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404 The Canadian Historical Review the degree to which the pre-1870 operations of the Hudson's Bay Company encompassed a wide variety ofenterprises. One long-time fur trader 'reminisced in 1872 that he had 'been Sailor, Farmer, Coal Miner, packer, Salesman, Surveyor, explorer, Fur Trader and Accountant in Your Service.' Retrenchment, personnel up-grading, and centralization had played major roles in the company's managerial strategies since before the amalgamation of the North West Fur Trading Company with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821, as work by Ann Carlos and others has shown. Moreover, the problem of London board/Canadian manager relations, a problem that receives attention in the short term from Stardom, is also one with a long history within the company and has been the focus of a rich historiography, though it receives scant notice in this monograph. Stardom could not and did not set out to write an administrative history of anything other than a part of the HBc's past operations. Although her monograph would have been improved by a closer attention to past managerial change and the historiography surrounding those changes, she has provided readers with a useful study of a manager who did more than foreshadow the company's future orientation ; he, as Stardom concludes, provided the company with the means to get there. PETER BASKERVILLE University ofVictoria The King ofBaffin Land: W. Ralph Parsons, Last Fur Trade Commissioner of the Hudson's Bay Company. fOHN PARSONS and BURTON K. fANES. St John's: Creative Book Publishing 1996. Pp. xx, 234, illus. $14.95 W. Ralph Parsons holds out considerable promise as the subject of a biography. He had a long career, from 1900 to 1940, as a fur trader with the Hudson's Bay Company, so a study of his life should make a significant contribution to our understandings of the history of the fur trade and the HBC in the first half of the twentieth century. An examination of Parsons's involvement in the northward expansion ofthe HBC should also illuminate aspects of an important phase in the life of Canadian Inuit, during the period after whaling declined as a commercial activity and before the wholesale entry ofthe Canadian government into northern affairs. Unfortunately, and in spite of the desire of John Parsons and Burton K. Janes to establish Ralph Parsons as a significant figure in Newfoundland and Canadian history, this is an opportunity missed. Book Reviews 405 Organized chronologically, The King of Baffin Land begins with Parsons's birth and early years in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, in 1881 and ends with his death in 1956 (including an entire chapter devoted to his funeral). In between, and befitting the title, are chapters covering Parsons's years with the HBC, centred around the recounting, in heroic terms, of his hardships and adventures. Following his start as an apprentice clerk in northern Labrador, Parsons spent much of his time in the eastern Arctic, where he established a ,number of posts, including the HBc's first on Baffin Island. Moving up the corporate hierarchy, Parsons became a district manager, and finished his career as fur trade commissioner. One chapter addresses the circumstances surrounding Parsons's conflict with HBC management, which led to his leaving the company. Bypassing a serious discussion of the internal tensions that accompanied the attempt to apply modern management technique~ to the fur trade, the authors instead go to great pains to establish the HBc's Canadian general manager as the villain, thereby preserving the dignity and honour of Parsons. Also included is a foreword by Parsons's son attesting to the integrity of the authors; an introduction by Parsons's nephew which sings the praises of RP (as he was known), and numerous appendices, mostly consisting of further tributes. Several items written by Parsons himself are also thrown in. One of these, an undated newspaper article (subsequently reprinted in Rene Fumoleau's As Long as This Land Shall Last) on the differences between Aboriginal and non-Native trappers, is crying out for interpretation: 'The Indian may be lazy, improvident and shiftless, but insofar as the conservation ofwildlife is concerned, these failings may be almost regarded as virtues' (192). Throughout...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 404-406
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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