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Description de l’éditeur
Historians explore the past by focussing on human and institutional interactions. Here, political, social, economic and cultural forces comprise the primary interpretive vehicles for historical inquiry. In Alberta, and western Canada for that matter, agricultural development has been a major area of interest to historians, and predictably their focus has been set within political, economic and socio-cultural parameters. But, does geography, and in particular, land use patterns, have anything to tell us about Alberta's historical development? It is commonly argued that Alberta's prosperity in the second half of the twentieth century is due solely to the oil and gas industry. Yet, while it would be foolish to dismiss the importance of the energy sector (around 19 per cent of the GDP in 2000), it would be equally misleading to ignore the concomitant developments in agricultural land use in contributing to the Alberta of both yesterday and today. Ranching comprised Alberta's first important land use concentration. Its survival on deeded and leased land in the south and south-east has furnished the province with ongoing commercial activity in the semi-arid brown soil zones, and in foothills areas unsuitable for profitable cropping enterprises. Although the open range years were over by 1912, ranching continued to form an important dimension of Alberta's economy. More significant than their 30 per cent share of provincial cattle numbers was the fact that ranchers supplied, nurtured and ultimately secured the crucial American export market for Canadian cattle. In the post-1945 period, the ranchers' attention to range management strategies and environmental imperatives reversed the ravages of the 1930s and ended a philosophy that saw grass as an ecological and economic constant. Ranchers contributed to Alberta in another important way. The ideological mantle, first worn by the ranching fraternity, and later shared by the oil and gas magnates, continues to define Alberta's political, social, and cultural profile.