1670 - 1720
In 1670 Charles II granted the Hudson’s Bay Company exclusive trading privileges in the territory called Rupert’s Land, the area drained by rivers flowing into Hudson Bay.
With the establishment of the French on the St Lawrence and the English on Hudson Bay, two trading systems competed for the furs of Rupert’s Land.
Rupert’s Land was thinly populated by hunting and fishing peoples, principally Assiniboine, Cree, and Chipewyan in the interior, and Inuit around the northern margins of Hudson Bay. People followed migratory game animals such as caribou and bison across ecological boundaries; in so doing they came in contact with other groups and engaged in trade.
The Hudson’s Bay Company consolidated its trade at two river-mouth posts, Fort Albany on James Bay and York Factory at the southwestern corner of Hudson Bay, later adding Fort Churchill, Moose Factory, and Eastmain.
The French expanded westward, first challenging the Hudson’s Bay Company in the hinterland of Fort Albany and other posts on James Bay and then, when Pierre Gaultier de La Vérendrye reached Lake Winnipeg in 1733, breaking the Hudson’s Bay Company’s monopoly of native trade in the vast hinterland of York Factory. By the 1750s the French operated a network of posts that extended as far west as the forks of the Saskatchewan River, but they could not prevent some natives from trading at the English posts on Hudson Bay. For the First Nations competition raised fur prices and provided alternative suppliers of European goods.
Competition increased the prices European traders paid for furs, but higher prices did not increase the supply. Native demand for durable goods was inelastic. If the price of furs rose, fewer furs were traded and native traders and trappers had more time for other activities. Faced with such a market, both French and English traders relied on alcohol and tobacco to draw native trade.
This piece discusses the expansion of the Hudson’s Bay Trading Company in the late 1600’s and into the 1700’s. The map features an interactive timeline that users can scroll to highlight various regions that were affected by the Company’s evolution.