Commerce by a Frozen Sea is a cross-cultural study of a century of contact between North American native peoples and Europeans. During the eighteenth century, the natives of the Hudson Bay lowlands and their European trading partners were brought together by an increasingly popular trade in furs, destined for the hat and fur markets of Europe. Native Americans were the sole trappers of furs, which they traded to English and French merchants. The trade gave Native Americans access to new European technologies that were integrated into Indian lifeways. What emerges from this detailed exploration is a story of two equal partners involved in a mutually beneficial trade.
Drawing on more than seventy years of trade records from the archives of the Hudson's Bay Company, economic historians Ann M. Carlos and Frank D. Lewis critique and confront many of the myths commonly held about the nature and impact of commercial trade. Extensively documented are the ways in which natives transformed the trading environment and determined the range of goods offered to them. Natives were effective bargainers who demanded practical items such as firearms, kettles, and blankets as well as luxuries like cloth, jewelry, and tobacco—goods similar to those purchased by Europeans. Surprisingly little alcohol was traded. Indeed, Commerce by a Frozen Sea shows that natives were industrious people who achieved a standard of living above that of most workers in Europe. Although they later fell behind, the eighteenth century was, for Native Americans, a golden age.
Introduction: Native Americans and Europeans in the Eighteenth-Century Fur Trade
1. Hats and the European Fur Market
2. The Hudson's Bay Company and the Organization of the Fur Trade
3. Indians as Consumers
4. The Decline of Beaver Populations
5. Industrious Indians
6. Property Rights, Depletion, and Survival
7. Indians and the Fur Trade: A Golden Age?
Epilogue. The Fur Trade and Economic Development
A. Fur Prices, Beaver Skins Traded, and the Simulated Beaver Population at Fort Albany, York Factory, and Fort Churchill, 1700-1763 189
B. Simulating the Beaver Population
C. A Model of Harvesting Large Game: Joint Ownership Versus Competition
D. Food and the Relative Incomes of Native Americans and English Workers
"A well-researched and deftly written economic history of the eighteenth-century fur trade."—Timothy Shannon, Gettysburg College
"Ann M. Carlos and Frank D. Lewis, economic historians with a flair for anthropology and ethnohistory, . . are interested in the enthusiastic involvement of Native Americans who 'chose to spend time in the fur trade in order to acquire' European goods. . . . What emerges from their fine-combing of records . . . is a portrait of sophisticated Indian traders and consumers who often called the shots. "—TLS
"Full of stimulating material."—TLS