Redressing the Minimal Representation of the North in Canadian Historiography: A Proposal to Examine the Structural Distinctiveness and Material Bases of Contests in the Maritime Workplace on Canada’s Historic Northern Seaboard, from 1670-1914

[The following is a draft of my Ph.D proposal, submitted as a final written step towards achieving permission to go ahead and do intensive research and devote time to writing up what the research led me to conclude. One aspect of such proposal writing that I found odd was that I was expected to write it as though I already knew what the outcome would be. So that is what I did, though it seems to me that good research ought to lead to conclusions. Going into a project merely to find evidence that supports a foregone conclusion is not what I think of as good historical research — though it might serve a debater well, or a lawyer.]



The State of the Problem

In 1883, Winnipeg journalist William Dennis addressed the Manitoba Historical and Scientific Society on the topic of potential sources and promising directions for developing a historiography about the Canadian North West (formerly Rupert’s Land). His remarks reflected a view that was commonplace in Southern and Central Canada. According to this view, the North was a region of “waste lands” and of little appreciable activity.[1] The region extended from the upper margin of the “fertile belt” of the Prairie West (about 54° north latitude), through to the Arctic (the lower boundary of which lies 66° 33′ 39″ north of the equator).[2] Dennis set an explicit caution before the society members:

While it might well come within the scope of the Society’s work to deal with works of travel and explorations in the Arctic regions, the field of literature in this department is so wide that we cannot undertake to touch it. Moreover, we do not wish it to be understood that Manitoba is so near the Arctic regions that we are specially bound to pay any particular attentions to the regions of eternal ice and snow.[3]

Dennis listed several published narratives of voyages in and about Hudson Bay, describing them as sufficiently descriptive of Northern navigation.[4]

Subsequently, Charles Napier Bell, a founding member of the society and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, countered Dennis’ view of the ice-bound North.[5] Bell argued that the volume of commercial voyaging in Hudson Bay clearly indicated that Northern waters were navigable for a greater part of the year than was commonly believed. He reasoned that the society ought to encourage Northern maritime historiography and thereby dispel misconceptions about the “icy character” of the North West (which he pointedly maintained were promulgated by “the press”). In the course of his argument Bell asserted that, aside from numerous other ventures in Hudson Bay, between 1789 and 1880, there had been “133 visits of vessels of the Hudson’s Bay Company, from England to York Factory.”[6] However, he observed, “accounts of the voyages of these vessels [are] wrapped in an envelope of misty vagueness.” In his opinion, books and manuscripts containing accounts of voyages to and from Rupert’s Land were either “too costly and rare to be found in ordinary libraries,” or remained the property of the Hudson’s Bay Company [HBC] and “could only be inspected in London.” It appeared to Bell that if any, among the “few,” who knew the whereabouts of existing records had perused them, then “that few seem to have kept their contents to themselves.” Bell closed with an expression of hope that the society would gather information about Northern maritime history and that “some of our people who have given the matter attention will give us the result of their study and observation.”[7] The publication lists of the society’s Transactions (which extend to 1979), indicate that no such results were forthcoming.[8]

Fully thirty years later, Isaac Cowie published a narrative of his experience as a HBC trader from 1867 to 1874.[9] He devoted four chapters to describing the ocean voyage from lading to landing – along the lines that popular writer Robert M. Ballantyne had done sixty-five years previously.[10] Cowie and Ballantyne detailed activities of passengers and crew at sea (Cowie included photographic plates of scenery), but neither of their books appear to have inspired critical historiographical assessment of their potential as records of Northern maritime workplace conditions or practice.

After Cowie’s contribution there is a marked absence of concerted historiographical attention paid to maritime activity over the seaward extension of Rupert’s Land.[11] I propose to address the problem of minimal representation of the North in Canadian historiography by studying workplace conditions and labour practices on Canada’s historic Northern seaboard. My proposal, which outlines the scope of my objectives, begins with an examination of previous works that touch on Northern mercantile shipping in Canadian historiography.


Carl Berger once linked the course of Canadian historiography to prevailing ‘climates of opinion.’[12] It may well be that intellectual trends within Canadian historiography account for a lack of attention paid to Northern history; to the merchant marine as an important aspect of Northern history; and to maritime labour conditions and practices as an aspect of Northern social history.

According to Berger’s analysis (which, incidentally, is in keeping with the findings of other scholars), founders and supporters of Canada as a state (particularly Anglophiles of Central Canada), deemed the new country deserving of a national historiography.[13] Compiling such a historiography was no small task. Ideally, it was to celebrate “Canadian nationhood” and inspire a consciousness of “continent-wide Canadian unity” sufficient to safeguard Canada-wide programs for economic progress.[14] Northern merchant marine activity was relegated to the margins of this historiographical endeavour (on the whole, Central Canadian nation-builders were not anxious to see water-borne shipping bypass the ports and canals of the St. Lawrence Seaway).

Historians, including Arthur S. Morton, Harold A. Innis, and Morris Zaslow (to cite only a few historians who wrote of, or for, the nation), who described Canada’s course of development, did refer to Northern and Arctic voyages of discovery and naval engagements, and observed that HBC merchant vessels made annual visits to the Bay. Sometimes, they made mention commercial whaling.[15] But, these maritime references and mentions were incidental to histories whose main focus lay elsewhere. There was far more interest in detailing the European impetus behind the search for a North-west Passage; the relation of the Rupert’s Land fur trade to development along the St. Lawrence; the course and effect of European wars and strategic offences launched in North America; and Southern and Central Canadian conceptions of latent economic opportunities (overwhelmingly land-based), waiting to be exploited in a Northern hinterland.[16]

The scant attention given to Northern maritime matters in Canadian national historiography provided no opportunity for extended consideration of maritime workers as social actors.[17] Typically, when historians of Canada alluded to Northern voyages, explorers and their ships were named, sea captains merited mention by name, but seafarers below the rank of master or commander figured as virtual cyphers.

Growing interest in social history in the 1970s, evident in the works of fur trade historians Sylvia Van Kirk, Jennifer S.H. Brown, and Carol M. Judd, marked a burgeoning of texts devoted to tracing historical, familial networks and describing social stratification in various communities of Rupert’s Land.[18] These newer works did not lead, however, to greater awareness of the importance of seafaring to the territory. Although Van Kirk, Brown, and Judd mention ships as vehicles of intercontinental communication that occasionally ferried passengers towards and away from ‘fur trade society,’ their works suggest that, for the most part, past actors aboard HBC ships were Orkneymen (Cowie’s memoir and archival documents notwithstanding).[19] As Van Kirk, Brown, and Judd do not question the conditions and practices of maritime labour, a reader of these Rupert’s Land social histories is left, much as before, with a ‘misty vagueness’ about activity aboard ship. Seafarers may have seen icebergs, or have been glad to arrive at their destinations, but a reader of these social histories will find the seafarer’s destinations in Hudson Bay described as land based “fort-like structures” or factories.[20] There is no suggestion that bayside locations such as York Factory at the Nelson and Hayes estuary, the Moose River Factory, or Prince of Wales’s Fort at the mouth of the Churchill River, might be described as ports. Or, that the social dynamic and behaviours displayed at “ship time” might resemble those that maritime historians, such as Judith Fingard and Valerie Burton, have described as common to ‘sailortowns.’[21] Perhaps there has been no suggestion that social histories within the historiography of seafaring might be examined for relevance to Rupert’s Land history simply because Northern ocean voyaging has been presented, since as early as 1883, as incidental to other, more pressing themes in Canadian historiography. As Berger put it, written history “is not an olympian record of past activity; [rather] it reveals a good deal about the intellectual climate in which it was composed.”[22]

Climates, however, change. In 2001, Kerry Abel and Ken S. Coates indicated as much in the course of introducing their edited collection of essays about past historiographical perspectives and present interest in expanding the scope of Northern historiography. They noted that W.L. Morton, as early as the 1960s, had argued, “the North was central to the story of Canada,” yet, they observed, “the North remains a marginal place in the nation’s understanding of its past.”[23] David Neufield, Mary-Ellen Kelm, and Shelagh D. Grant argued in the same volume that the majority of past actors living and working in the North have been marginalized. [24] In my opinion, those actors living and working off Northern shores have been doubly so, though a North-centred historiography, such as Abel, Coates et al call for could, in theory, address that oversight.

From my perspective – one situated by an interest in historical communication and seafaring — the foremost obstacle confronting historians of the Northern seaboard has been an intellectual climate in which the destination has been considered more important than the journey. Historiographically, people who traversed the “ocean sea” off Rupert’s Land are noticed for landward accomplishment and failure: they sighted land; they were marooned, starved or frozen to death on land; they brought Holy Writ to the land’s inhabitants; they traded for the land’s abundance and converted its produce to currency on land.[25] They got off ships and apparently, once landed, remained landed — ordering their landward societies and positioning themselves with respect to land ownership. I am not claiming that maritime activity on the “ocean arc” traversing Hudson Bay has been unjustly, or unproductively, relegated to the margins of Canadian historiography.[26] I am contending that the marginalization has lasted long enough. Canada, to this point in time, is a fact. The history of the state has innumerable and conscientious enthusiasts. The history of the nation is well debated by accomplished scholars. There is considerable interest in broadening the scope of Canadian historiography – J.L. Granatstein stands as a notable observer that Canadian social historians are ranging far afield indeed.[27] Not only is Canada inhabited with a critical mass of people sufficient to support historiography in areas previously deemed superfluous, the ecological climatic shift now underway has brought questions about the North to the forefront of political attention worldwide. Northern seas are changing. Seafaring on those seas needs to be understood. History is one available means of enlarging understanding.

Certainly, as I have indicated elsewhere, social histories by Canadian maritime historiographers who have examined maritime workers of the Eastern seaboard – for that matter, social histories within seafaring historiography as a whole — have demonstrated the value of thinking beyond shorelines.[28] What I find a striking feature of social histories of seafaring, however, is the silence surrounding the HBC route, ships, and labour force — the route does not even figure on maps which illustrate merchant marine activity traversing the ocean sea.[29] Nor is it a simple matter to find the HBC route – or the routes of whalers — charted elsewhere.[30] One of the objectives of my study is to address this lack of graphic representation by investigating Northern commercial seafaring routes. My research focus, however, is on past maritime workplace conditions and labour practices along the Northern Seaboard. On the basis of my examination of trends in Canadian historiography I believe that the purview of the social history of seafaring can be expanded, and, given recent calls to expand Northern Canadian historiography, that my proposal is a timely response to previous historiographical inattention.[31]

Research Objectives

My primary objective is to research the conditions and circumstances that historically circumscribed the maritime workforce on Canada’s Northern seaboard. The HBC was the largest incorporated employer in the region. My research design therefore follows inroads established by historiography about HBC labour practices.

Previous studies of the HBC workforce indicate that the company employed people native to Rupert’s Land in ever-increasing numbers as the fur trade expanded. A point noted by Innis and later elaborated upon by Arthur J. Ray, is that from the formalized beginning of the enterprise in 1670 the producers of the primary product – furs – were for all intents and purposes native-born North Americans.[32] In addition, according to Judd, John Nicks, and Edith I. Burley, by the 1830s at least one third of the formally contracted seasonal and permanent labour force was also made up of people native to North America. By 1850, the proportion had risen to one half.[33] Similarly, Glyndwr Williams has determined that by the 1860s about one third of the officer ranks of the Northern Department were filled by native-born individuals.[34] Burley contends that by 1870 workers born in Rupert’s Land “were in the majority there.”[35] Historians D.N. Sprague and R.P. Frye, and archivists Judith Hudson Beattie and Helen M. Buss, have documented what extended comments and passing references in numerous other sources attest: HBC employees native to Rupert’s Land were familiar with Company water craft, including inland, coastal, and ocean-going sailing vessels.[36] Beattie and Buss estimate that at least 17 percent of crew voyaging to the Columbia District between 1820 and 1857 were native to North America.[37] Historically, then, Northern North Americans contributed to the making of labour history, and, as in other maritime regions, Northern transoceanic shipping ceased to be the exclusive preserve of European workers.[38]

I will study conditions and practices which marked Northern mercantile shipping in Canadian history by directing my research through seafarers whose familial networks and ancestry traced to Rupert’s Land (in effect using them as a means to an end). The following interrelated considerations determine my decision. I am concerned that my study have relevance to Canadian historiography. In my view, it is through those who “ceased to be Europeans,” traced their ancestry to Rupert’s Land and maintained family and social ties to Northern North American communities – not through seafarers who resolutely remained Orkneymen (or Shetlanders, or Englanders, or Norwegians etc.) – that the history of becoming Canadian is more likely to be illuminated.[39] Additionally, in my determination, the nature of the records I will be researching demands accommodation if I am to make optimal use of their “determinate properties.”[40] Lastly, I have a practical concern: the volume of the records accessed must be managed. In the following pages I detail more fully the last two considerations with reference to the first.

Theoretical Bases and Methodological Approach

The historiographical context for my research is defined in relation to Canadian physical geography as Northern. The theory and methodology informing my research is not. Where possible, I adapt existing theory and method to suit my specific historical problem and the problems my specific sources present. Where necessary, I devise new solutions. In all cases, my preference is to draw on the insights of historians — principally Innis, E. P. Thompson, and Eric W. Sager.

Sager has raised the issue of provenance to point out that, because maritime records were generated in institutional contexts, researchers are faced with a significant problem. Sager asks: “how do we deal with the bias inherent in documents that describe certain people in words and categories that serve the official purposes of other people?”[41] Here he broaches a problem I have discussed elsewhere: fur trade historians attempting to order and describe the various socio-cultural groups that mingled in the HBC labour force over time, have encountered the problem of naming.[42] As I have argued previously, the cumulative result of dealing with the problem by devising idiosyncratic and ahistoric typologies has been a historiography off-course and circling in the misty vagueness of ‘identity.’ To avoid launching into the same dilemma, I have developed an alternate approach to analysing labour conditions in Rupert’s Land: shifting the historiographical focus from identity per se to an appreciation of the utility of regarding identity as a signal of contest.[43]

My approach stresses the importance of a more precise theoretical discussion of identity than may be found in the current historiography – Northern or otherwise. I am, therefore, relying on findings arrived at through my own preparatory work. In previous papers I have problematized identity as a concept and as a means of delineating categories of analysis. Past and present ideas about identity were examined for consistency, incommensurability and historiographical utility through surveying literature about identity from a wide range of academic disciplines and theoretical perspectives. I have demonstrated that terminological imprecision regarding identity in academic writing and popular vernacular compromises communication, inhibits constructive debate, and constrains historical investigation. The importance of distinguishing between how insiders construct their identity (avowal), and how outsiders construct that identity (ascription), has also been established. To my mind, my most significant finding was that the complex pattern generated by disagreements and discrepancies surrounding identity as term and concept obscures a very simple association: contest is the one constant underlying all discussions of identity. Avowing or ascribing an identity is simply claiming or proclaiming differences between parties engaged in a contest. The contest may be over control of territory, land use, and resources; control of populations, workers, and family members; or, control of knowledge, ideology, and discourse.

When it comes to the issue of identity, I have found the problem with studies which assume that identity is a definable variable in and of itself to be that attention is diverted from the underlying contests. The very existence of these contests may in fact be concealed: an effect (identity formation) being mistaken for cause (contest). However, recognizing past assertions of difference (negotiating identity) as surface signals of deeper contests allows sites of contest to be located temporally and spatially. Using historical method, contexts in which differences have been articulated can be studied to uncover the structural distinctiveness and material bases of underlying contests.[44] Following E.P. Thompson, my basic premise is that the examination of change and continuity in contests over time and space is an examination of historical process – the point of “best practice” historiography.[45]

The centrality of communication to identity formation is another point that informs my analysis. Because communication is a key concept implicit in his work, again I find turning to Thompson instructive.[46] Implicit in The Making of the English Working Class, for example, is a demonstration that understanding how communication was actively effected by people in the past is central to understanding outcomes. Without communication there could not have been consciousness of community. Nor could class have been made and modified over time. Hegemony would have been impossible – as a concept or as a lived experience. Contest could not have taken place: neither could competition nor cooperation result. What I take from Thompson and Sager is that it is critically important to recognize that both the way communication of experience takes place and the way communication of experience is embedded or elided in sources determine what a historian can say about evidence, how a historian can make use of evidence and why, at any given moment, evidence may or may not be accepted as sufficient to carry an argument.[47]

It is also my contention that consideration of communication helps underscore the importance of the spatial dimension to historiography. Throughout the study I am proposing, time is accorded utmost significance in that it is regarded as a determinant: it set limits to what was and was not possible with respect to Northern voyaging. This distinguishes my study from works which follow theoretical avenues opened by geographers and anthropologists for whom time functions merely as a backdrop on which to position instances and illustrations.[48] This does not mean that I present space, location, and place as historically inconsequential. On the contrary, the early exchange between Dennis and Bell, the insights of Innis regarding the relation of space and time to communication, and the more recent discussions of Coates, William R. Morrison, and Bill Waiser make it clear that location and distance have been significant elements in the history and historiography of the North in Canada.[49] My study will confirm that when considering historical contingency, because affecting identity is dependant on effecting communication, location is profoundly significant.

Nevertheless, the location of the HBC sea lanes had significance beyond what proximity to ‘ice and snow’ portended for seafarers. Sailors were active communicators, speaking, singing, and swashing their way from place to place.[50] As Sager observes, their ships were vehicles of communication, carrying cargo but bearing “technology and culture as well.”[51] The records generated to survey sailors and their ships, and conveyed with sailors on their ships, are also vehicles of communication; made in specific times and places to address specific issues. They spoke to – and can still be heard addressing – “the construction of administrative knowledge, administrative systems, and the relations of knowledge/power underlying the development of nation-states.”[52] In 1670 the HBC established its shipping north of the North Atlantic lanes travelled by similar vested interests of the merchant marine. In accessing Northern North Atlantic sea lanes, the company was uniquely privileged relative to other similar vested interests — British or otherwise.[53] By 1857 the relation of the HBC to the British state and Board of Trade differed fundamentally from that of any other contemporary company.[54] The concerns of the HBC and of the Board of Trade were not identical and their respective records reflect their differences; the classification systems devised by each to address specific contests differed — over time and one from the other. Their records differed as to how identities were ascribed to, and avowed by, seafarers (whether one was a master, a sailor, a shipwright, a working or paying passenger; whether John Slater was or was not John W. Slater; whether either was identified as having a place of origin in the British Isles; whether that placement could be confirmed against parish records, etc.). Following Innis, and incorporating supporting findings of researchers such as Sager, James Duncan, and David Ley, I regard the formal and informal typologies devised in the course of traversing and attempting to master maritime space – including Northern maritime space — and applied in texts ranging from commercial records to personal correspondence, as overtly marking covert attempts to secure ‘monopolies of knowledge’ that would master the dimension of time.[55] Different sailors responded to attempts to limit identities ascribed in official typologies by making use of different opportunities for avowal – they might use an alias, assert different geographical origins, or leave interrogative cells in official forms blank.[56] Or, like Cowie, they might generate their own systems of typology and thereby contest the ordering of knowledge.[57]

My point is that seafarers who traced their familial networks and ancestry to Rupert’s Land and sailed for the HBC engaged in different contests than those who sailed elsewhere. I intend to demonstrate the thesis that the study of structural distinctiveness and material bases of contests in the maritime workplace on Canada’s historic Northern seaboard affirms the centrality of communication, space, and time to social history.

The practical concern behind my decision to narrow my inquiry by directing my research through seafarers who traced their familial networks and ancestry to Rupert’s Land stems from the problem of a “superabundance of records.”[58] Michael Payne notes that “The Hudson’s Bay Company Archives … are reputed to be the second largest private, nongovernmental archival collection in the world,” and Sager points out that the Maritime History Archives “constitute the largest archive of maritime records in the English-speaking world.”[59] Burley and Sager attest to the impossibility of examining all of the material in each collection.[60] Because I am interested in contributing a study with relevance to Canadian historiography; a study which includes past people who were contributors to the process of becoming Canadian (entirely without their knowing, and only in historiographical retrospect), my solution is to use these North Americans to direct my selection of documents.

The first constituent part of the research I need to engage in involves compiling a list of known seafarers, whose ancestry traced to Rupert’s Land, from published primary and secondary sources. A list of key sources is supplied in Appendix A. Individual histories of these seafarers will be examined where possible through biographical and autobiographical texts. From these sources, I will compile individual work histories. Some seafarers figure relatively prominently in a number of sources: Moses Norton, Captain Colin Sinclair, Captain William Kennedy, and Ranald MacDonald for example. I have found references to seafarers of less renown in texts surveyed for this proposal – for example in Cowie’s narrative and the Beattie and Buss collection.[61] I have also noticed, through preliminary searches, that if there is one seafaring member in a familial network there are likely to be more.[62] Searchable online resources such as the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives Biographical Sheets, the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Early Canadiana Online, and the LDS genealogical data base expedite the process of finding seafaring relatives.[63] I will include information on family networks in each work history. Cowie’s observations on the HBC approach to manning vessels (observations supported by an exchange of letters between Thomas Douglas, Fifth Earl of Selkirk and his agent, Miles MacDonell), also expands the number of people who may be considered as having had seafaring experience. Apparently individuals contracted for service in Rupert’s Land, and prospective settlers, worked their passage.[64] My research will determine whether “landsman duties” were required of passengers travelling in the opposite direction – young men and women being sent to be educated in Britain for example.[65]

The second constituent part of the research I need to engage in involves using data from the work histories (such as names and dates), to guide selection of archived primary documents for examination. The three interactive databases published in CD form by the Atlantic Canada Shipping Project undertaken by the Maritime History Group, Memorial University, are useful for tracking known seafarers and searching and sorting data related to their experience.[66] The activities of those found in the project – for example Captain Alexander Slater and son John — can be traced in documents about the North Atlantic region (in some instances extending to the North Pole), preserved in the Maritime History Archive. There are shipping records, including crew lists and logbooks, vessel registers, and shipping lists.[67] There are also record series and sources containing information on ship captains, voyages and shipwrecks.

Pertinent primary sources located in the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives and the Archives of Manitoba include mercantile records and correspondence.[68] Manuscripts written by and about people involved in transoceanic trade and travel are also available. The collection of archived material pertaining to maritime shipping is extensive. The HBC composed and kept on file: “Servants’ Lists” from 1774-1841; “Servants’ Contracts” from 1780-1900; and “Characters and Accounts of Servants Retiring to Europe” from 1818-1884. Along with “Post Journals” and “Account Books” for ports of call such as York Factory on Hudson’s Bay and Moose Factory on James Bay, there are “Ships’ Logs” and “Books of Ships’ Movements” for 1719-1929, “Seaman’s Wages and Portledge Books” for 1726-1915, and “Ships’ Miscellaneous Papers” covering 1695-1972.[69]

Having selected shipping records, I will then examine those records for: typologies; changes in typologies; and differences in typologies (between the HBC and merchant concerns elsewhere for example).[70] The objective, of analyzing categories of inclusion and exclusion and instances where ascription and avowal diverged, is to formulate questions that lead to the paramount, constituent part of my research: uncovering the underlying material bases and structural nature of the contests, embedded in the documents, which shaped seafaring experience and marked maritime workplaces on Canada’s historic Northern Seaboard. Much of my work at this stage will include checking statements scattered throughout first person narratives and secondary sources against archival records. Because no prior study of the Northern maritime workplace has been published, my study is heavily dependent on primary documents and is principally exploratory (hypothesis finding), rather than confirmatory (theory testing).[71]

I anticipate organizing my findings to accommodate an outline of the history of HBC shipping along the Northern Seaboard, touching on large-scale contests such as warfare with France, competition from Moravian shipping in Labrador, the maritime dimension of the ‘trade war’ with Montreal merchants, and Parliamentary Inquiries.[72] Technology will be discussed, covering changes in Northern communication such as: in hiring, purchasing, and custom-building ships; the transition from sail to steam; and innovations ranging from “patent-reefing topsails,” to printed forms, to low temperature ink.[73] An examination of routes will detail HBC shipping lanes: from London through Hudson Strait and coastal courses, though preliminary work indicates that a cursory mention of the Pacific route will have to suffice. There is enough material that a separate study is warranted if a usefully detailed study of Hudson Bay shipping is to be completed within years rather than decades.[74] Attention will be paid to detailing the variety of seafarers as individuals and as representative of various social groups — officers, crew, passengers, men, women and children — and to describing any changes in ‘shipboard society.’[75] Social capital will be examined through tracing: family networks, employment, and advancement within the HBC; the formation of transoceanic communities; and social dynamics between ship and shore.[76] What turning to seafaring represented as wider economic prospects and contexts changed, [77] what sorts of contracts structured the workplace, and what types demands were made of seafarers circumscribed circumstances encountered aboard ship will be examined as well.[78] Bringing the material bases and structural distinctiveness of seafaring circumstances to light will show how “conscious efforts” were made to cope with and overcome the conditions maritime workers faced.[79] Throughout, the question of whether there were consequences,” to “social being’s impingement upon social consciousness” — in other words to finding out what people did with what had been done to them in the course of sailing to and from Hudson Bay; and what this activity meant with respect to maintaining, or losing, the Northern maritime workplace.[80]


Propositionally, the significance of my proposed thesis lies in its theoretical and methodological solutions to problems evident in previous historiography: the marginalization of the maritime North in Canadian historiography, terminological and conceptual ambiguity in historiography about people of Rupert’s Land, and the impossibility of a single researcher subjecting massive archival bases to document-by-document analysis. Ultimately, by delineating the specificity of contests which concerned seafaring labour on Canada’s historic Northern seaboard with an eye to understanding the relation of force/coercion to agency/resistance in that location, my study broadens the purview of the social history of seafaring. In addition to describing a maritime workplace in Canada’s past that has not received prior historiographical attention, and an important aspect of a Canadian region that has not received adequate historiographical attention, I will be describing historical process in a way that restores historiographical attention where Innis, and more recently, Gerald Friesen, have argued a sharp focus is crucial to Canadian historiography: a concern with communication, space, and time.[81] My study of structural distinctiveness and material bases of contests in the maritime workplace on Canada’s historic Northern seaboard will be a timely and cogent affirmation of the centrality of communication, space, and time to social history.

[1] W.L. Morton, ed., “Appendix II: Section 30, The Manitoba Act,” Manitoba: The Birth of a Province (Winnipeg: Manitoba Record Society Publications, 1965), 258.

[2] J. Arthur Lower, Western Canada: An Outline History (Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1983), 104.

[3] William Dennis, “The Sources of North-Western History,” Transactions of the Manitoba Historical and Scientific Society, no. 6, First Series (read 1883).

[4] See Appendix A, Bibliography, Primary Sources, Books, this proposal, for Arthur Dobbs, Henry Ellis, Joseph Robson, M. de Bacqueville de la Pothrie and M. Jérémie.

[5] Charles N. Bell, “Navigation of Hudson Bay and Straits,” Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba Transactions, no. 7, First Series (read 1883). See also R.G. Moyles, and Doug Owram, Imperial Dreams and Colonial Realities, British views of Canada, 1880-1914 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), who confirm Bell’s complaint about contemporary popular (mis)conceptions about North American locations.

[6] Bell, “Navigation,” further along in his presentation, noted (without specifying a period), that “over 730 voyages have been made into the Hudson Bay through the much-advertised-as-being-dreadful straits.” Michael F. Dove, “Voyages to Rupert’s Land: The Hudson’s Bay Company’s Maritime Component, 1670-1770,” in Selected Papers of Rupert’s Land Colloquium 2002, compiled by David G. Malaher (Winnipeg: Centre for Rupert’s Land Studies, 2002), 27, finds that from 1668-1770 there were 256 voyages.

[7] Bell, “Navigation of Hudson Bay and Straits,” may be referring to John Rae, “The Arctic Regions and Hudson’s Bay Route,” Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba Transactions, no. 2, First Series (read 1882), who was the first, and perhaps last, individual with personal knowledge of seafaring in the North to present findings to the Manitoba Historical and Scientific Society.

[8] Edward C. Shaw, “Captain William Kennedy – An Extraordinary Canadian,” Manitoba Historical Society Transactions, no. 27, Third Series (1970-71 season), the only presenter to subsequently broach seafaring history in Transactions, expressed some bewilderment as to apparent historiographical disinterest in seafarers who were native to Canada.

[9] Isaac Cowie, The Company of Adventurers: A Narrative of Seven Years in the Service of

the Hudson’s Bay Company during 1867-1874, On the Great Buffalo Plains with Historical and Biographical notes and comment (Toronto: William Briggs, 1913), 67-100.

[10] Robert M. Ballantyne, Hudson’s Bay, or, Every-day life in the wilds of North America: During six years’ residence in the territories of the honourable Hudson’s Bay Company (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood, 1848), 1-25.

[11] “The Royal Charter for incorporating the Hudson’s Bay Company A.D. 1670,” quoted in George F.G. Stanley, The Birth of Western Canada: A History of the Riel Rebellions (London: Longmans Green and Company, 1936; reprint, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978), 3, lists the original HBC maritime holdings as including “all those Seas, Streightes, Bayes, Rivers, Lakes, Creekes and Soundes in whatsoever Latitude they shall bee, that lie within the entrance of the Streightes, commonly called Hudsons Streightes” [sic].

[12] Carl Berger, The Writing of Canadian History: Aspects of English-Canadian Historical Writing since 1900 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986), ix. Reference to intellectual climate was popularized by Carl Becker, The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1932), 5, in which he asserts the phrase “climate of opinion” is traceable to the 17th century. Following Becker’s usage, the phrase is meant to underscore the point that intellectual trends change over time; historians can only make sense of arguments put forward in the past if the past intellectual context is understood; misleading results accrue to attempts to understand past pronouncements in light of present opinion.

[13] On nationalism and suggestions as to the impetus to create nationalist historiography in general, see Guntram H. Herb, and David H. Kaplan, eds., Nested Identities: Nationalism, Territory, and Scale (Lanham MD.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999); also Umut Özkirimli, Theories of Nationalism: A Critical Introduction (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000); Hastings Donnan, and Thomas M. Wilson, eds., Borders: frontiers of identity, nation and state (Oxford: Berg, 1999); and James Duncan, and David Ley, eds., Place/Culture/Representation (New York: Routledge, 1993). See also Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, revised edition (London: Verso Press, 1991); and Eric Hobsbawm, and Terence Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983). On the championing of nationalist sentiment in published form in early Canada, see M. Brook Taylor, Promoters, Patriots, and Partisans: Historiography in Nineteenth-Century English Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989); and Doug Owram, Promise of Eden: The Canadian Expansionist Movement and the Image of the West, 1856-1900 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980). On the origins of nationalist historiography as professionalized discourse in Canada, see Donald Wright, The Professionalization of History in English Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005); Lyle Dick, “The Seven Oaks Incident and the Construction of a Historical Tradition, 1816 to 1970,” in Making Western Canada: Essays on Colonization and Settlement, ed. Catherine Cavanaugh, and Jeremy Mouat (Toronto: Garamond Press, 1996), 1-30; also Berger, The Writing of Canadian History, ix, 2-8, 11, 32-34, 38, 54-55, 112-114, 137-161, 215, 221, 223, 228-229; Ronald Rudin, Making History in Twentieth-Century Quebec (Toronto:  University of Toronto Press, 1997); and Marcel Trudel, Mémoires d’un autre siècle (Éditions du Boréal, 1987; published in English as, Memoirs of a Less Travelled Road, trans. Jane Brierly, Montréal: Véhicule Press, 2002).

[14] W.L. Morton, The Canadian Identity, 2d ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972), 88; J.M.S. Careless, Canada: A Story of Challenge, revised ed. (Toronto: Macmillan, 1970), v.

[15] Arthur S. Morton, A History of the Canadian West to 1870-71, Being a History of Rupert’s Land (The Hudson’s Bay Company Territory) and of the North-West Territory (Including the Pacific Slope) (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1939); Harold A. Innis, The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History, revised ed. (1956; reprint, with revised foreword, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970); Morris Zaslow, The Opening of the Canadian North, 1870-1914 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1971).

[16] See also histories that focus on the aborted Hudson Bay Railroad.

[17] See also Canadian Nautical Research Society, <;, 15 February 2006, and index to The Northern Mariner/le Marin du Nord, vols. 1-14 (1991-2004), , 15 February 2006; The North American Society for Oceanic History, <http://www.>, and nasoh/nasoh%20hattendorf%20comments.htm>, 15 February 2006; and Maritime History and Naval Heritage, website, , 15 February 2006: Historians specializing in exploration or in naval history demonstrate an awareness of the Far North within their fields (which may be considered subfields of ‘oceanic history’). However, the Canadian Northern Seaboard is by no mean a predominant area of interest in the fields of exploration and naval history. Those historians interested in Far Northern voyaging tend to research a specific explorer, vessel, or battle, or to describe patterns of accumulating knowledge about, and suzerainty over, Arctic waterways and adjacent land masses. See, for recent examples, Peter Steele, The Man Who Mapped the Arctic: The Intrepid Life of George Back, Franklin’s Lieutenant (Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2003); James P. Delgado, Arctic Workhorse: The RCMP Schooner St. Roch, (Victoria BC.: Touchwood Editions, 2002); Robert A. Bartlett, The Karluk’s Last Voyage: An Epic of Death and Survival in the Arctic (Anchorage AK.: Cooper Square Publishers, 2001); James McDermott, Martin Frobisher: Elizabethan privateer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001); Robert McGhee, The Arctic voyages of Martin Frobisher: an Elizabethan venture (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001); Jennifer Niven, The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk and the Miracuous Rescue of her Survivors (New York: Theia, 2000); Harold B. Gill, and Joanne Young, eds., Searching for the Franklin Expedition: The Arctic Journal of Robert Randolph Carter (Annapolis MD.: Naval Institute Press, 1998); Fridtjof Nansen, Farthest North: the Incredible Three-Year Voyage to the Frozen Latitudes of the North (La Vergne, TN: Lightening Source, 1997); and Donald S. Johnson, Charting the sea of darkness: the four voyages of Henry Hudson (Camden ME.: International Marine, 1993). Overall, in exploration and naval histories, the ‘social’ and the ‘cultural’ are addressed at the national or biographical scale – rather than at the scale of the workplace.

[18] Sylvia Van Kirk, “Many Tender Ties”: Women in Fur-Trade Society in Western Canada, 1670-1870 (Winnipeg: Watson and Dwyer Publishing, 1980); Jennifer S.H. Brown, Strangers in Blood: Fur Trade Company Families in Indian Country (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1980); Carol M. Judd, and Arthur J. Ray, eds., Old Trails and New Directions: Papers of the Third North American Fur Trade Conference (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980); Carol M. Judd, “Native Labour and Social Stratification in the Hudson’s Bay Northern Department, 1770-1870,” Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 17 (1980): 305-314; Carol M. Judd, “Mixed Bloods of Moose Factory, 1730-1981: A Socio-Economic Study,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 6, no. 2 (1982): 65-88.

[19] Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 70; Archives of Manitoba [AM], MG2 A1, Selkirk Papers, “Miles MacDonell to the Earl of Selkirk,” 1 Oct. 1811, 42-49.

[20] Brown, Strangers in Blood, xii.

[21] Dove, “Voyages to Rupert’s Land,” 22. Judith Fingard, Jack in Port: Sailortowns of Eastern Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982); Valerie Burton, “‘Whoring, Drinking Sailors’: Reflections on Masculinity from the Labour History of Nineteenth-century British Shipping,” in Working out gender:  perspectives from labour history, ed. Margaret Walsh (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999), 84-101; Valerie Burton, “Boundaries and identities in the nineteenth-century English port: sailortown narratives and urban space,” in Identities in Space: Contested Terrains in the Western City since 1850, ed. Janet Gunn, and Robert J. Morris (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001), 137-151. See also Frits Pannekoek, “‘Corruption’ at Moose,” The Beaver; Magazine of the North (spring, 1979): 4-11; and Michael Payne, The Most Respectable Place in the Territory: Everyday Life in Hudson’s Bay Company Service – York Factory, 1788 to 1870 (Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 1989).

[22] Berger, Writing of Canadian History, ix.

[23] Kerry Abel, and Ken S. Coates, “Introduction: The North and the Nation,” in Northern Visions: New Perspectives in Canadian History, ed. Kerry Abel, and Ken S. Coates (Peterborough ON.: Broadview Press, 2001), 8. See also W.L. Morton, “The ‘North’ in Canadian History,” Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada 7, fourth series (1970): 40; Richard Diubaldo “The North in Canadian History: An Outline,” Fram: The Journal of Polar Studies 1, no. 1 (1984): 187; Ken Coates, “The Rediscovery of the North: Toward a Conceptual Framework for the Study of the North/Northern Regions,” The Northern Review 12, no. 13 (summer/winter 1994): 15-43.

[24] David Neufield, “Parks Canada and the Commemoration of the North: History and Heritage,” in Northern Visions, 45-76; Mary-Ellen Kelm, “Change, Continuity, Renewal: Lessons from a Decade of Historiography on the First Nations of the Territorial North,” in Northern Visions, 77-90; Shelagh D. Grant, “Inuit History in the Next Millennium: Challenges and Rewards,” in Northern Visions, 91-106.

[25] See Martin W. Lewis, “Dividing the Ocean Sea,” The Geographic Review 89, no. 2 (April, 1999): 204, 207, 208, on the history of naming nautical space.

[26] Ibid.

[27] J.L. Granatstein, Who Killed Canadian History? (Toronto: HarperCollins, 1998); see also Gerald Friesen, Citizens and nation: An essay on history, communication, and Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), who seeks a ‘middle ground’ between national and social historiography.

[28] See Norma J. Hall, “Admitting Enigmatic Identities: Towards studying Métis participation in Transatlantic Shipping as an aspect of North American Aboriginal History from 1815-1914,” History 7000, Department of History, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 13 December 2004.

[29] For example, see Eric W. Sager, Seafaring Labour: The Merchant Marine of Atlantic Canada, 1820-1914 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1989), 19; and Marcus Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700-1750 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 22-23.

[30] See R. Louis Gentilcore, ed., Historical Atlas of Canada, vol. 2 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993): Rosemary Ommer, Plate 39, “Ships and Shipping, 1863-1914,” does not include HBC shipping, David A. Sutherland, Plate 43, “International Trade to 1891,” supplies only an abstract indication that Northern shipping took place, D. Wayne Moodie, Barry Kaye, and Victor Lytwyn, Plate 17, “The Fur Trade Northwest to 1870,” and Thomas McIlwraith, Plate 27, “Linking Canada, 1867-1891,” only imply maritime shipping in the North, see also John H. Wadland, and Margaret Hobbs, Plate 1, “Images of Canada,” who map Charles Horetzky’s route through Hudson Strait and Bay, and Richard Ruggles, Plate 2 “Exploration to Mid-Century,” and, Plate 3, “Exploration and Assessment to 1891,” who maps the sea routes of explorers. John Warkentin, and Richard R. Ruggles, eds., “A Section from Luke Foxe’s Map of the North Part of America. 1635,” and “The Platt of Sayling [sic] for the Discovery of a Passage Into the South Sea. 1633,” Manitoba Historical Atlas: A Selection of Facsimile Maps, Plans, and Sketches from 1612 to 1969 (Winnipeg: The Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba, 1970), 27, chart the routes of only two voyages of discovery. Quentin H. Stanford, Canadian Oxford World Atlas, 5th ed. (Don Mills ON.: Oxford University Press, 2003), Plate 32, “Canada: Exploration,” likewise maps the routes of explorers, but not merchant or whaling voyages in Hudson Bay. Pierre Burton, The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the North West Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909 (New York: Penguin Books, 1988), supplies maps for 44 different exploratory voyages. Peter C. Newman, Company of Adventurers, Vol. I, The Story of the Hudson’s Bay Company (New York: Penguin Books, 1985), Company of Adventurers, Vol II, Caesars of The Wilderness (New York: Penguin Books, 1987), and Company of Adventurers, Vol. III (New York: Penguin, 1991), supplies only one map which charts a voyage; not a HBC commercial route but one of Christopher Middleton’s voyages of exploration, c.1740. For references to whaling, but no maps, see Bell, “Navigation of Hudson Bay and Straits”; Randall R. Reeves, and Edward Mitchell, “White Whale Hunting in Cumberland Sound,” The Beaver: Magazine of the North (winter, 1981): 42-49; Randall R. Reeves, “Bottlenose Whaling in the Arctic, Part I: The Scots,” The Beaver: Magazine of the North (winter, 1983): 46-51; Randall R. Reeves, “Bottlenose Whaling in the Arctic, Part II: The Norwegians,” The Beaver: Magazine of the North (spring, 1984): 52-55; and William R. Morrison, Showing the Flag: The Mounted Police and Canadian Sovereignty in the North, 1894-1925 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1985).

[31] Historians surveyed who are optimistic regarding prospects for Northern historiography include: Linda M. Ambrose, “Our Last Frontier: Imperialism and Northern Canadian Rural Women’s Organizations,” Canadian Historical Review 86, no. 2 (June, 2005), 258 and n. 5; Gerard Kenney, Ships of Wood and Men of Iron: A Norwegian-Canadian Saga of Exploration in the High Arctic (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Centre, 2004); Dove, “Voyages to Rupert’s Land,” 17 n. 8; Bruce Hodgins, “Reflections on a Career of Northern Travelling, Teaching, Writing, and Reading,” in Northern Visions, 177-178; while Shelagh D. Grant, “Arctic Historiography: Current Status and Blueprints for the Future,” SSHARE (10 December, 1997), cached at < com/articles/nsaward.htm>, 9 Feb. 2006, has reservations.

[32] Innis, Fur Trade, 392; Arthur J. Ray, Indians in the Fur Trade: Their Role as Hunters, Trappers, and Middlemen in the Lands Southwest of Hudson Bay, 1670-1870 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974; reprint with new introduction, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998).

[33] Judd, “Native Labour,” 310, 311; and John Nicks, “Orkneymen in the HBC, 1780-1821,” in Old Trails and New Directions, 123; Edith I. Burley, Servants of the Honourable Company: Work, Discipline, and Conflict in the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1770-1879 (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1997), 8.

[34] Glyndwr Williams, “The Simpson Era,” The Beaver: Magazine of the North, Special Issue (autumn, 1983): 55.

[35] Burley, Servants of the Honourable Company, 8.

[36] D.N. Sprague, and R.P. Frye, The Genealogy of the First Metis Nation: The Development and Dispersal of the Red River Settlement, 1820-1900 (Winnipeg: Pemmican Publications, 1983); Judith Hudson Beattie, and Helen M. Buss, eds., Undelivered Letters to Hudson’s Bay Company Men on the Northwest Coast of America, 1830-57 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2003); for additional examples, see also Dennis F. Johnson, Inland Armada – The York Boats of the Hudson’s Bay Company (Selkirk MB.: Lower Fort Garry Volunteer Association, 2005); Burley, Servants of the Honourable Company, 6-7; Rae, “Arctic Regions”; Shaw, “Captain William Kennedy”; Cowie, Company of Adventurers; Barbara A. Johnson, “Story of a Fur Trader,” Manitoba Pageant 4, no. 2 (Jan. 1959); Ranald MacDonald, Ranald MacDonald: The Narrative of his early life on the Columbia under the Hudson’s Bay Company’s regime; of his experiences in the Pacific Whale Fishery; and of his great Adventure to Japan; with a sketch of his later life on the Western Frontier, 1824-1894 (1923; reprint with foreword and afterword, ed. William S. Lewis, and Naojiro Murakami, Oregon: Oregon Historical Society, 1993); W.J. Healy, Women of Red River, Being a Book Written from the Recollections of Women Surviving from the Red River Era (Winnipeg: Women’s Canadian Club, 1923); AM MG 14, B 30, file no. 38, “Colin Robertson Sinclair, Estate, 1898-1903.”

[37] Beattie and Buss, Undelivered Letters, 13.

[38] James M. Blaut, The Colonizer’s Model of the World: geographical diffusionism and Eurocentric history (New York: Guilford Press, 1993), 166-173; and Frank Viviano, “China’s Great Armada,” National Geographic 208, no. 1 (July, 2005), make the point that in some regions, European-born workers did not predominate in maritime shipping. See also Jeffrey Bolster, Black Jacks: African American seamen in the age of sail (Cambridge MA.: Harvard University Press, 1998), 2; Margaret S. Creighton, and Lisa Norling, “Introduction,” in Iron Men. Wooden Women: Gender and Seafaring in the Atlantic World, 1700-1920, ed. Margaret S. Creighton, and Lisa Norling (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1996), xiii; Laura Tabili, “We ask for British justice”: Workers and racial difference in late imperial Britain (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), 2; Sager, Seafaring Labour, 10-11; Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, 80, 156 and n. 7.

[39] John Bartlet Berbner, North Atlantic Triangle: the Interplay of Canada, the United States and Great Britain (New York: Columbia University Press, 1945; reprint, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1966), 32.


[40] E.P. Thompson, “The Poverty of Theory,” The Poverty of Theory & Other Essays (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978), 39.

[41] Sager, “Employment Contracts,” 49.

[42] E. J. Hobsbawm, “From Social History to the History of Society,” in Historical Studies Today, ed. F. Gilbert, and S. Graubard (New York: Norton, 1971): 11-12, notes that “problems of definition become very troublesome, as every student of the development of national societies or at least of nationalisms knows.” Paula S. Fass, “Cultural History/Social History: Some Reflections on a Continuing Dialogue,” Journal of Social History 37, no. 1, Special Issue: The Futures of Social History, ed. Peter N. Stearns, (fall, 2003): notes that cultural historians are critical of the social history of the 1970s for the categorization of individuals in preset groups.

[43] Norma J. Hall, “Interpreting Identity: A Case Study of Semantic Paradox in Red River Historiography,” History 7001, Department of History, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 7 April 2005; also Hall, “Admitting Enigmatic Identities.”

[44] Ibid. See also Laura Tabili, “Race is a Relationship, and not a Thing,” Journal of Social History 37, no. 1 (fall, 2003): 125-130; Patrick Wolfe, “Land, Labor, and Difference: Elemental Structures of Race,” American Historical Review 106, No. 3 (2001): 866-905; and Arthur J. Ray, “Constructing and Reconstructing Native History: A Comparative Look at the Impact of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights Claims in North America and Australia,” Native Studies Review 16, No. 1 (2005): 15-39.

[45] Neville Kirk, “History, Language, Ideas and Postmodernism: A Materialist View,” Social History 19, no. 2 (May, 1994): 222, 239; see also Thompson, “Poverty of Theory,” 40.

[46] See E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Vintage Books, 1963), 17, for example, Thompson opens by referring to the activity of corresponding societies.

[47] See Thompson, “Poverty of Theory,” 21, 22, 46, 168; Sager, “Employment Contracts,” 49-50, 56-57.

[48] See Duncan and Ley, Place/Culture/Representation; Herb and Kaplan, Nested Identities; and Donnan and Wilson, Borders.

[49] Harold A. Innis, The Bias of Communication (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1951; reprint, with new introduction, 1964); Ken S. Coates, and William R. Morrison, “Winter and the Shaping of Northern History: Reflections from the Canadian North,” in Northern Visions, 23-36; and Bill Waiser, “A Very Long Journey: Distance and Northern History,” in Northern Visions, 37-44.

[50] See John W. Froude, On the high seas: the diary of Capt. John W. Froude Twillingate, 1863-1939 (St. John’s NL.: Jesperson Press, 1983); and Bolster, Black Jacks.

[50] Sager, Seafaring Labour, 11. See also Innis, Bias of Communication.

[52] Sager, “Employment Contracts,” 50.

[53] “The Royal Charter,” Birth of Western Canada, 3; Morton, History of the Canadian West, 255; and, “Traite de paix entre la France et l’Angleterre: conclu à Utrecht le 11. avril, 1713,” Articles 10 and 11, 56-58, cached at , 1 December 2004.

[54] E. Ellice, quoted in Report From the Select Committee on the Hudson’s Bay Company; Together with the Proceedings of the Committee, Minutes of Evidence, Appendix and Index, 1857 (London: 1857), 328 no. 5824, notes that the HBC was “the last proprietary government in existence” – a status maintained to 1869.

[55] Innis, Bias of Communication, 4, 61-91; Duncan and Ley, Place/Culture/Representation, 2-13; Donnan and Wilson, Borders, 154-155.

[56] Beattie and Buss, Undelivered Letters, 13, 18, 25, 422, 440.

[57] Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 64-66.

[58] Sager, “Employment Contracts,” 50.

[59] Michael Payne, “Fur Trade Historiography: Past Conditions, Present Circumstances and a Hint of Future Prospects,” in From Rupert’s Land to Canada, ed., Theodore Binnema, Gerhard J. Ens, and R.C. Macleod (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2001), 22; Sager, “Employment Contracts,” 50.

[60] Burley, Servants of the Honourable Company, 249; Sager, “Employment Contracts,” 50.

[61] Seafaring members of families native to Rupert’s Land named in Beattie and Buss, Undelivered Letters, 41, 46, 138, 326, 424, 425, 456, include: Robert Allan, William Swanston, Robert Wilson, Jane Flett, Joseph William McKay, and George Baxter. Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 63, 75, 84, 89, names “Miss [Mary] Mason and maid,” and Alexander Christie and suggests that, along with Cowies, other family networks, which extended to Rupert’s Land and whose members travelled the intervening — and other – seas, included Sinclairs, Isbisters, Kennedys, Cloustons, Ballendens and Raes. Van Kirk, “Many Tender Ties”, 34, 48-49, 237, 259, 261, indicates Ruehegan, married to mariner Robert Pilgrim, and Martha Douglas were women who sailed. Jennifer Brown, “Ultimate Respectability: Fur-Trade Children in the Civilized World, Part I,” The Beaver 308, no. 3 (winter, 1977): 4-10, and “Ultimate Respectability: Fur-Trade Children in the Civilized World, Part II,” The Beaver 308, no. 4 (spring, 1978): 48-55; Roy St. George Stubbs, Four Recorders of Rupert’s Land: A Brief Survey of the Hudson’s Bay Company Courts of Rupert’s Land (Winnipeg: Peguis Publishers, 1967), 92, 94, 101; and L.G. Thomas, “Fur Traders in Retirement,” The Beaver: Magazine of the North (Winter, 1979): 14-21, are among additional historians who identify sea voyagers from Rupert’s Land.

[62] See, for example, Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 76; Robin Farr, “Letters From Sea,” The Beaver 80, no. 2 (April/May, 2000): 22-27; Beattie and Buss, Undelivered Letters, 243; and Johnstone, “Story of a Fur Trader.”

[63] Hudson’s Bay Company Archives {HBCA], Biographical Sheets, chc/ archives/hbca/biographical/c.html>, 15 January 2006; Library and Archives Canada, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Onlin, <;, 15 January 2006; (Formerly Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions), “Early Canadiana Online,” <http://www.>, 15 January 2006; and the LDS genealogical data base, “Family,” <;, 15 January 2006.

[64] Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 70-71, 74-75; AM, MG2 A1, Selkirk Papers, “Miles MacDonell,” 42-49. See also Burley, Servants of the Honourable Company, 26, 27.

[65] Beattie and Buss, Undelivered Letters, 282.

[66] Atlantic Canada Shipping Project. Ships and Seafarers of Atlantic Canada. CD. (1998).

[67] See for example, Ships and Seafarers of Atlantic Canada, Alexander Slater, Certificate C 9232, Official Number 007035; Alexander Slater, Certificate B 9232, Official Number 042735; John William Slater, Official Number 072223; and Maritime History Archive [MHA], mha00000352, Agreements and Crew Lists, series II (BT 99), 1863-1938, Golden Light, Official Number 007035: 1864 I2 (AC), 1866 I1 (AC), 1868 I1 (AC), 1869 I1 (AC); Viola, Official Number 042735: 1869 I1 (AC), 1870 E1 (AC), 1871 E1 (AC), 1872 E1 (AC), 1873 E1 (AC), 1874 E1 (AC); Agnes Sutherland, Official Number 072223: 1880 E2 (AC), 1881 E2 (AC). Although two other known seafarers of the group I am researching, Charles Graham, 2d Officer of the Newman Hall, and wife Mary Cameron Slater (daughter of Alexander Slater above), are not found in the data base, the Newman Hall is listed (Official Number 072216), as is its builder/owner, Benjamin Vaughan of St. John and Liverpool, who also owned the Golden Light and the Viola.

[68] HBCA E.31/2, “Undelivered Letters,” contains approximately forty additional letters that were not published in the Beattie and Buss compilation because they were not addressed to, or from, the “west coast.”

[69] “Hudson’s Bay Company Archives/Archives of Manitoba,” < archives/hbca/>, 19 Sept. 2004.

[70] Burley, Servants of the Honourable Company, notes that changes did take place in official typologies. In servants’ lists, for example, as of 1788, a column for parish of residence was added, in 1793 ages were indicated, and in 1815 columns for height and physical condition were added. She also comments that after 1819, despite the attempt to increase knowledge about the work force, “little information” was recorded in the forms. Anthony Farrington, Catalogue of East India Company Ships’ Journals and Logs, 1600-1834 and a Bibliographical Index of East India Maritime Service Officers, 1600-1834, 2 vols. (London: British Library, 1999), supplies a potential guide for an additional source of comparable records.

[71] My historical method involves what Thompson, “Poverty of Theory,” 37-50, describes as ‘historical logic,’ in which a dialogue between evidence and theory is central; and F.W. Nickols, “The knowledge in knowledge management,” in The knowledge management yearbook 2000-2001, ed., J.W Cortada, and J.A. Woods (Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2000), 12-21, Claude E. Shannon “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” Bell System Technical Journal 27 (July and October, 1948): 379-380, and Allen Newell, and Herbert A. Simon, Human Problem Solving (Engelwood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice-Hall, 1972), describe as intellectual processes of  ‘knowledge production’ and ‘creative problem solving.’

[72] HBCA B.239/a/70-81, York Fort Journal of Occurrences and Proceedings, Kept by Mr. Mathew Cocking Chief of the Said Fort beginning September 1st 1781 and ending 22nd August 1782: A Journal of the Transactions of the French During Their Stay at the Factory from 16th August to September 1782; HBCA A.1-A.67, Governor and Committee Records, Pre-1870; HBCA A.1-A.81, Governor and Committee Records, 1870-1904; HBCA E.18/1, Committee of Enquiry on State and Condition of Countries Adjoining Hudson’s Bay, Misc. Papers, 1734-1934; Great Britain, Parliament, House of Commons, Committee Appointed to Inquire into the State and Condition of the Countries Adjoining to Hudson’s Bay, Papers, “Extract from the report of the Committee Appointed to Inquire into the State and Condition of the Countries adjoining to Hudson’s Bay, and of the trade carried on there, 1749,” (S.I.: s.n., 1857); and Report From the Select Committee on the Hudson’s Bay Company; Together with the Proceedings of the Committee, Minutes of Evidence, Appendix and Index, 1857 (London: 1857), are particularly useful. Standard works on HBC history, such as Innis, Fur Trade, A.S. Morton, History of the Canadian West, and E.E. Rich, The History of the Hudson’s Bay Company 1670 – 1870, 2 vols. (London: Hudson’s Bay Record Society, 1958), supply general information. See also Elizabeth Mancke, “Early Modern Expansion and the Politicization of Oceanic Space,” The Geographic Review 89, No. 2 (April, 1999): 225-236; Elizabeth Manke, “A Company of Businessmen: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Long-Distance Overseas Trade, 1670-1730 (Winnipeg: University of Winnipeg and the Rupert’s Land Research Centre, 1988); Jane H. Wilde, “The Creation of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade,” Journal of Transport History 2, no. 4 (November, 1956); and Sarah Palmer, Politics, Shipping, and the Repeal of the Navigation Laws (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990)..

[73] Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 67. The HBCA has compiled individual ship’s histories. Bruce Sealey, ed., “The Sinclairs,” Stories of the métis (Winnipeg: Manitoba Metis Federation Press, 1973), 18-23, credits erstwhile seafarer William Sinclair II with improving the design of the York Boat used for inland shipping and discovering isinglass in sturgeon, a substance that made ink easier to work with in cold temperatures. Such information about communication technology gathered in the course of examining personal narratives, biographical monographs and articles will be checked against archival sources such as HBCA D.1-11, Governors’ and Commissioners’ Records, 1818-1871.

[74] Lewis, “Dividing the Ocean Sea,” serves as a theoretical source. Information about routes will be gathered from ships’ logs in both the HBCA and MHA collections, as well as in HBCA C.4, ships’ movements books. Additional material will be gathered from such sources as “Trade with California in the Fifties,” Bulletin of the Business Historical Society 5, no. 4 (May, 1931): 9-12; “Racing around Cape Horn with the California Clippers,” Bulletin of the Business Historical Society 4, no. 3 (May, 1930): 10-13; and Samuel Curtis Upham, Notes of a voyage to California via Cape Horn, together with scenes in El Dorado, in the years 1849-’50. With an appendix containing reminiscences … together with the articles of association and roll of members of “The associated pioneers of the territorial days of California” (Philadelphia: Samuel Curtis Upham, 1878).

[75] This chapter arises from a comparison of records from different periods; including those detailing HBC policies regarding passengers as discussed by Van Kirk, “Many Tender Ties,” 48-49. I will compare primary source data with such sources as Wilson Dick, “Below Decks: Seamen and Landsmen aboard Hudson’s Bay Company Vessels in the Pacific Northwest 1821-1850,” in Papers of the 1994 Rupert’s Land Colloquium, ed., Ian MacLaren, Michael Payne, and Heather Hollason (Winnipeg: Centre for Rupert’s Land Studies, 1997), 26-50; Joan Druett, Hen Frigates: Passion and Peril, Wives of Merchant Captains under Sail (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998); David Cordingly, Women sailors and sailors’ women; an untold maritime history, electronic reproduction (Palo Alto, CA.: ebrary, 2005), access url=>, 30 Jan. 2005; and Donal Baird, Women at sea in the age of sail (Halifax: Nimbus, 2001). On the subject of children within the HBC workforce I compare data with Roland Pietsch, “Ships’ Boys and Youth Culture in Eighteenth-Century Britain: The Navy Recruits of the London Marine Society,” Northern Mariner/le Marin du Nord 14, no. 4 (2004): 11; and Richard I. Ruggles, “Hospital Boys of the Bay,” The Beaver: Magazine of the North (Autumn, 1977): 4-11.

[76] Herbert G. Gutman, Power and Culture: Essays on the American Working Class, ed., Ira Berlin (New York: Pantheon Books, 1987); Michèle Lamont, and Virág Molnár, “The Study of Boundaries in the Social Sciences,” Annual Review of Sociology 28 (2002): 167-195; and Jimy M. Sanders, “Ethic Boundaries and Identity in Plural Societies,” Annual Revue of  Sociology 28 (2002): 327-357, describe familial and extra-familial, intra- and inter-ethnic support networks – ‘social capital’ — and the generational aspect of such capital reserves. Daniel Vickers, and Vince Walsh, “Young men and the sea: the sociology of seafaring in eighteenth-century Salem, Massachusetts,” Social History 24, No. 1 (January, 1999): 18-38, comment on networks in another maritime context. Networks of interest to my study include those connecting to the Grahams of Liverpool and the Grants, Clan Grant of Strathspey, Letheredie, Scotland. Both families pursued opportunities for merchant endeavor beyond the HBC – such as the corn trade and slave trade. The examination of the networks illuminates the movement of seafarers from one nexus of employment opportunity to another.

[77] This chapter and the two preceding chapters will address questions, about seafaring and Rupert’s Landers, suggested by the findings of maritime historians studying other regions, and enunciated in Hall “Admitting Enigmatic Identities,” 20-29. This chapter and the three chapters in the following section will involve comparing my findings with such studies as: Gary Spraakman, and Alison Wilkie, “The development of management accounting at the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1670-1820,” Accounting History (May 2000), access < articles/mi_qa3933/is_200005/ai_n8898900#continue>, 15 August 2005; Cannon Schmitt, Nancy Henry, and Anjali Arondekar, “Introduction: Victorian Investments,” Victorian Studies 45, no. 1 (autumn, 2002): 7-16; Mary Poovey, “Writing about Finance in Victorian England: Disclosure and Secrecy in the Culture of Investment,” Victorian Studies (autumn, 2002): 17-41; and Raymond E. Dumett, ed., Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Imperialism: The New Debate on Empire (New York: Longman, 1999). See also n. 74 below. My analysis accords with Prasannan Parthasarathi, “The State of Indian Social History,” Journal of Social History 37, no. 1, 47-54, who argues that economic and material questions are integral to social history. Changes in the ‘wider context’ that will be discussed in this chapter include those outlined in the first chapter of Section I, and events such as the Gold Rush in California.

[78] E.P. Thompson, Customs in Common (London: Merlin Press, 1991), 163. My mode of analysis for the three chapters of this section will involve comparing my findings with those of Ann M. Carlos, and Stephen Nichols, “Managing the Manager: An Application of the Principal Agent Model to the Hudson’s Bay Company,” Oxford Economic Papers, New Series, 45, no. 2 (April, 1993): 243-246; Ann M. Carlos, and Stephen Nichols, “Theory and History: Seventeenth-Century Joint-Stock Chartered Trading Companies,” The Journal of Economic History 56, no. 4 (December, 1996): 916-924; and Ann M. Carlos, and Stephen Nichols, “Agency Problems in Early Chartered Companies: The Case of the Hudson’s Bay Company,” The Journal of Economic History 50, no. 4 (December, 1990): 853-875.

[79] Thompson, Making , 12. Texts for comparison include, Michael Quinlan, “Regulating Labour in a Colonial Context: Maritime Labour Legislation in the Australian Colonies, 1788-1850,” Australian Historical Studies 3, No. 29 (October, 1998): 303-324; Aimee Chin, Chinhui Juhn, and Peter Thompson, “Technical Change and the Wage Structure During the Second Industrial Revolution: Evidence from the Merchant Marine,” Rice/UH Seminar Series, March 2004, cached at , 30 Jan. 2006; and Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974).

[80] Thompson, “Poverty of Theory,” 7, 4.

[81] Friesen, Citizens and nation.


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