A Business History of Alberta


362 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55238-009-2
DDC 338.097123




Reviewed by Frits Pannekoek

Fritz Pannekoek is an associate professor of heritage studies, director
of information resources at the University of Calgary, and the author of
A Snug Little Flock: The Social Origins of the Riel Resistance of


Henry Klassen, a business historian, divides his business history of
Alberta into four stages: the fur trade, the territorial period,
1905–1945, and the present. Each stage is marked by growing complexity
as business grew from single proprietorships to increasingly
capital-intensive bureaucratic organisms. Klassen makes much of the
increasing control over commerce exercised by the larger
capital-intensive businesses at the expense of the marginalized and
labor-intensive smaller companies. He provides brief histories of
businesses throughout the province; anyone who has driven through towns
like Fort MacLeod will now have a greater understanding of the
commercial intricacies of the communities profiled.

Unfortunately, the volume does not deal with the following: issues of
hinterland versus metropolis, labor–management relations, the peculiar
and often schizophrenic relations between government and business in
Alberta, and those traditionally on the margin of Alberta’s culture
(Chinese entrepreneurs, of which there are a significant number, are
ignored, as are the Blackfoot on the Blood reserve, who were arguably
the mainstay of the regional economy).

Caveats aside, Klassen’s book initiates a worthwhile debate on the
nature of Alberta’s businesses.


Klassen, Henry C., “A Business History of Alberta,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 22, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/31842.