Date of Completion

January 1981


Anthropology, Cultural




This thesis presents a study of the effects of the development of early European commercial activity on the native groups of the northeastern section of the American continent, namely the Micmac, Montagnais-Naskapi, Beothuk and southern Labrador Inuit found along the coastal region from Nova Scotia to Labrador. The study, based on material drawn from archives and the published data, begins with a survey and critique of the scientific literature on the subject and proceeds to the elaboration of an analytical framework which is methodologically ethnohistorical and theoretically historical materialist in orientation. Nevertheless, because there was no capitalist production and no significant articulation to speak of for the area and the time and because of the poor qualitative and quantitative quality of the data available, this framework is used only implicitly and the basic concepts of "relational process between social-economies" are preferred to the more classical ones of "articulation between modes of production".^ Following the description of the physical environment (geography and resources), a synchronic reconstruction of the four preeuropean social-economies is made and the fundamental characteristics of these social-economies are outlined from the point of view of their productive forces, which were weakly developed, and relationships of production, which were largely communal but not necessarily egalitarian.^ The next five chapters are made up of a chronological study of the beginnings, growth and development of European commercial expansion in the various sectors of the Canadian southeastern seaboard, that is in Acadia, Newfoundland, the North Shore of the St. Lawrence and southeastern Labrador. The relational process which was established by the various agents of this expansion (explorers, fishermen, settlers, missionaries, colonial and metropolitan authorities) with the various preeuropean social-economies of these different areas is studied and a particular emphasis is placed on Acadia, since it was in this region that this process was most developed during the early historical period.^ The analysis reveals that the process of European mercantile expansion in the study area was characterized by a few elements--the official explorations, the development and expansion of European migratory fisheries and settlement, the creation of various colonies of the Old World, the development of dynastic and commercial conflicts and the development of trade with the aboriginal populations. This process implied a set of profound transformations for the preeuropean social-economies. Part of their lands--and especially the coastal lands on which most of their subsistence activities were based--was directly appropriated by the European fishermen and settlers and became the domain of the European nation-states. Trading relationships--which reached very unequal degrees of development--gave a new orientation to the aboriginal productive process and added to the socio-political and ideological transformations. In the final analysis, it is possible to show that the process of European commercial expansion was responsible for the extermination of the Beothuk, the expulsion of the Inuit and transformation of the Montagnais-Naskapi and Micmac preeuropean social-economies. ^