The Depression Years on the Canadian Prairies - Causes and Effects

Seminar Paper, 2002

14 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Contents


A. Reasons for the Great Depression on the Prairie Provinces
1. The economic situation
2. The inhuman weather conditions

B. How did the people deal with the effects of the Great Depression?
1. Overwhelming Anger
2. The search for alternative solutions
3. The attempt to cope with the situation
4. The humiliating living on relief
5. Total Despair



On October 29, 1929, the New York stock market collapsed. Within a couple of days, thousands of people had lost their life savings and were destitute.

The “Black Friday” affected almost the whole world. What followed was later referred to as the The Great Depression, The Depression Years or even The Ten Lost Years. The period ended with the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939. It was a decade of despair, anger and broken dreams.

This essay will give a glimpse into what happened during those years, especially on the Prairie Provinces Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I will try to explain why those years were so hard particularly for the people living on the Western Provinces. I will not only present facts about what happened and how it could happen but also how people tried to deal with it and made the best out of their situation. Thus, this essay is also based on recordings of men, women and children who had to face the Depression Years.

Apart from the introduction, this essay is divided into two parts: Section A explains how the Great Depression could emerge, and describes it in terms of politics and economics.

Section B focuses on how people were affected by the Depression. What exactly did the families and individuals suffer from? How did they try to manage their situation? How did the Great Depression make an impact on the people’s self-esteem in terms of hope, despair, anger and self-abandonment? These questions will be discussed in the second part of this essay.

A. Reasons for the Great Depression on the Prairie Provinces

The collapse of the New York stock market was certainly not the only reason for the Great Depression on the Prairie Provinces. It was rather the last straw that broke the camel’s neck. A lot of other reasons can be found in the time before 1929 and there were also many factors which made the situation worse after 1929, especially on the Prairie Provinces. The Depression was actually three different Depressions. The October crash was not in itself a primary cause but a synergist that set off a chain reaction and produced a huge total effect “Nobody could tell exactly when it began and nobody could predict when it could end.”[1]

1. The economic situation

One striking feature of the crisis was the collapse in the price level. The decline in prices was dramatic and almost universal; especially the collapse of the wheat prices struck farmers on the Prairie Provinces. In Canada it is still believed today that this fall in prices had caused the Depression or at least helped to make it worse because when the world slump began, wheat prices were falling as export markets turned sour. As the slump deepened, foreign governments tried to shut out the crisis by protecting their domestic markets which worsened Canada’s prospects.

There is little doubt that overproduction and overcapacity did have an effect on bringing down prices. After an international Wheat Agreement in 1933 had failed to control acreage and sales, wheat producers were misguided by misbelieve. “If prices were low, let farmers produce more; and they did. They did not, however, earn more money as a result, for the consequence was only more unsold wheat.”[2]

As for prices, the year 1933 was “the through”. From then on, things got better, but slowly, because in 1938 real national output was still smaller than it had been in 1929.


[1] Berton, Pierre: The Great Depression 1929-1939. Toronto 1990, p.9

[2] Bothwell, Robert et al.: Canada , 1900-1945. Toronto 1987, p.249

Excerpt out of 14 pages


The Depression Years on the Canadian Prairies - Causes and Effects
University of Bonn
'The History of the Canadian Pairie West'
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ISBN (Book)
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Depression, Years, Canadian, Prairies, Causes, Effects, History, Canadian, Pairie, West“
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Marco Müller (Author), 2002, The Depression Years on the Canadian Prairies - Causes and Effects, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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