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Colonial Military Garrisons as Labor‐Market Shocks: Quebec City and Boston, 1760–1775

Jeremy Land and Vincent Geloso

Social Science Quarterly, 2020, vol. 101, issue 4, 1326-1344

Abstract: The military occupation of Boston in 1768 shocked the city's labor market. The soldiers, who were expected to supplement their pay by working for local businesses, constituted an influx equal to 12.5 percent of greater Boston's population. To assess the importance of this shock, we use the case of Quebec City, which experienced the reverse process (i.e., a reduction in the British military presence from close to 18 percent of the region's population to less than 1 percent). We argue that, in Boston, the combination of the large influx of soldiers and a heavy tax on the local population in the form of the billeting system caused an important wage reduction, while the lighter billeting system of Quebec City and the winding down of the garrison pushed wages up. We tie these experiences to political developments in the 1770s.

Date: 2020
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