Caesars of the Wilderness (Read 2211 times)
OregonDave
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Caesars of the Wilderness
Jan 11th, 2020 at 9:18pm
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Friends of Wabakimi December 2019 Newsletter
Book Review
By Dave McTeague

Company of Adventures, Vol. 1
Caesars of the Wilderness, Vol. 2
Peter C. Newman

In our long canoe country discussions, "Uncle" Phil Cotton recommended two books by Canadian historian Peter C Newman, as essential reading especially for those south of the boarder. Phil said these would illustrate how exploration and the fur trade introduced us to the historic Canadian canoe routes.  While a history of the Hudson Bay Company, these illustrate how this enterprise and their competitors shaped Canada as opposed to their neighbor to the south.   Canoes and waterways are an essential part of this story. 

Vol. 1, Company of Adventurers, chronicles the earliest European explorers (Messrs Radisson & Groseilliers), the search for the NW Passage, the French vs. English battles for Hudson Bay, the beginnings of the fur trade, explorations of Samuel Hearne- first to reach the Arctic Ocean overland; and the intense 1779 to 1821 competition between the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) and the Montreal Based Northwest Company. The fur traders were all about collecting and transporting the beaver and other furs back to Europe where the resulting goods were all the rage. It was the indigenous peoples who did the actual trapping and curing in exchange for such things as sewing needles, bronze cookpots, weapons and quantities of  alcohol.

Vol. 2, Caesars of the Wilderness, continues the saga highlighting dominant personalities like Hudson's Bay man Alexander Mackenzie, the Scottish explorer-trader who followed an unknown river, later named after him, to the Arctic Ocean. The fur trade also provided an impetus for exploration of the Canadian North and established a transportation network that abetted later settlement.    Newman views the hierarchical Company, as much as the British Empire, as a primary definer of Canadian territory and--with its emphasis on stamina, survival, and deference to authority--a shaping influence on national character. 

These books deepen an appreciation for the dynamics that produced the Canada we know today, the impacts of European enterprise and competition on indigenous peoples, and the vastness of this landscape.  Used copies are easily obtained online for a very reasonable price.




  
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Jimbo
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Re: Caesars of the Wilderness
Reply #1 - Jan 12th, 2020 at 6:53am
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All -

These  are highly recommended, reader-friendly treatments of those raucous couple centuries of  Canadian development driven by fur trade.  Peter C. Newman does a wonderful job of bringing larger-than-life personalities into sharp, memorable focus. This is history just as my favorite university professor used to teach it... through the colorful stories of the people that made it ( David Thompson, George Simpson, etc.).

These well-worn volumes have had a spot on my bookshelf for a long, long time. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover I recommended them in this forum many years ago.   If you enjoy reading about the adventures of that age, read these books!

I second OregonDave’s recommendation in the highest terms!

Jimbo  Cool
  
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Jimbo
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Re: Caesars of the Wilderness
Reply #2 - Jan 12th, 2020 at 7:06am
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Jimbo wrote on Jan 12th, 2020 at 6:53am:
All -

These  are highly recommended, reader-friendly treatments of those raucous couple centuries of  Canadian development driven by fur trade.  Peter C. Newman does a wonderful job of bringing larger-than-life personalities into sharp, memorable focus. This is history just as my favorite university professor used to teach it... through the colorful stories of the people that made it ( David Thompson, George Simpson, etc.).

These well-worn volumes have had a spot on my bookshelf for a long, long time. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover I recommended them in this forum many years ago.   If you enjoy reading about the adventures of that age, read these books!

I second OregonDave’s recommendation in the highest terms!

Jimbo  Cool


Ok, so I found an ancient discussion of these books from back in 2003 (see: (You need to Login or Register to view media files and links) ).  Apparently, in yet another discussion, I once characterized these books as "historical fiction."  Well, as mentioned earlier, Peter C. Newman's accounts ARE "colorful."  I suspect he has "fleshed in" some of the blank spots with respect to the details & conversations he reconstructs.  Nevertheless, like good historical fiction, the narrative is strongly rooted in fact. I have little doubt that, as "histories", they are quite faithful to events as they actually transpired... and they are anything but dry!

Jimbo   Cool
  
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