Copyright The Columbia University Press

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. The Columbia University Press

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia (nō´və skō´shə) [Lat.,=new Scotland], province (2001 pop. 908,007), 21,425 sq mi (55,491 sq km), E Canada.


One of the Maritime Provinces, Nova Scotia comprises a mainland peninsula and, across the Canso Strait, the adjacent Cape Breton Island. It is bounded on the N by the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Northumberland Strait, across which lies Prince Edward Island; on the E and S by the Atlantic Ocean; and on the W by New Brunswick, from which it is largely separated by the Bay of Fundy but to which the Chignecto Isthmus connects it. The climate is moderate and rainfall abundant. The east coast is rocky, with numerous bays and coves, and is dotted with many charming fishing villages. Off the beautiful south shore is Sable Island, called the graveyard of the Atlantic for its many shipwrecks; on the west coast huge Fundy tides wash the shores, extending into the Minas Basin and the Annapolis River estuary.

Frequently visited historical sites include the Alexander Graham Bell Museum at Baddeck, the Shrine of Evangeline at Grand Pré, and the town of Annapolis Royal, site of the first permanent Canadian settlement (Port-Royal, 1610). Cape Breton Island (est. 1936) and Kejimkujik (est. 1968) national parks are in Nova Scotia. Abundant game, all types of fishing, and some of the best sailing on the continent attract visitors. The capital and largest city is Halifax; other important cities are Dartmouth, Sydney, Glace Bay, Truro, and New Glasgow.

Economy and Higher Education

Mining has been historically critical to Nova Scotia. Coal was extracted principally in the Sydney–Glace Bay area of Cape Breton Island, but the mines closed in 2001. Gypsum, barite, and salt are mined. The decline of mining has increased the importance of fishing to Nova Scotia. Fleets operate on the continental shelf, especially on the Grand Banks, and farther out to sea, although years of overfishing have now led to serious cutbacks in production. Lobster, scallops, and haddock are the biggest catches. Offshore deposits of natural gas have begun to be exploited. Inland, the forests yield spruce lumber, and the province's industries produce much pulp and paper. In the northwest there is dairying, the most important sector of Nova Scotia's agricultural economy, and the region of Annapolis and Cornwallis contains valuable apple orchards. There are also significant hay, grain, fruit, and vegetable crops. The bay lowlands, reclaimed by dikes in the 17th cent., are very productive.

Manufacturing is the largest sector of Nova Scotia's economy. In addition to the iron and steel produced at Sydney, the province's manufactures include processed food (especially fish), automobiles, tires, sugar, and construction materials. In addition to its all-year port facilities, Halifax is a railroad terminus. There are both hydroelectric and tidal (at Annapolis Royal) power-generating plants. Coast, countryside, and historical sites attract tourists.

Educational institutions include Acadia Univ., at Wolfville; Dalhousie Univ., Mount St. Vincent Univ., St. Mary's Univ., the Technical Univ. of Nova Scotia, and the Univ. of King's College, all at Halifax; Sainte-Anne Univ., at Church Point; St. Francis Xavier Univ., at Antigonish; and the Univ. College of Cape Breton, at Sydney.

History and Politics

Two Algonquian peoples, the Abnaki and the Micmac, inhabited the area before Europeans arrived. John Cabot may have landed (1497) on the tip of Cape Breton Island; European fishermen were already making regular stops during their yearly expeditions. An unsuccessful French settlement was made in 1605 at Port-Royal (now Annapolis Royal); in 1610 the French succeeded at the same site. For the next century and a half France and England bitterly contested rights to Acadia, which included present-day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. In 1621, Sir William Alexander obtained a patent from James I for the colonization of Acadia. Control alternated between France and England through several wars and treaties.

Under the Peace of Utrecht (1713–14), the Nova Scotia peninsula was awarded to England, although Cape Breton Island was retained by the French. Hostilities were renewed in 1744. During the French and Indian War (1755–63), a tragic incident was the expulsion of the French Acadians—described by Longfellow in Evangeline. The Treaty of Paris (1763) gave nearly all of what remained of French North America to England. Prince Edward Island, joined to Nova Scotia in 1763, became separate in 1769. During this period Nova Scotia pioneered in Canadian history with the first newspaper (Halifax Gazette, 1752), the first printing press (1751), and the first university (King's College, Windsor, 1788–89).

With the influx (from 1783) of United Empire Loyalists leaving the American colonies, lingering sentiment in favor of joining the new United States was overwhelmed, and New Brunswick and Cape Breton became (1784) separate colonies. Cape Breton rejoined Nova Scotia in 1820. During the early 19th cent. thousands of Scots and Irish arrived. Under Joseph Howe, Nova Scotia became the first colony to achieve (1848) responsible (or cabinet) government. It acceded to the Canadian confederation as one of four original members in 1867 after considerable difficulty over economic arrangements. Nova Scotia has recently struggled to stabilize an economy damaged by decline in the mining and steel industries. Federal programs have been undertaken to develop secondary industries and to locate offshore oil or natural-gas deposits, and natural-gas production in the Cape Sable area, with pipeline transport to New England, began in 2000.

Progressive Conservatives dominated politics from 1978 to 1993, when Liberal John Savage became premier. Savage was succeeded in 1997 by Liberal Russell MacLellan, but in 1999, Progressive Conservative John F. Hamm became premier. Hamm and his party were returned to power in 2003. Hamm retired in 2006 and was succeeded as premier by Rodney MacDonald. The Progressive Conservatives narrowly retained power in the 2006 elections. In 2009 voters elected the province's first New Democratic party government; Darrell Dexter became premier. The 2013 elections brought a Liberal government into office, headed by Stephen McNeil. The province sends 10 senators and 11 representatives to the national parliament.


See T. B. Akins, comp., Acadia and Nova Scotia (1869, repr. 1972); S. Hines, Nova Scotia: The Lighthouse and Annapolis Valley (1980); P. B. Waite, The Man from Halifax: Sir John Thompson Prime Minister (1986); N. MacKinnon, This Unfriendly Soil: The Loyalist Experience in Nova Scotia, 1783–91 (1989).


Copyright The Columbia University Press

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. The Columbia University Press


Antigonish (ăn´tĬgōnĬsh´), town (1991 pop. 4,924), N central N.S., Canada, on an inlet of St. Georges Bay. The town was founded in 1784 by disbanded British soldiers and later settled by Highland Scots. It is known for the Antigonish Movement, a cooperative movement promoted in the 1920s and 30s by St. Francis Xavier Univ.