What are social, political and economic effects of the HBC on the history of the Northwest?


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Mark Harley answered
The Hudson's Bay, abbreviated HBC, or "The Bay" is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world. A fur trading business for much of its existence, today Hudson's Bay Company owns and operates retail stores throughout Canada and HBC has had a huge effect on the northwest as we know it today. It was established by (1670) by Charles II of England in 1670 for the purpose of trade and settlement in the Hudson Bay region of North America and for exploration toward the discovery of the Northwest Asia. It began with the explorations of westerners Pierre Esprit Radisson and M├ędard Chouart, Sieur de Groseilliers, in the mid-seventeenth century. On trips into Wisconsin and Minnesota country, they learned from Native Americans of a great fur country northwest of Lake Superior that might be reached via Hudson Bay. This idea, linked with one of a probable northwest passage through Hudson Bay, led the Frenchmen to England in the middle 1660s.

The economic advantages of the fur trade were obviously huge as massive amounts of fur were then traded around the world, but it is often the political benefits of the fur trade that are considered more important. Trade was a way to forge alliances and maintain good relations between different cultures. The fur traders, men of social and financial standing, usually went to North America as young single men and used marriages as the currency of diplomatic ties, marriages and relationships between Europeans and First Nations/Native Americans became common. Their descendants of mixed European and Native American parentage developed their own language and culture. They have been recognized as an ethnic group in Canada changing society forever.

Because trade was so politically important, it was often heavily regulated in hopes of preventing abuse. Unscrupulous traders sometimes cheated natives by plying them with alcohol during the transaction, which subsequently aroused resentment and often resulted in violence.

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