The Honourable Company
Douglas MacKay: The Honourable Company: A History of The Hudson’s Bay Company (London: Cassell and Company, Ltd., 1937)
You might think that growing up in Montana, I might have a general working knowledge of the history of Canada, but I find that my education is woefully inadequate. For centuries much of Canada was controlled not by a government but by a private company and the company was incredibly secretive with its records and historical documents. In 2006, Susan and I were privileged to be able to spend some time in the archives of The Hudson’s Bay Company in Winnipeg and had a look at some of the long history of the company, but I had not read a complete history.
Chartered in 1670, it wasn’t until the 1930’s - nearly 300 years after the company was founded that an authorized history of the company was allowed. Douglas MacKay’s volume tells a story that had not been previously told. Now that there are newer, and perhaps more complete histories of the company, it still is valuable to take a look at MacKay’s report. I will be reading a couple of other histories of the company, but this comprehensive and detailed report gives insights into the people who pioneered the company.
The volume reflects some antiquated ideas and thoughts about Indigenous People and it lacks some of the respect that we expect in contemporary times, but even this illustrates the company and how it came to have control over the livelihoods and very lives of people.
It is a fascinating read and a book I’ll keep on my shelves as a general reference as I continue to read and learn more of the history of our northern neighbors.