Living and Working with Free Trade: Prince Edward Island’s Fisheries under Reciprocity and Confederation, 1854-1873, by Professor Brian Payne


Faculty Club 3450 rue McTavish, Montreal, QC, H3A 0E5, CA

Living and Working with Free Trade:
Prince Edward Island’s Fisheries under Reciprocity and Confederation, 1854-1873

by Brian Payne, Associate Professor, Department of History, Bridgewater State University

The Reciprocity Treaty of 1854, the first effort to craft a North American free trade policy, had profound impact on the daily lives of those who worked in resource economic industries on both sides of the border, but was particularly profound for those who worked within the border regions.  The Gulf of St. Lawrence was one such border region that challenged contemporary efforts to establish clear territorial lines between local and foreign fishing zones.  Although Prince Edward Island did not have a fisheries economy that matched either that of Nova Scotia or Massachusetts, the Island’s physical location in the heart of this maritime border region meant that Islanders witnessed, and at times participated in, the continual efforts to shape territorial authority.  The economic influences of Reciprocity along with the political influences of Confederation fundamentally altered Prince Edward Islanders’ relationship with their surrounding maritime environment and its resources.  This paper will explore the social history of these major economic and political policies by exploring the lived experience of Island fishermen as they struggled to understand the rapidly changing economic and political realities of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  By understanding the fishermen’s strategies to deal with changing rules we can better understand the implications of free trade for those who lived and worked in border regions.

McGill Faculty Club (3450 McTavish), 1st floor Heritage room, 4:30 p.m.

This event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Please RSVP at misc.iecm [at]

Brian Payne completed his PhD in history from the University of Maine in 2006. He served as a post-doctoral fellow at the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, DC until 2007 and joined the faculty at Old Dominion University in 2007. In 2010 Payne moved to New England to become an assistant professor of history at Bridgewater State University. His teaching and research focus is on maritime labor and environmental history with a particular focus on New England and Atlantic Canadian inshore fisheries. His first book, Fishing a Borderless Sea: Environmental Territorialism in the North Atlantic, 1818-1910 was published by Michigan State University Press in 2010. Payne's current research project is on family labor in New England's seafood processing with a particular focus on Maine's sardine industry.


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