLuhan marvelled at Innis's technique of juxtaposing "his insights in a mosaic structure of seemingly unrelated and disproportioned sentences and aphorisms." McLuhan argued that although that made reading Innis's dense prose difficult ("a pattern of insights that are not packaged for the consumer palate"), Innis's method approximated "the natural form of conversation or dialogue rather than of written discourse." Best of all, it yielded "insight" and "pattern recognition" rather than the "classified knowledge" so overvalued by print-trained scholars. "How exciting it was to encounter a writer whose every phrase invited prolonged meditation and exploration," McLuhan added. [97] McLuhan's own books with their reliance on aphorisms, puns, quips, "probes" and oddly juxtaposed observations also employ that mosaic technique.

Innis's theories of political economy, media and society remain highly relevant: he had a profound influence on critical media theory and communications and, in conjunction with McLuhan, offered groundbreaking Canadian perspectives on the function of communication technologies as key agents in social and historical change. Together, their works advanced a theory of history in which communication is central to social change and transformation. [98]

Selected works

See also


  1. 1 2 Heyer, p. 30.
  2. 1 2 Albert, Joseph Georges Roger (1980). Civilization, Science and Culture: An Analysis of Some Selected Aspects of the Work of Harold Adams Innis (MA thesis). Burnaby, British Columbia: Simon Fraser University. p. 33. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  3. Buxton, William J. (2004). "The 'Values' Discussion Group at the University of Toronto, February–May 1949". Canadian Journal of Communication. 29 (2): 200. doi: 10.22230/cjc.2004v29n2a1435 . ISSN   1499-6642.
  4. Buxton, William J. (2013). "Introduction: North by Northwest; Harold Innis and 'the Advancement of Knowledge of the Canadian North'". In Buxton, William J. (ed.). Harold Innis and the North: Appraisals and Contestations. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 49. ISBN   978-0-7735-8876-9.
  5. Angus, Ian (2017). "Extended Body ... Extended Mind: The Risk of Thought". Invited Lecture Presented at the Conference: Affect, Activism, and New Media: Theoretical Provocations. Tanner Humanities Center, University of Utah, 5-7 October 2017. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  6. Henderson, Stuart Robert (2007). Making the Scene: Yorkville and Hip Toronto, 1960–1970 (PhD thesis). Kingston, Ontario: Queen's University. p. 119. hdl: 1974/820 .
  7. Stanford, Jim (2013). "Re: 'The Past Reframes Itself,' by Mel Watkins". Literary Review of Canada. Toronto. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  8. 1 2 Easterbrook, W.T. and Watkins, M.H. (1984) "The Staple Approach." In Approaches to Canadian Economic History. Ottawa: Carleton Library Series, Carleton University Press, pp. 1–98.
  9. Babe, Robert E. (2000) "The Communication Thought of Harold Adams Innis." In Canadian Communication Thought: Ten Foundational Writers. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 51–88.
  10. Heyer, Paul. (2003) Harold Innis. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., p. 66.
  11. 1 2 Innis, Harold. (1952) Changing Concepts of Time. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, p. 15.
  12. "Harold Adams Innis". Library Archives Canada. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  13. Watson, Alexander John. (2006) Marginal Man: The Dark Vision of Harold Innis. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 14–23.
  14. Harold A. Innis (2004). Changing Concepts of Time. pp. 13–14. ISBN   9780742528185.
  15. Donald Wright (2015). Donald Creighton: A Life in History. pp. 174–75. ISBN   9781442620308.
  16. Innis, Harold. (1951) "A Plea for Time." In The Bias of Communication. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 83–89.
  17. McLuhan, Marshall. (2005) Marshall McLuhan Unbound. Corte Madera, CA : Gingko Press v. 8, p. 8. This is a reprint of McLuhan's introduction to the 1964 edition of Innis's book The Bias of Communication first published in 1951.
  18. Creighton, Donald. Harold Adams Innis: Portrait of a Scholar. University of Toronto Press, pp. 8–9.
  19. Watson, pp. 50–51.
  20. Babe, Robert. Canadian Communication Thought: Ten Foundational Writers, University of Toronto Press, p. 51.
  21. Creighton, p. 19.
  22. Creighton, pp. 18–19.
  23. Watson, pp. 64–68.
  24. Watson, p. 326. Innis refers to the question in the preface to The Bias of Communication, his book of essays on consciousness and communication.
  25. Creighton pp. 26–27.
  26. Creighton p. 28.
  27. Creighton, p. 31. Creighton wrote that Innis believed if German aggression went unpunished, it would be fatal to Christian hope for the world. Innis wrote to his sister: "If I had no faith in Christianity, I don't think I would go."
  28. Quoted from a later Innis letter by Creighton, p. 107.
  29. Creighton, pp. 34–35.
  30. Watson, p. 70.
  31. Watson, pp. 68–117.
  32. Watson, p. 93. Watson notes that 240,000 young Canadians died in the war, while 600,000 were wounded. The war was a devastating blow to Innis's generation.
  33. Innis, Harold A. (1971) [1923]. A History of the Canadian Pacific Railway (Reprint ed.). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN   0-8020-1704-5.
  34. Watson, p. 94
  35. Watson, p. 111.
  36. Carey, J. W. (1992). "Space, Time and Communications: A Tribute to Harold Innis." In Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society. New York: Routledge, p. 144.
  37. In his 1929 essay, Innis concluded: "Veblen has waged a constructive warfare of emancipation against the tendency toward standardized static economics which becomes so dangerous on a continent with ever increasing numbers of students clamouring for textbooks on final economic theory." (The essay was republished in Innis, Essays in Canadian Economic History, pp. 17–26.)
  38. Heyer, Paul. (2003) Harold Innis. Lanham, Md: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Inc.. p. 5 & pp. 113–15.
  39. Watson, p. 119.
  40. 1 2 3 Watson, p. 103.
  41. Thomas, Clara. (1946) Canadian Novelists: 1920 – 1945, Toronto: Longmans, Green and Company, p. 67.
  42. Black, David J. (2003). "'Both of us can move mountains': Mary Quayle Innis and her relationship to Harold Innis' legacy". Canadian Journal of Communication. 28 (4): 433–447. doi:10.22230/cjc.2003v28n4a1391.
  43. Heyer pp. 6–7.
  44. Innis, Harold. (1971) A History of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Revised ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, p. 287.
  45. Babe, p. 62.
  46. Kroker, Arthur. (1984) Technology and the Canadian Mind: Innis/McLuhan/Grant. Montreal: New World Perspectives, p. 94.
  47. Innis, pp. 290–94.
  48. 1 2 Neill, Robin. (1972) A New Theory of Value: The Canadian Economics of H.A. Innis. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 45–46.
  49. 1 2 Innis, Harold. (1956) The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History. Revised Edition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 383–402.
  50. Creighton, pp. 49–60. The reference to "dirt" experience appears in Watson, p. 41.
  51. Creighton, pp. 61–64.
  52. Berger, Carl. (1976). The Writing of Canadian History: Aspects of English-Canadian Historical Writing: 1900–1970. Toronto: Oxford University Press. pp. 89–90.
  53. Watson, p. 124.
  54. Berger, Carl. (1976) The Writing of Canadian History. Toronto: Oxford University Press, pp. 94–95.
  55. Dickason, Olive; McNab, David. (2009) Canada's First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times. Fourth Edition. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press, p.ix.
  56. Innis (Fur Trade), p. 392.
  57. Lecours, Andre (2005). Lecours, André (ed.). New Institutionalism: Theory and Analysis. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. doi:10.3138/9781442677630. ISBN   9781442677630. JSTOR   10.3138/9781442677630. S2CID   142049066.
  58. Berger, pp. 95–96.
  59. Watson, pp. 152–53.
  60. Innis (Fur Trade), p. 10-15
  61. Innis (Fur Trade), p. 388.
  62. Berger, p. 100.
  63. Innis, Harold. (2007 edition) Empire and Communications. Toronto: Dundurn Press, pp. 23–24. Also see, Patterson, Graeme. (1990) History and Communications: Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, the Interpretation of History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 32–33.
  64. Watson, p. 248.
  65. Innis (Empire), p. 27.
  66. Watson, p. 313.
  67. Innis (Empire), pp. 78–79.
  68. Innis (Empire), p. 104. See also, Heyer, pp. 49–50.
  69. Innis, Harold. (1951) The Bias of Communication. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, p. 87.
  70. Innis (Bias), pp. 61–91. The comment about universities mustering their courage appears in "The upside of ivory towers" by Rick Salutin. Globe and Mail, September 7, 2007.
  71. Stamps, J. (1991) Negative Dialogues: a study of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan in the light of the negative dialects of Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin. Ottawa: Canada National Library, p. 6
  72. Heyer, Paul. (1988) Communications and History: Theories of Media, Knowledge and Civilization. Westport: Greenwood Press, p. 114
  73. Creighton, p. 84.
  74. Innis, Harold. (1956) Essays in Canadian Economic History, edited by Mary Q. Innis. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp. 123–40.
  75. Creighton, pp. 85–95.
  76. Heyer, p. 20.
  77. Innis, Essays, pp. 252–72.
  78. Watson, p. 201.
  79. Havelock, Eric. (1982) Harold Innis: A Memoir. Toronto: Harold Innis Foundation, pp. 14–15. The reference to "hot gospellers" can be found in the Creighton biography, p. 93.
  80. Quoted in "The Public Role of the Intellectual," by Liora Salter and Cheryl Dahl. In Harold Innis in the New Century. (1999) Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, p. 119.
  81. Havelock, pp. 22–23.
  82. Watson, p. 223.
  83. Watson, pp. 223–24.
  84. Watson, pp. 223–224.
  85. Quoted in Heyer, p. 33.
  86. Creighton, p. 122.
  87. Innis, (Bias) p. 139.
  88. Watson, pp. 224–25. See also Creighton, pp. 136–40.
  89. Watson, pp. 250–55.
  90. "Harold Adams Innis". EH.Net Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  91. Preface by H. Marshall McLuhan in Havelock, p. 10. Also see Watson, p. 405.
  92. Heyer, p. 61.
  93. Innis, (Empire) p. 7.
  94. McLuhan, Marshall. (2003) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Corte Madera, California: Gingko Press.
  95. Carey, James W. "Harold Adams Innis and Marshall McLuhan" in McLuhan Pro and Con (1969) Baltimore: Pelican Books, p. 281. Graeme Patterson strongly disagrees with that view by arguing that Innis paid an extraordinary amount of attention to perception and thought, while McLuhan examined institutions. Both Innis and McLuhan, Patterson argues, were preoccupied with language, one of humanity's basic institutions. See Patterson, pp. 36–37.
  96. Watson, pp. 410–11.
  97. McLuhan, Marshall. (2005) Marshall McLuhan Unbound. Corte Madera, CA : Gingko Press, v.8, pp. 5–8.
  98. Carey, (McLuhan Pro and Con), p. 271.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marshall McLuhan</span> Canadian educator, philosopher, and scholar

Herbert Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian philosopher whose work is among the cornerstones of the study of media theory. He studied at the University of Manitoba and the University of Cambridge. He began his teaching career as a professor of English at several universities in the United States and Canada before moving to the University of Toronto in 1946, where he remained for the rest of his life.

Media studies is a discipline and field of study that deals with the content, history, and effects of various media; in particular, the mass media. Media Studies may draw on traditions from both the social sciences and the humanities, but mostly from its core disciplines of mass communication, communication, communication sciences, and communication studies.

In economic development, the staples thesis is a theory of export-led growth based on Canadian experience. The theory "has its origins in research into Canadian social, political, and economic history carried out in Canadian universities...by members of what were then known as departments of political economy." From these groups of researchers, "the two most prominent scholars following this approach were Harold Innis and W.A. Mackintosh."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Donald Creighton</span> Canadian historian

Donald Grant Creighton was a Canadian historian whose major works include The Commercial Empire of the St-Lawrence, 1760–1850, a detailed study on the growth of the English merchant class in relation to the St Lawrence River in Canada. His biography of John A. Macdonald, published into two parts between 1952 and 1955, was considered by many Canadian historians as re-establishing biographies as a proper form of historical research in Canada. By the 1960s Creighton began to move towards a more general history of Canada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eric McLuhan</span>

Eric McLuhan was a communications theorist and media ecologist, son of Marshall McLuhan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Economic history of Canada</span> Aspect of history

Canadian historians until the 1960s tended to focus on the history of Canada's economy because of the far fewer political, economic, religious and military conflicts present in Canadian history than in other societies. Many of the most prominent English Canadian historians from this period were economic historians, such as Harold Innis, Donald Creighton and Arthur R. M. Lower.

The metropolitan-hinterland thesis theory of social and economic development, developed by the Canadian historian Harold Innis examines how economically advanced societies, through trade and colonialism, distort and impede economic development of less developed societies and regions.

<i>Empire and Communications</i> 1950 book by Harold Innis

Empire and Communications is a book published in 1950 by University of Toronto professor Harold Innis. It is based on six lectures Innis delivered at Oxford University in 1948. The series, known as the Beit Lectures, was dedicated to exploring British imperial history. Innis, however, decided to undertake a sweeping historical survey of how communications media influence the rise and fall of empires. He traced the effects of media such as stone, clay, papyrus, parchment and paper from ancient to modern times.

Medium theory is a mode of analysis that examines the ways in which particular communication media and modalities impact the specific content (messages) they are meant to convey. It Medium theory refers to a set of approaches that can be used to convey the difference in meanings of messages depending on the channel through which they are transmitted. Medium theorists argue that media are not simply channels for transmitting information between environments, but are themselves distinct social-psychological settings or environments that encourage certain types of interaction and discourage others.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Orality</span>

Orality is thought and verbal expression in societies where the technologies of literacy are unfamiliar to most of the population. The study of orality is closely allied to the study of oral tradition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Monopolies of knowledge</span>

Monopolies of knowledge arise when the ruling class maintains political power through control of key communications technologies. The Canadian economic historian Harold Innis developed the concept of monopolies of knowledge in his later writings on communications theories.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tetrad of media effects</span>

Marshall McLuhan's tetrad of media effects uses a tetrad to examine the effects on society of any technology/medium by dividing its effects into four categories and displaying them simultaneously. The tetrad first appeared in print in McLuhan's posthumously-published works Laws of Media (1988) and The Global Village (1989).

The Fur Trade in Canada is a 1930 book by Harold Innis that draws sweeping conclusions about the complex and frequently devastating effects of the fur trade on aboriginal peoples; about how furs as staple products induced an enduring economic dependence among the European immigrants who settled in the new colony and about how the fur trade ultimately shaped Canada's political destiny.

<i>The Cod Fisheries: The History of an International Economy</i> Published 1940

The Cod Fisheries: The History of an International Economy is a 1940 book by Harold Innis.

Harold Adams Innis was a professor of political economy at the University of Toronto and the author of seminal works on Canadian economic history and on media and communication theory. He helped develop the staples thesis, which holds that Canada's culture, political history and economy have been decisively influenced by the exploitation and export of a series of staples such as fur, fish, wood, wheat, mined metals and fossil fuels. Innis's communications writings explore the role of media in shaping the culture and development of civilizations. He argued, for example, that a balance between oral and written forms of communication contributed to the flourishing of Greek civilization in the 5th century BC. But he warned that Western civilization is now imperiled by powerful, advertising-driven media obsessed by "present-mindedness" and the "continuous, systematic, ruthless destruction of elements of permanence essential to cultural activity."

The Toronto School is a school of thought in communication theory and literary criticism, the principles of which were developed chiefly by scholars at the University of Toronto. It is characterized by exploration of Ancient Greek literature and the theoretical view that communication systems create psychological and social states. The school originated from the works of Eric A. Havelock and Harold Innis in the 1930s, and grew to prominence with the contributions of Edmund Snow Carpenter, Northrop Frye and Marshall McLuhan.

Daniel Drache is a scholar in Canadian and international political economy, globalization studies, communication studies, and cultural studies. He is recognized as having made important contributions to comparative and interdisciplinary debates on policy, globalization, border security, and the impact of new information and communication technologies on political mobilization and citizenship. He is also known for his critique of market fundamentalism. In Canada he is also credited with reviving the work of foundational political economist Harold Innis within the academy. Drache is a professor emeritus political science and senior research scholar of the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University in Toronto, Canada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">W. Stewart Wallace</span>

William Stewart Wallace was a Canadian historian, librarian, and editor. His historical reference works were considered "of inestimable value in Canadian studies." Canadian professor of political economy Harold Innis (1894–1952) was influenced by a maxim of the then McMaster University professor Wallace, "that the economic interpretation of history is not the only interpretation but is the deepest interpretation."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Historiography of Canada</span> Historiography of a country

The historiography of Canada deals with the manner in which historians have depicted, analyzed, and debated the history of Canada. It also covers the popular memory of critical historical events, ideas and leaders, as well as the depiction of those events in museums, monuments, reenactments, pageants and historic sites.

In the social sciences, materiality is the notion that the physical properties of a cultural artifact have consequences for how the object is used. Some scholars expand this definition to encompass a broader range of actions, such as the process of making art, and the power of organizations and institutions to orient activity around themselves. The concept of materiality is used across many disciplines within the social sciences to focus attention on the impact of material or physical factors. Scholars working in science and technology studies, anthropology, organization studies, or communication studies may incorporate materiality as a dimension of their investigations. Central figures in the social scientific study of materiality are Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan.


Harold Innis

Harold Innis public-domain library archives-canada.jpg
Innis in the 1920s
Harold Adams Innis

November 5, 1894
DiedNovember 9, 1952(1952-11-09) (aged 58)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
(m. 1921)
Academic background
Alma mater
Doctoral advisor Chester W. Wright [1]
Professional and academic associations
Preceded by President of the
Canadian Political Science Association

Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Royal Society of Canada
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the American Economic Association
Succeeded by