The Canadian Centenary Series

The Fur Trade and the Northwest to 1857

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Volume XI of the Canadian Centenary Series

Now available as e-books for the first time, the Canadian Centenary Series is a comprehensive nineteen-volume history of the peoples and lands which form Canada. Although the series is designed as a unified whole so that no part of the story is left untold, each volume is complete in itself.

The Great Shield of Canada, composed of Precambrian rock overlaid with pockets of shallow soil, effectively isolated nearly half the area of present-day Canada from the first European settlers. This formidable natural barrier thwarted access westward and northward from the St. Lawrence basin, and was an important factor in the three centuries of development prior to Confederation. 

This authoritative book deals with the rivalry between the great fur-trading concerns, as pathfinders like Alexander Mackenzie, David Thompson, and Simon Fraser pushed the boundaries of known land up to the Arctic and over the mountains to the West Coast. Bitter competition eventually led to the Massacre of Seven Oaks at the Red River Colony in 1816. A mandatory coalition of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Nor’Westers restored some order in 1821. The fur traders played a vital role in the concept of Confederation, not only because they penetrated uncharted regions, but because they made it normal and acceptable to live and travel in the Northwest. E.E. Rich ably demonstrates how the configuration of the land itself set the terms of the problem of penetration into the Northwest, and how exploration and the fur trade (often unwilling partners) revealed the full extent of what was to be Canada. 

First published in 1967, Professor Rich’s important contribution to the Canadian Centenary Series is available here as an e-book for the first time.