Agricultural settlement in southern Manitoba, 1872 to 1891 : a process-form approach

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Wiesinger, Judith Patricia.
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This study analyses the process of first agricultural settlement and related settlement forms in a selected area of southern Manitoba between 1872 and 1891 in an attempt to explain agricultural settlement evolution. A model of the settlement process is formulated and incorporates economic variables based on measures of distance and the environment that are derived from rural settlement theory and empirical rural settlement studies. This process-model is tested with reality using descriptive statistics and stepwise multiple regression analysis in order to assess the effect of the variables on the date of entry of land. In addition a simple counterfactual is employed in order to analyse the effect of one variable in isolation. The relative significance of the distance and environmental variables changes through time, with a decline in the importance of the distance variables and an increase in the importance of the environmental variable of land quality. Results indicate that proximity of land to a railway loading point, the variable initially thought to be most crucial in the settlement process of the study area, is not the dominant variable in the years following railway construction and up to 1891. Two major achievements of this study are as follows. First, it is recognised that established rural settlement theory is not necessarily appropriate to detailed empirical analysis; second, it is recognised that empirical generalisations relating to the agricultural settlement of both Manitoba and the prairie region, which were assumed to be applicable, are inappropriate to the study area in the period analysed. It is proposed that, in order to improve existing rural settlement theory, the institutional variable of cost of land be incorporated if theory is to be generally applicable to the North American settlement situation. A process-form methodology constitutes a valid research theme for historical geographical studies concerned with dynamic explanatory analyses.