Abstract: Theorizing Craft-Based Enterprise on the Industrial Periphery: The Early Industrialization of Hamilton, Ontario, in International Context

Rob Kristofferson


This paper will survey the literature on nineteenth-century craftsworker migration to North America with a particular focus on the large base of recent British immigrant craftsworkers in Hamilton, Ontario, by the early 1870s. It will show that immigrating craftsworkers saw in such communities a chance to regain control over production processes whose requisite craft skills had been degraded closer to the international economic core, an increased likelihood for social mobility, and a generally more positive experience of the emerging economic system. It will suggest a new way of thinking about the interconnections between craftsworker migration, industrialization, and the transnational development of capitalism, especially as it applied to the growth of industrial economies whose centers and margins were widely dispersed geographically. The BHC audience will find particularly relevant the suggestion that this process helped create particular business environments on the "industrial periphery" characterized by craft-based enterprise mostly owned and controlled by former craftsworkers. Craftsworkers' continued opportunities for mobility in these economies created a workforce that was optimistic about the developing economic system—in stark contrast to the experience of their counterparts closer to the economic core—and thus led to the implementation of specific management systems and workplace relations.