Abstract: The Dollars and Cents of British Imperialism: The Political Economy of British Investment in Canada, 1867-1914

Andrew Smith


This paper examines four important British free-standing companies that were active in present-day Canada in the 1860s and 1870s. These companies were the Hudson's Bay Company, the Canada Company, the Trust and Loan Company of Upper Canada, and the Grand Trunk Railway. In the early 1860s, these companies lobbied the British government to unite the previously separate colonies in North America. The companies were controlled by well-connected gentlemanly capitalists who were in a position to influence British policy. In 1867, the British Parliament passed legislation uniting four of the colonies in mainland North America into a federal state know as the Dominion of Canada. This paper examines what happened to these companies after 1867. This paper will show that the union of the colonies did not benefit the four companies in the ways their directors had anticipated. The Grand Trunk remained on the edge of bankruptcy after 1867. The Hudson's Bay Company, the Canada Company, and the Trust and Loan Company of Upper Canada also derived fewer benefits from Confederation than they had anticipated.