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McMaster University

1. Goodchild, Hayley. Building 'a natural industry of this country': an environmental history of the Ontario cheese industry from the 1860s to the 1930s.

Degree: PhD, 2017, McMaster University

This dissertation examines the origins and development of the cheese industry in rural Ontario between the 1860s and 1930s from the perspective of environmental history. Scholars have generally accepted contemporary beliefs that cheese was a “natural industry of this country” and that its growth was cooperative and inevitable. This dissertation tests these claims by comparing the rhetoric and actions of the rural elite and state officials against the human and extra-human work involved in manufacturing cheese for export, a method that has yielded new interpretations about the character and development of the industry. I build on James Murton’s concept of “alternative rural modernity” to argue that rural cheese manufacturing was a project of rural reform encouraged by elite ‘dairy reformers,’ rather than a natural development. Reformers believed cheese factories could support the social, economic and environmental stability of rural society indefinitely. Through cheese, they sought to create a society that was liberal and capitalist, but also cooperative and stable. They also believed that dairying would restore fertility to the region’s soils. In practice, however, their results were mixed. Although cheese became one of the province’s most significant export-oriented industries, transformed the environment, and deepened liberal values amongst rural people, it failed to deliver the alternative rural modernity reformers had envisioned. I provide two reasons why. First, the reformers’ mechanistic vision could not contend with the complexity and unpredictability of the socio-ecological world they sought to control. Second, the industry could not withstand the pressures of the emerging global capitalist food system and, ironically, facilitated the rise of ‘Big Dairy’ after the First World War, which hastened the industry’s demise. Overall, this dissertation emphasizes the dynamism of rural Ontario, contributes to an environmental history of liberal order in Canada, and contextualizes the resurgence of craft-based rural development in the twenty-first century.

Thesis

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

This dissertation examines the origins and development of the factory cheese industry in rural Ontario between the 1860s and 1930s. I challenge the belief that cheese manufacturing was a “natural industry of this country” whose development was cooperative and inevitable. Instead I argue that the industry was a deliberate project of rural reform encouraged by elite ‘dairy reformers’ who believed cheese factories could sustain the social, economic, and environmental progress of rural society indefinitely. The industry failed to deliver all the reformers promised, even though it became one of the province’s most significant export-oriented industries by the early-twentieth century and transformed the environment and rural society in the process. Rural people and the environment behaved in more complicated ways than reformers anticipated, and the changing capitalist economy made the industry’s long-term success untenable. This…

Advisors/Committee Members: Egan, Michael, History.

Subjects/Keywords: cheese industry; Ontario; environmental history; dairying; alternative rural modernity; work; rural history

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APA (6th Edition):

Goodchild, H. (2017). Building 'a natural industry of this country': an environmental history of the Ontario cheese industry from the 1860s to the 1930s. (Doctoral Dissertation). McMaster University. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/11375/21966

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Goodchild, Hayley. “Building 'a natural industry of this country': an environmental history of the Ontario cheese industry from the 1860s to the 1930s.” 2017. Doctoral Dissertation, McMaster University. Accessed October 21, 2017. http://hdl.handle.net/11375/21966.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Goodchild, Hayley. “Building 'a natural industry of this country': an environmental history of the Ontario cheese industry from the 1860s to the 1930s.” 2017. Web. 21 Oct 2017.

Vancouver:

Goodchild H. Building 'a natural industry of this country': an environmental history of the Ontario cheese industry from the 1860s to the 1930s. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. McMaster University; 2017. [cited 2017 Oct 21]. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/11375/21966.

Council of Science Editors:

Goodchild H. Building 'a natural industry of this country': an environmental history of the Ontario cheese industry from the 1860s to the 1930s. [Doctoral Dissertation]. McMaster University; 2017. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/11375/21966

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