Hudson's Bay Company

Early Years

The company's monopoly was not respected by other English traders. The Great Company, as the Hudson's Bay Company was known, did a highly profitable business, but Hudson Bay was claimed also by the French, who sent expeditions against the posts that recently had been established near the mouths of the Moose, Albany, Severn, and Nelson rivers. Warfare went on, almost regardless of whether there was peace or war between the two nations in Europe, until after the Peace of Utrecht (1713–14). The French on the whole were more successful than the British in the conflict over control of the posts, but ultimately all of Hudson Bay was recognized as British territory. Rivalry, however, continued between the French traders from Montreal and Quebec and the Hudson's Bay men.

The Great Company was content to remain at its seaboard posts and made little effort either to send traders inland or to search out the Northwest Passage. The only notable early voyages made westward that are known today were those of Henry Kelsey, the disastrous attempt of James Knight in 1719 to find by sea the Northwest Passage and fabled gold mines, the expeditions of Anthony Hendry (1754), and the journey of Samuel Hearne across barren grounds to the mouth of the Coppermine River in 1771, which definitively proved that there was no short Northwest Passage out of Hudson Bay. The company was harshly criticized in the middle of the 18th cent., chiefly because of its failure to discover the Northwest Passage.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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