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The Great Depression

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The Great Depression of the 1930s in Canada

The Great Depression of the 1930's is a benchmark for all depressions and recessions in the past and in the future. In the booklet "The Great Depression of the 1930s in Canada" , Michiel Horn gives an intellectual dissection of the events that occurred during the Great Depression. Michiel Horn's approach leaves the reader with a foul taste for the Dirty Thirties. This essay will summarize Michiel Horns key points as well as discuss the ability of Michiel Horn to report his findings.

Michiel Horn is currently the Chairman of the History Department at York University. His interests in the Great Depression revolve around the history of taxation. Therefore, he is interested in making sure that this sequence of events is fully understood so that future generations never allow it to happen again.

There are several causes of the Great Depression which Michiel Horn touches on throughout his writings. The initial tool that he used to help understand the situation was to look at statistical data from that time. Through use of this data, a greater understanding of the physical hardships could be quantified and compared to present day. The reading begins with statistics about the shocking rate of unemployment. In 1933, at the height of the depression, the unemployment rate was between 19.3and 27 percent. The industrial activity in 1933 was only 57 percent of the average activity for the years 1925-29. The causes for the Great Depression were easy to see, but hard to fix. The problems included the inability of foreign countries to purchase surplus goods produced by other countries. Before the Great Depression, the British used this tactic to stabilize the market. Unfortunately, during the depression the British were still hurting from the First World War. The only country that could have stepped in was the United States and they elected not to. With no other countries stepping in, the price of goods fell. With the price of goods continuing to fall, the international market was flooded with goods that were below cost. The governments of larger countries decided that they would increase tariffs on importing goods. This, in turn, led to an even tighter international market where goods could not be traded. With no market, the goods were sold at a loss. As a result of the losses, layoffs occurred. These layoffs started at the bottom and slowly trickled upwards. "White collar workers faired better than blue collar workers".

The lower class was devastated by layoffs especially those families who were just scraping by to begin with. It was especially hard for a lower class male to find a job and he would usually be the first to lose it. Women had a slight advantage in retaining a job as they made less money than males. The amount of money they did make would not have supported a family. With little money coming in, the lower class increasingly relied on savings as well as government hand outs. Even though they were faced with adversity, these people were still able to enjoy themselves. The churches organized different activities that included dances and other relatively cheap forms of entertainment. James Gray wrote "the people all across the west discovered there was no essential relationship between income and the enjoyment of life..."

As the depression continued, the salaries of even the white collar workers declined.

The only people who were safe from the depression were the upper class. If you had money, the depression was a great time. "You could take your girl to a supper dance at a hotel for $10, and that included the bottle and a room for you and your friends to drink it in" John David Eaton. This showed the decreasing value of goods and services and the fact that if you had money life was easy.


The little enjoyment that people could partake in was diminished again as the depression continued and worsened. The depression not only affected the financial and entertainment aspects of life, it started to affect life itself. As people were having fewer children at this time, the population growth of Canada slowed. In an effort to keep jobs for Canadians, the government decided that it would reduce immigration. The first group targeted was the Jewish people. Some Canadians even decided to go to the United States in search of "greener pastures" . The movement of people from the country to cities also slowed. This was because it was easier for people to subsist in the country where they could chop their own firewood and live off the land. Life on the farm was actually not much better than in the city, as a drought cost many



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