Empire of the Bay
Peter C. Newman: Empire of the Bay: The Company of Adventurers that Seized a Continent (Toronto: Madison Press Books, 1989; New York: Penguin, 1998)
Two books, one author, one title. Actually, the illustrated version contains parts of the complete text, which I read in the Penguin version. An epic company deserves an epic history and that is just what Newman has compiled. 584 pages of text covering 300 years of history. The Hudson’s Bay Company was at one time the world’s greatest monopoly - the largest monopoly in the history of the world. Its dominance was so extreme that for nearly a quarter of a millennia, the story of Canada, except for a small bit of it on the East Coast and along the St. Lawrence River was the story of the Hudson’s Bay Comany. No student of the history of Canada can avoid a serious study of the company, even though for much of its history, the Company was not open to study and was not eager to share its story.
Times, however, have changed. The company of adventurers now has evolved into a normal business enterprise, no longer join charge of law enforcement and no longer directly involved in the fur trade. The Bay, as the company is now called, is largely in the department store business, though they remain the exclusive vendors of certain goods in some rural and isolate communities. The large illustrated version, however, is no substitute for the Newman’s complete work. I was fortunate to find used copies of both books and read the longer version first and used the illustrated version as a refresher of the history that I had just read. The illustrations are wonderful and well worth the price of the book, at least on the used market.
Although these books are by no means new, they remain good sources of information on the history of Canada and the story of The Hudson’s Bay Company.