North American Exploration - Vol. 2

By John Logan Allen | Go to book overview

12 / British Exploration of Rupert's Land

RICHARD I. RUGGLES

Commerce was the primary agency in the exploration and discovery of the northern part of America. Exploration was the necessary consequence of a burgeoning trade in furs, whereas geographical inquiry was a lesser inducement for coasting intricate and dangerous shorelines and venturing across the vast interior of the continent. The impetus of the pioneer trading expedition of the ship Nonsuch into Hudson Bay in 1668 was not discovery, which was a relatively unimportant motive; rather, the goals were to gauge the potential of the trade in furs with the Cree Indians in the Bottom of the Bay,1 to assess the feasibility of this large region as a colony, and to advance the quest for valuable minerals. These three purposes-- trade profit, colonial advantage, and mineral riches--were at the forefront of British activity for the following century and a quarter, stemming from this trial British trading venture.

Whereas geographical curiosity played a muted role in the exploration history of the northern and western regions of the continent, geographical strategy was pivotal. Trading enterprises found it vital to unravel the interconnections of rivers and lakes and their outflow to seas, to measure directions and distances between significant nodes along the emerging paths of trade, to surmount mountainous barricades, to map out the interdigitations of tundra, forest, parkbelt, and grassland, and to become cognizant of the territories of the peoples of the region.

Based on such knowledge, groups expanded their facilities, jockeying for trade advantage in reference to the geographical pattern of their rivals' trade economies. The backers of the first English expeditions were enticed to invest in a venture that was to be intruded into an existing system; their strategy was the eventual circumvention of the geographical pattern of the French fur trade concentrated in the Saint Lawrence-Great Lakes basin. This would allow the merchants to carry their goods directly into the heart of the continent. To pursue this stratagem successfully required that the

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North American Exploration - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Maps ix
  • Introduction to Volume 2 1
  • 9 / Spanish Penetrations to the North of New Spain 7
  • 10 / Early French Exploration in the North American Interior 65
  • 11 / French Exploration in North America, 1700-1800 149
  • 12 / British Exploration of Rupert's Land 203
  • 13 British Exploration of the United States Interior 269
  • 14 / The Exploration of the Pacific Coast 328
  • Notes 397
  • Selected Bibliography 437
  • Contributors 445
  • Index 449
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