Scots in the Hudson's Bay Company, c. 1779–c. 1821

Scots in the Hudson’s Bay Company, c. 1779–c. 1821


Northern Scotland, 2, (2011) 36–59


Scotland’s involvement with the Arctic fur trade, which can be traced back to 1683, twenty-four years before the Act of Union, was to persist for almost three centuries. As employees in the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), generation after generation of Scots migrated temporarily to the territory that now forms vast swathes of northern Canada. This English enterprise, established in 1670 by Prince Rupert and seventeen other gentlemen, was granted a royal charter by King Charles II. The group of merchants was awarded control of an area called Rupert’s Land, which was defined as the lands drained by rivers flowing into Hudson’s Bay, and amounted to a colossal territory, fifty times the size of Scotland. Within this domain, the governing gentlemen were permitted to establish laws, colonies and armies, but initially limited their sphere of activity to trade.

Few members of the London Committee, as the governing body of the HBC became known, ever set foot in Rupert’s Land, but directed operations from the HBC’s headquarters in London. They developed a practice whereby British personnel were contracted, typically for three to five years, and sent thousands of miles across the Atlantic to the shores of Hudson’s Bay. The Company ships anchored at the southern end of this inland sea, at the mouths of the rivers draining into Hudson’s Bay. Posts, also known as houses, forts and factories, were constructed on the nearby marshy landscape and soon came to include Moose, Churchill, York, Rupert, Albany, and Eastmain

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