The Industrial Transformation of Subarctic Canada
448 pages, 6 x 9
15 b&w photos, 5 maps, 9 charts, 10 tables
Release Date:01 Jan 2010
Release Date:10 Mar 2009
Release Date:01 Jan 2010

The Industrial Transformation of Subarctic Canada

UBC Press

The industrialization of Canada's Subarctic relied upon the region's large northwestern lakes: Winnipeg, Athabasca, Great Slave, and Great Bear. Between 1921 and 1960, these lakes comprised a seam in the Canadian interior where industrial economies took root, transgressing political geographies and superseding the historically dominant fur trade. The state and private enterprise imported southern scientists and sojourning labourers to work the Northwest, and its industrial history bears these newcomers’ imprint. The Industrial Transformation of Subarctic Canada reveals the history of human impact upon the North. It provides a baseline, grounded in historical and scientific evidence, for measuring environmental change in the Subarctic.

Liza Piper examines the sustainability of industrial economies, the value of resource exploitation in volatile ecosystems, and the human consequences of northern environmental change. She also addresses northern communities’ historical resistance to external resource development and their fight for survival in the face of intensifying environmental and economic pressures. This rich environmental history will appeal to historians, geographers, and environmentalists interested in industrialization, resource management, and the Canadian North.


  • 2010, Winner - K.D. Srivastava Prize
  • 2010, Winner - Clio Award (North), Canadian Historical Association
Liza Piper captures with detail and insight an essential episode in northern environmental history … in telling this story Piper provides an immensely valuable perspective not just on northern history, but on the practice of environmental history itself … she also exhibits an impressive sensitivity for the meanings embedded in both action and language. But where she especially excels is in situating this history in a specific place, and in invoking its material basis in living organisms: lakes and rivers, water and ice, earth and fire. This history has dirt under its fingernails. Stephen Bocking, Northern Review, Fall 2009
[This book] makes a very significant contribution to the field, both by demonstrating to environmental historians that Northern topics are of broader interest and by providing Northern historians with an impressively detailed illustration of the importance of environmental perspectives. Ken Coates, University of Waterloo
Liza Piper's book couples an impressive command of archival sources and empirical detail with an unusually diverse range of scholarship, and demonstrates a creative intelligence that ultimately brings readers to think about the meanings embedded in language, metaphor, and imagination. From the Foreword by Graeme Wynn
Liza Piper is an associate professor of history at the University of Alberta.

Foreword: The Nature of Industrialization / Graeme Wynn

Introduction: The Industrial Colonization of the Northwest

Part One

1 On the Edge: the 1920s

2 Railroad's End: Adaptation

3 Industrial Appetites

Part Two

4 An Ordered World

5 Sub / Terrain

6 Harnessing the Wet West

7 “Two Weights and Two Measures”: Conservation and Conflict in the Fisheries

Part Three

8 Industrial Circuitry

9 The Hazards of Disassembly

Conclusion: The Frontiers of High-Energy Civilization


Glossary; Notes; Bibliography; Index

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