- Averting Disaster: The Hudson's Bay Company and Smallpox in Western Canada during the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries
- Bulletin of the History of Medicine
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 78, Number 3, Fall 2004
- pp. 575-609
- View Citation
- Additional Information
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the Hudson's Bay Company served as a de facto public health agency across western Canada. Among its biggest challenges was combating the smallpox epidemics that periodically threatened the Aboriginal people of the region. Initially, the Company's employees turned to quarantine over variolation in order to prevent the spread of the disease to Hudson Bay in the summer of 1782. Although well thought-out, ultimately this policy proved unsuccessful. Within thirty years the HBC had turned to the newly discovered vaccination, a strategy that was to prove far more effective in fighting the disease. By the late 1830s the Company was able to mount an effective vaccination campaign that covered much of western Canada.