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Lords of the Northern Forest

The Hudson's Bay Company was one of the central forces moulding the development of the vast tracts of land that today are Canada - but as Barry Gough explains here, the circumstances of its launch in 1670 also reveal much about the commercial forces, personalities and rivalries of Restoration England.

Hudson's Bay Company post on Lake Winnipeg, 1884.The individuals who established the Hudson's Bay Co any were capitalists, promoters and imperialists. They never possessed the financial power or parliamentary lobby of the East India Company. But their interest in making profits in the fur trade, in discovering a northwest passage, and in undertaking scientific inquiry – in that order of importance – prompted these men to lay the basis of a firm that, by the height of its influence in the early 1840s, was engaged in business throughout most of British North America as well as in the Pacific cordillera south to San Francisco Bay, among the Pacific islands, and in Canton. Today this organisation remains the oldest merchant trading company in the world and the oldest incorporated joint-stock merchandising company on the North American continent and in the English-speaking world.

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