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478 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 Richard Somerset Mackie. Trading beyond Lhe Mountains: The British Fur Trade on the Pacific 1793-1843 University of British Columbia Press. x.xiv, 422. $75.00 cloth, $29.95 paper For years, historians portrayed the North American fur trade in romantic terms with larger than life characters confronting the W1tarned wilderness. That has started to change. Some recent historians have gone beyond the idea of the lone mountain man to consider the broader picture. James Gibson examined the Hudson's Bay Company's endeavours in large-scale farming, John Haeger explored the financial arrangements supporting the American fur tradeJ and Barry Gough studied the trade's imperial implications . One can now add to that list of sophisticated reinterpretations Richard Mackie's business history of the North West and Hudson's Bay Companies in the Pacific Northwest Trading beyond the Mountains. Although it purports to be a history of the British fur trade from 1793 to 1843, the book's primary focus is the operations of the Hudson's Bay Company~ which came to the Pacific Northwest as the result of its 182.1 merger with the North West Company. The discussion of the British maritime fur trade of the eighteenth century, John Jacob AstorJs Pacific Fur Company and the North West Company merely set the stage for the primary subject, that of the development of HBC Columbia District's highly successfut well-diversified business. The HBc's operations in the Pacific Northwest differed from its methods anywhere else on the North American continent. Mackie notes several reasons. First, there was a history of Pacific trade. The region's open door to the Pacific encouraged the HBC and its predecessors to consider export markets such as China, Hawaii, California~ and Russian America. Second, the distance from corporate headquarters in London gave the district a degree of autonomy which allowed it to be more adventuresome in developing new profitable product lines. Third~ the Columbia District's creation coincided with the appointment of George Simpson to manage the company's North American operations. The Columbia District's diversification was very much the result of Simpsonfs business sense. Although Simpson sought first to produce agricultural commodities locally to supply the districfs own operations and thus reduce the cost of shipping foodstuffs from Europe, he was soon able to export tbe excess to Hawaii and Russian America. Similarly, his local production of lumber and timber products soon produced exportable commodities. Thereafter~ demand for Northwest commodities caused Simpson to import improved mills to increase output. Mackie skilfully details the HBC Columbia District's change from a fur trading company to a regional supplier of foodstuffs~ trade goods, and raw materials. In writing a business history, Mackie had the good sense to use the company's extensive accounting records as well as its correspondence and journals. In doing so, he was often able to distil facts that were otherwise B1JMAN1TIES 479 left unsaid by the company/s management and left undiscovered by later historians who relied only on the narrative. His fifty-three pages of endnotes, most of which is primary documentation, will provide the future researcher a starting point to continue his extensive study. Mackie was willing to take on unpleasant subjects, often neglected by the romantics. In his chapter 'The Native Foundation of Trade and Labour/ Mackie addresses the pervasiveness of Native slavery in and around the fur trade and even at the district's headquarters, Fort Vancouver. Nor is he afraid to confront the conclusions of his notable colleagues. He disagrees with Gibson that the Americans withdrew voluntarily from the coastal fur trade/ noting that the HBC's combination of coastal posts with vessels plying routes between made the Pacific Northwest so un_profitable that the Americans were forced to retreat. Although one would do best to read Trading beyond the Mountai11s cover to cover, its chapters are so arranged to stand alone for anyone with a modest understanding of the Pacific Northwest fur trade. To do that, Mackie occasionally repeats information contained in previous chapters, a small annoyance to the cover-to-cover reader when one considers that many others may be seeking specific information rather than a general...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 478-479
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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