Trading beyond the Mountains: The British Fur Trade on the Pacific, 1793-1843

Trading beyond the Mountains: The British Fur Trade on the Pacific, 1793-1843

Trading beyond the Mountains: The British Fur Trade on the Pacific, 1793-1843

Trading beyond the Mountains: The British Fur Trade on the Pacific, 1793-1843


During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the North West and Hudson's Bay companies extended their operations beyond the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. There they encountered a mild and forgiving climate and abundant natural resources and, with the aid of Native traders, branched out into farming, fishing, logging, and mining. Following its merger with the North West Company in 1821, the Hudson's Bay Company set up its headquarters at Fort Vancouver on the lower Columbia River. From there, the company dominated much of the non-Native economy, sending out goods to markets in Hawaii, Sitka, and San Francisco. Trading Beyond the Mountains looks at the years of exploration between 1793 and 1843 leading to the commercial development of the Pacific coast and the Cordilleran interior of western North America. Mackie examines the first stages of economic diversification in this fur trade region and its transformation into a dynamic and distinctive regional economy. He also documents the Hudson's Bay Company's employment of Native slaves and labourers in the North West coast region.


From the advantages the country possesses it bids fair to have an extensive commerce, on advantageous terms, with many parts of the Pacoc. It is well calculated to produce the following staple commodities -- furs, salted beef and pork, fish, grain, flour, wool, hides, tallow, timber and coals; and in return for these -- sugars, coffee, and other tropical productions, may be obtained at the Sandwich Islands.

-- JOHN DUNN, 1844

Tis is a study in commercial policy, environmental adaptation, and capitalist success. It concerns the fifty years between 1793 and 1843, when fur traders from Montreal and Hudson Bay explored and dominated the non-Native economy of much of the Pacific coast and cordilleran interior of western North America -- the region fur traders came to know as the Columbia Department. This was the westernmost administrative division of the British land-based fur trade (Map 1). On the Pacific, British fur traders found an unexploited region of natural abundance ripe for the application of their acquisitive commercial culture. This book concerns the origin, impetus, and extent of economic development in the Columbia Department in these years, the markets to which exports were destined, the first stages of economic diversification within a fur trade region, the formation of a distinctive regional economy, and, finally, the central role played by Native traders and workers in these changes.

This book also traces the history of an idea from its origins to its fruition. This was the idea of a British, transcontinental commerce connecting the Canadian colonies or Hudson Bay with the Pacific, an idea much older than the political idea of a continental confederation within British North America. The Montreal-based North West Company (NWC) and the London-based Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) applied this idea to the Pacific coast in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Northwesters did much of the initial exploration of the region, located workable transport routes, and glimpsed its larger . . .

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