381: Store Wars by David Monod

by Gerard


381.10971: Monod, David. Store Wars: Shopkeepers and the Culture of Mass Marketing, 1890-1939. Toronto, ONT, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1996. 350 pp. ISBN 0-8020-7604-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 300: Social Sciences
  • 380: Commerce, communications, and transportation
  • 381: Commerce and trade
  • 381.1: Marketing channels
  • +0971: Canada

Between the close of the 19th century and the Second World War, the commercial landscape of Canada underwent a massive transformation. Corporate conglomerations emerged and the era of big box versus independent merchants began. There is this interesting and clichéd historical narrative that creeps into everyone’s minds that the birth of large, faceless companies leads to immediate hostilities from smaller ones. But the truth is never that simple. David Monod’s Store Wars tries desperately to set the records straight on how exactly the growth of the capitalist culture in Canada impacted the social and economic landscape.

One of the main problems with this book, other than the fact that it’s a book on foreign commercial history, is that the author tries too hard to let you know that he’s deliberately usurping assertions of previous historians. He constantly harps on years of the simplistic research, and rather than letting it go and moving forward with his subject matter, he keeps poking at other authors and highlighting their “mistakes.” Canada’s economic history is, like all other subjects, nuanced, complicated, and interesting. Monod’s main thesis is that the supposed merchant class that existed in Canada (which didn’t really exist at all) cannot be seen as one homogenous group of people with a united agenda and an equal antagonistic attitude toward the new corporations. Different shopkeepers responded differently to changing economic trends and retail atmospheres. But Monod does all he can to aggrandize his research and not his subject matter. The topic is dry enough without compounding it with veiled vitriol. For all its faults, though, this is still a decently researched book on a niche topic that scholars should still consult, if only to inspire them to write more about it. It’s heavy-handed, sure, but still a competent look into another country’s history.