Canadian Geographic
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Fur trade

1697 - 1739

In response to a glut of beaver, the costly Iroquois war, and Jesuit complaints about the coureurs de bois, the French crown ordered the interior posts closed in 1696. The northern fur trade began to shift to Fort Albany, retaken by the English in 1693. The opening of Détroit and the resumption of Dakota hostilities (1700) shifted native populations towards the lower Great Lakes where they were contacted by Iroquois and by English traders beginning to penetrate the Ohio valley. Increasingly coureurs de bois who had remained in the interior smuggled their furs to the English. It soon became obvious to the French crown that if the posts were not reopened France’s native allies would become alienated and the interior could be lost to the British.

In 1713 when the Treaty of Utrecht assigned the lands adjacent to Hudson Bay to the British and made the Ohio River and lower Great Lakes a free trade area, the French reacted quickly to restore their earlier position. Michilimackinac was reopened in 1712-13 and trade was restored to the Illinois-Michigan posts by 1715. Aided by a recovery in the price of beaver in 1714, traders again departed for the interior.

In 1720 forts Frontenac, Détroit, and Niagara gave France control of the lower Great Lakes, while the Lake Superior and Temiscamingue posts quickly cut into the Hudson’s Bay Company trade. All posts in areas within the potential reach of Anglo-American traders were garrisoned and every effort was made to retain native alliances.

British traders continued their penetration of the Ohio country, and in the 1720s opened temporary posts on the upper Ohio and on an eastern tributary of the Wabash.

During the 1730s La Vérendrye penetrated the Hudson’s Bay Company trading hinterland, initiating a marked decline in the fur returns at Fort Albany and York Factory. In 1736 he achieved a peace between the Saulteaux and Cree. The Dakota, angered by the defection of the Saulteaux to their enemies, turned on them, thus instigating the migration of some of the Ojibwa groups into Cree territory west of Lake Superior.

French expeditions against the increasingly troublesome Chickasaw in 1736 and 1739 led to a negotiated peace in 1740. English influence, however, continued to expand.


This piece explains the dispute over European territory claims in the early 1700’s. The interactive legend allows users to highlight the specific territorial claims made by France and Britain.


On the next page:

1740 - 1755

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Quiz :

In what year did the Hudson's Bay Company and North West Company merge?