Harold Adams Innis Criticism - Essay

W. T. Easterbrook (essay date 1953)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Innis and Economics," in Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science, Vol. XIX, No. 3, August, 1953, pp. 291-303.

[In the following essay, Easterbrook delineates phases of Innis's career as a writer on economics.]

Over the three decades of teaching and research allotted Harold Innis, no subject concerned him more than the state of economics. He looked to economic history to enrich and broaden economic thought, and he sought to explain fashions in economics and to make economists intelligible to themselves. Although Veblen's influence left its mark on his work, Innis remained throughout a disciple of Adam Smith and no name appears more frequently in his...

(The entire section is 6865 words.)

Robert F. Neill (essay date 1966)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Content and Context of the Work of H. A. Innis," in The Journal of Economic History, Vol. XXVI, No. 4, December, 1966, pp. 589-90.

[In the following essay, Neill offers a short analysis of Innis's theories and the cultural environment in which he developed them.]

The eccentric Innis was too complex a personality and too prolific and varied in his writings to be treated with justice in a short space. He ranks with James Mavor and Stephen Leacock as a great character in Canadian intellectual history. In the present sketch only the main lines of his contribution to economics can be drawn.

The context was an economy experiencing long-run...

(The entire section is 980 words.)

James W. Carey (essay date 1967)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Harold Adams Innis and Marshall McLuhan," in The Antioch Review, Vol. XXVII, No. 1, Spring, 1967, pp. 5-39.

[In the following essay, Carey compares Innis's theories of communication with those of Marshall McLuhan.]

Commenting on the abstruse and controversial scholarship of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan is a rather audacious and perhaps impertinent undertaking. It is also a thankless task. McLuhan has often argued that the attempt to analyze, classify, and criticize scholarship—the intent of my paper—is not only illegitimate; it also represents the dead hand of an obsolete tradition of scholarship. I am sensitive to treading forbidden waters in this...

(The entire section is 13530 words.)

Leslie A. Pal (essay date 1977)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Scholarship and the Later Innis," in Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'études canadiennes, Vol. 12, No. 5, Winter, 1977, pp. 32-44.

[In the following essay, Pal explores Innis's later work within the context of his changing ideas.]

The early Innis—the Innis of fish and fur—is fairly well known; the later Innis—the Innis of print and paper—less so. Part of the fault lies with Innis himself. His economic studies were never models of clarity but they seemed lucid next to the elliptical arguments, acrane terminology, and obscure conclusions of his communications works.

The list of his stylistic and substantive sins is a long one. But...

(The entire section is 8543 words.)

William Christian (essay date 1977)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Inquisition of Nationalism," in Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'études canadiennes, Vol. 12, No. 5, Winter, 1977, pp. 62-71.

[In the following essay, Christian investigates the question of Innis's nationalism.]

Twenty-five years after his death Harold Innis's reputation is slowly regaining the heights that it held during his lifetime. It may be, as Marshall McLuhan suggests, that Innis is more admired than read; but nonetheless he is now generally esteemed as a great scholar, and perhaps held in even higher regard as an early and perceptive Canadian nationalist. Concerning his greatness as a scholar I take it that there is little controversy; later...

(The entire section is 7260 words.)

Hugh J. G. Aitken (essay date 1977)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Myth and Measurement: The Innis Tradition in Economic History," in Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'études canadiennes, Vol. 12, No. 5, Winter, 1977, pp. 96-105.

[In the following essay, Aitken offers his personal and professional insights on Innis's theories of economic history.]

Most people past middle age would probably agree, if they look back on their early years, that there were a few individuals who, without ever intending to do so or being conscious of having done so, exercised a decisive influence on their later thoughts and attitudes. The effect of such people is, as it were, accidental; they transform without intent. Harold Innis played such a...

(The entire section is 7279 words.)

W. J. Eccles (essay date 1979)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "A Belated Review of Harold Adams Innis, The Fur Trade in Canada," in Canadian Historical Review, Vol. LX, No. 4, December, 1979, pp. 419-41.

[In the following essay, Eccles compares the historic fur trade in Canada with Innis's scholarship on it]

A reappraisal of the Canadian fur trade is long overdue. For this to be done adequately there are two prerequisites: first, past misconceptions have to be cleared away; then the trade has to be placed in its historic and not just its economic context. This communication addresses it-self primarily to the first of these presumptions.

Harold Adams Innis' major work, The Fur Trade in Canada, has...

(The entire section is 10667 words.)

Donald Creighton (essay date 1981)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Harold Adams Innis—An Appraisal," in Culture, Communication, and Dependency: The Tradition of H. A. Innis, William H. Melody, Liora Salter, Paul Heyer, eds., Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1981, pp. 13-25.

[In the following essay, Creighton assesses Innis's education, career, and achievements.]

Some little time ago, the head of one of the University of Toronto's new colleges put a sudden and very general question to me. What, he said in effect, is the importance of Harold Innis? I must admit that I was surprised and slightly annoyed by this abrupt inquiry and I made no serious attempt to answer it. I might have replied that Harold Innis had been the Head of...

(The entire section is 5768 words.)

James W. Carey (essay date 1981)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Culture, Geography, and Communications: The Work of Harold Innis in an American Context," in Culture, Communication, and Dependency: The Tradition of H. A. Innis, William H. Melody, Liora Salter, Paul Heyer, eds., Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1981, pp. 73-91.

[In the following essay, Carey evaluates Innis's contribution to the social sciences.]

What is it about the ponderous and often unreadable texts of Harold Innis that makes them the subject of continuing interest, indeed, of a revival of interest some twenty-five years after his death? Despite their opacity, their maddening obscurity, their elliptical quality, I find myself drawn back to these texts...

(The entire section is 8154 words.)

John Hutcheson (essay date 1982)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Harold Innis and the Unity and Diversity of Confederation," in Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'études canadiennes, Vol. 17, No. 4, Winter, 1982-83, pp. 57-73.

[In the following essay, Hutcheson examines Innis's views of Canadian economic development.]

A prevalent view of the Canadian imagination, articulated by Northrop Frye, is that it has been dominated by a sense of dislocation occasioned by the enormity of the landscape and the sparseness of "civilization." Frye's view is that Canada has been seen as "a country of isolations and terror, and of the overwhelming of human values by an indifferent and wasteful nature." From this perspective Frye has...

(The entire section is 11749 words.)

Ronald Keast (essay date 1985)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

Source: "It Is Written—But I Say Unto You: Innis on Religion," in Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'études canadiennes, Vol. 20, No. 4, Winter, 1985-86, pp. 12-25.

[In the following essay, Keast outlines Innis's ideas on the influence of religion.]


When Harold Innis died in 1952 he had achieved an international scholarly reputation and was recognized as Canada's foremost historian. That reputation had been established by his early published works, those dealing with the Canadian Pacific Railway, the fur trade in Canada, and the cod fisheries. In these Innis showed how technique (the method or means) and technology (the...

(The entire section is 6613 words.)

Robin Neill (essay date 1987)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Rationality and the Informational Environment: A Reassessment of the Work of Harold Adams Innis," in Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'études canadiennes, Vol. 22, No. 4, Winter, 1987-88, pp. 78-92.

[In the following essay, Neill examines the significance of Innis's writings on communications and economics.]


Harold Innis's message was not well communicated, because, in part, those who received it did not occupy a perceptual vantage point from which it could be understood. The consequence has been a multiplication of interpretations of Innis, many cited in R.F. Neill's intellectual biography,1 others...

(The entire section is 6595 words.)