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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Continuity and Change

Although archaeological discoveries tell us that humans have inhabited the Canadian prairies for roughly the last 12,000 years, the current population of Alberta is largely the product of the last century. Until the late 1700s, First Nations peoples were the only inhabitants, at which time traders from the Hudson's Bay and North West Companies established a more permanent residence. However, even with the growing European presence, by 1901 there were only 73,022 people living in what is now Alberta.

Farmer loading wheat onto a horse-drawn wagonInitially based on the National Policy of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald's government, Alberta witnessed periods of significant immigration in the 20th century. By the end of the first immigration boom in 1913, the population was more than 374,000. World War I and the Great Depression of the 1930s stifled immigration somewhat, but by 1941 the province's population had more than doubled to reach 769,169. Along with increased economic growth following World War II, Alberta's population continued to climb to 1.6 million by 1971 and today is over 3 million.

Accompanying the tremendous amount of immigration has been a process of urbanization. residential neighbourhoodAlthough most Albertans are now accustomed to living in cities and towns, predominantly urban living is a new development. As recently as 1941, over 66 percent of the population lived in rural areas. By 1961, however, almost 70 percent of Albertans were living in towns and cities and by 1996 that number had risen to over 80 percent. Population growth and increased urbanization are important trends in recent Alberta history and are the two main themes explored in this section. Join us as we examine the significant impact they have had in forming present-day Alberta.

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