Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Harold Innis

Harold Innis (1894-1952) was a professor of political economy at the University of Toronto and the author of many seminal works on Canadian economic history and on media and communications.

Innis was born in rural Ontario and went to McMaster University. Upon graduation he enlisted and was sent to France to fight in the First World War. Upon his return home he went to the University of Chicago where he received his doctorate in economics. He then returned to Canada where he spent the rest of his career at U of T.

He is known for the "nuts and bolts" approach of analysing Canada's political economy: focusing on the nation's role as an exporter of raw materials and grains, and using this to explain its regionalism and the working of its political superstructure. This is known as the Staples Thesis, and it is still the underpinning of the study Canada's economic history.

Innis' theory of communication was to divide the subject into two. Time binding media includes printed and oral sources that are intended to last for many generations, but are only successfully used in relatively small communities. Space binding media includes most of the modern media such as radio, and television, as well as newspapers. This is information that is meant to reach as many as possible, but will not last long in time. While time binding media favoured community and metaphysics, space biding media favoured commercialism and imperialism. Marshall McLuhan was a student of Innis', and he built on many of Innis' ideas.

Innis died of cancer in 1952. Innis College at the University of Toronto is named after him.