Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Jonathan Vance

Second Advisor

Daniel Robinson

Third Advisor

Douglas Leighton


A Small Price to Pay is an examination of consumerism on the Canadian home front during the Second World War. As the first comprehensive study of consumerism in Canada during the war era, it builds upon existing scholarship in four ways. First, it goes beyond the examination of the administration of rationing and price controls, which have been the subject of previous studies, and instead focuses on consumer behavior, retailing, and advertising methods. Second, it challenges the commonplace assumption that the war was a period of extreme consumer deprivation in Canada, by demonstrating that the consumer economy remained remarkably vibrant and resilient despite the pressures of economic mobilization for war. Third, it contends that the defense of private enterprise and consumer choice was part of the general intellectual and political discussion of the time, and that these arguments were necessarily at odds with wartime appeals for conservation, thrift, savings, as well as with reconstruction proposals that centered on the creation of a social welfare state. Finally, and above all, it underscores the central position that consumerism had in the political and social life of the Canadian home front. Even a cursory examination of the period reveals an obsessive concern with how the war effort would affect consumer behaviour, and indeed with how consumer behaviour would affect the war effort.



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