Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America

Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America➸ [Read] ➳ Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America By Eric Jay Dolin ➽ – Tbjewellers.co.uk From the best selling author of Leviathan comes this sweeping narrative of one of America s most historically rich industries Beginning his epic history in the early s, Eric Jay Dolin traces the drama From the best selling and Empire: PDF/EPUB À author of Leviathan comes this sweeping narrative of one of America s most historically rich industries Beginning his epic history in the early s, Eric Jay Dolin traces the dramatic rise and fall of the American fur industry, from the first Dutch encounters with the Indians to the rise of the conservation movement in the late nineteenth century Dolin shows how the fur trade, driven by the demands of fashion, Fur, Fortune, Epub / sparked controversy, fostered economic competition, and fueled wars among the European powers, as North America became a battleground for colonization and imperial aspirations The trade in beaver, buffalo, sea otter, and other animal skins spurred the exploration and the settlement of the vast American continent, while it alternately enriched and gravely damaged the lives of America s native peoples Populated by a larger than life cast including Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant President Thomas Jefferson America Fortune, and Empire: MOBI ó s first multimillionaire, John Jacob Astor and mountain man Kit Carson Fur, Fortune, and Empire is the most comprehensive and compelling history of the American fur trade ever writtenpages of color andpages of black and white illustrations, as well as a two page, endpaper map of the American fur trade beyond the MississippiStarred reviews from Publisher s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews Nobody writes about the link between American history and natural history with the scholarly grace of Eric Jay Dolin Fur, Fortune, and Empire is a landmark study filled with a cast of eccentric Western type characters Dolin s research is prodigious Not since the days of Francis Parkman has a historian analyzed the fur trade industry with such brilliance Highly recommended Douglas Brinkley, Author, Cronkite and The Wilderness Warrior Fur, Fortune, and Empire is no melancholy affair The book bursts with colorful characters, venal corporations, and violent confrontations, all presented with sharp eyed clarity in a narrative that clips right along One of the great pleasures of Eric Jay Dolin s work in both Leviathan and Fur, Fortune, and Empire comes in discovering centuries old antecedents of the economic and natural resource issues that we struggle with today there are plenty of insights as well as much reading pleasure to be had here Bruce Barcott, Audubon Magazine A superb one volume examination of an era when American ingenuity and its competitive spirit began to flourish Dolin describes in marvelous detail colorful figures of the American fur trades western expansion at last, we now have a book that properly accounts for America s rise as a fur trade power Michael Taube, The Wall Street Journal Though guns, germs and steel certainly played their parts, Dolin s Fur, Fortune, and Empire leaves little doubt that the trade in pelts was a powerful force in shaping the course of American history from the early s through the late s, playing a major role in the settlement and evolution of the colonies, and in the growth of the United States Dolin puts forth a compelling and well annotated tale of greed, slaughter and geopolitics as the Dutch, English, French, Spanish, Swedes, Russians and the American colonists fought for a slice of the profit Art Winslow, The Los Angeles Times.

I love telling dramatic, and Empire: PDF/EPUB À sometimes wondrous, and often tragic stories about people, commerce, maritime history, and the environment My goal is to entertain and inform, and leave people glad that they took the time to read one of my books My most recent book is Black Flags, Blue Waters The Epic History of America s Most Notorious Pirates Liveright a division of W W Norton , September Before that I wrote Brilliant Beacons Fur, Fortune, Epub / A History of the American Lighthouse Liveright a division of W W Norton , April , received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, and was heralded as terrific by Entertainment Weekly, fascinating by the Seattle Times, and splendid history by the St Louis Post Dispatch According to the author of Over the Edge of the World, Laurence Bergreen, What Moby Dick is to whales, Brilliant Beacons is to lighthouses a transformative account of a Fortune, and Empire: MOBI ó familiar yet mystical subject When America First Met China An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail , which published in Liveright a division of W W Norton , was chosen by Kirkus Reviews as one of the top ten non fiction books for the Fall My Fur, Fortune, and Empire the Epic History of the Fur Trade in America W W Norton, , a national bestseller, which was chosen by New West, The Seattle Times, and The Rocky Mountain Land Library as one of the top non fiction books of It also won the James P Hanlan Book Award, given by the New England Historical Association, and was awarded first place in the Outdoor Writers Association of America, Excellence in Craft Contest Leviathan The History of Whaling in AmericaW W Norton, , was selected as one of the best nonfiction books of by The Los Angeles Times , The Boston Globe , and The Providence Journal Leviathan was also chosen by s editors as one of the best history books of Leviathan garnered the rd annual L Byrne Waterman Award, given by the New Bedford Whaling Museum, for outstanding contributions to whaling research and history Leviathan also received the John Lyman Award for U S Maritime History, given by the North American Society for Oceanic History, was named an Honors Book in nonfiction for the th annual Massachusetts Book Awards , and was awarded a silver medal for history in the Independent Publisher Book Awards Thanks for reading, and please let me know if you have any thoughts, questions, or musings you would like to share For , see All the best Eric.

Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur
    PDF Reader for the Connected World comprehensive and compelling history of the American fur trade ever writtenpages of color andpages of black and white illustrations, as well as a two page, endpaper map of the American fur trade beyond the MississippiStarred reviews from Publisher s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews Nobody writes about the link between American history and natural history with the scholarly grace of Eric Jay Dolin Fur, Fortune, and Empire is a landmark study filled with a cast of eccentric Western type characters Dolin s research is prodigious Not since the days of Francis Parkman has a historian analyzed the fur trade industry with such brilliance Highly recommended Douglas Brinkley, Author, Cronkite and The Wilderness Warrior Fur, Fortune, and Empire is no melancholy affair The book bursts with colorful characters, venal corporations, and violent confrontations, all presented with sharp eyed clarity in a narrative that clips right along One of the great pleasures of Eric Jay Dolin s work in both Leviathan and Fur, Fortune, and Empire comes in discovering centuries old antecedents of the economic and natural resource issues that we struggle with today there are plenty of insights as well as much reading pleasure to be had here Bruce Barcott, Audubon Magazine A superb one volume examination of an era when American ingenuity and its competitive spirit began to flourish Dolin describes in marvelous detail colorful figures of the American fur trades western expansion at last, we now have a book that properly accounts for America s rise as a fur trade power Michael Taube, The Wall Street Journal Though guns, germs and steel certainly played their parts, Dolin s Fur, Fortune, and Empire leaves little doubt that the trade in pelts was a powerful force in shaping the course of American history from the early s through the late s, playing a major role in the settlement and evolution of the colonies, and in the growth of the United States Dolin puts forth a compelling and well annotated tale of greed, slaughter and geopolitics as the Dutch, English, French, Spanish, Swedes, Russians and the American colonists fought for a slice of the profit Art Winslow, The Los Angeles Times."/>
  • Hardcover
  • 442 pages
  • Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America
  • Eric Jay Dolin
  • English
  • 04 June 2019
  • 0393067106

10 thoughts on “Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America

  1. says:

    In most failed relationships, it s pretty easy to pinpoint the reasons things went wrong One party or the other was unfaithful, or dishonest, or hygienically challenged, or possessed of a knife collection that includesknives than you feel necessary Sometimes, though, things just don t work out, and you can t explain why The chemicals aren t present there is no spark Even though your partner showers regularly, never steals from your purse when you aren t looking, and only has enough kn In most failed relationships, it s pretty easy to pinpoint the reasons things went wrong One party or the other was unfaithful, or dishonest, or hygienically challenged, or possessed of a knife collection that includesknives than you feel necessary Sometimes, though, things just don t work out, and you can t explain why The chemicals aren t present there is no spark Even though your partner showers regularly, never steals from your purse when you aren t looking, and only has enough knives to cut a proper steak, the relationship just fizzles That s where I m at with Eric Jay Dolin After Leviathan, Fur, Fortune, and Empire is the second of his books I ve read that tells the story of voracious capitalists hunting creatures into near extinction in order to harvest those creature s marketable byproducts Both books are commendable, well written, peppered with enjoyable anecdotes Indeed, if pressed, I couldn t really suggest any changes, structurally or stylistically, that Dolin could ve made However, the highest praise I can come up with is that his books are just fine Fur, Fortune, and Empire purports to tell the epic history of the fur trade in America The book s subtitle, though, comes with some caveats First, the time covered time period starts with the early exploration of America and ends well before the 20th century Next, fur trade is tightly defined to mean, essentially, seal, beaver and buffalo The slaughter of seals is given one chapter, and the massacre of buffalo another, briefer chapter On the whole, this is a beaver book At this point, I should mention that I am not unaware of the potential jokes that could be made, only that I have chosen to save those jokes for other venues Dolin tells his story in three parts Part I covers the early exploration and settlement of the New World by the likes of Henry Hudson, John Smith, and the Pilgrims In this section, Dolin tries to show with some success that it was the lure of furs that drew European attention to America Part II covers the period of the French and Indian War and the American Revolution During this time period, the formation and expansion of the United States gradually forced the French from the fur trade, and greatly circumscribed the dealings of the British Part III tells the story of the period most people associate with the American fur trade the era of the Mountain Man The difficulty in writing a book like this is that you are telling the story of an industry, not relating an event or series of events There are really only two ways to go about doing this First, you write it like any other history book, except that events are told from the viewpoint of, and analyzed for their effect on that particular industry This gives you the general overview of things Second, you can highlight individual stories to give the reader a flavor of how the industry operated Dolin tries to do a bit of both In Parts I and II, Dolin takes a general approach Essentially, he gives the reader a brief primer on early American history that is peppered with quotes about the fur trade The problem is that this story has already been told, and told better, withdetail, in hundreds of other books For instance, Dolin spends a lot of time on the Pilgrims While they sometimes engaged in the fur trade, that was only a secondary feature of their settlement their primary purpose being the consumption of turkey and the wearing of buckled hats.I had the feeling of treading familiar ground throughout Fur, Fortune, and Empire I suppose that is the nature of tackling an industry like the fur trade, which is woven into America s history Still, a lot of Dolin s contributions are redudnant While it may be true that furs brought people to America, and into the American interior, it s just as true that the fur traders ultimate goal of trading cheap trinkets for beaver pelts was subordinate to their crucial achievements in mapping rivers, claiming land, and forging alliances with the Indians And if you re anything like me, you ve read of those exploits elsewhere Every author has a tendency to overemphasize his or her subject Dolin is not immune to this He tries to frame the fur trade as a motivator for western expansion, but undercuts his own position by acknowledging that it never accounted for a large percentage of the American economy What the trade really amounted to though for some reason, Dolin spends very little time on it is a case study in the dangers of laissez faire capitalism A small group of men grew very wealthy, at little personal risk the rich got to buy fancy hats the traders were cheated and never made a profit and a number of ecosystems were destroyed Where Dolin succeeds is in the second half of the book, in detailing the adventures and travails of the American mountain men Here, Dolin chooses a raconteur s approach, spinning yarns about Indian fights, chases, and escapes I ve read these stories many of themlegend than fact in a lot of other books, and Dolin doesn t add any special flare However, it is literally impossible to screw up stories about Jebediah Smith, Kit Carson, and John Colter These guys were so much larger than life, due in part to their own self mythmaking, that you can t help but get caught up in their escapades I m always game for tales of mountain men deadly grizzlies stalking panthers marauding Blackfoot and Gros Ventres and of course, the Rendezvous, filled with drinking, gambling, dueling, and whoring It soundsfun than it actually was The one area in which Dolin adds something unique is in his understanding of the animals that were being trapped and killed As he did with Leviathan, Dolin does a good job describing his central character, in this case, the beaver Coming into this book, my knowledge of the beaver was limited to homespun aphorisms and The Chronicles of Narnia In other words, I was under the impression that beavers were workaholics, and also that beavers could talk and help little girls undertake magical quests Dolin helped to expand my knowledge of this bucktoothed little creature, and also gave me one indelible image Alone or sometimes in pairs, the beaver sets to work with its powerful incisors, gnawing, cutting, and chipping away the wood near the base of the tree in a V shaped pattern, often laboring for hours at a time, until the tree is left balancing precariously on a narrow point or wedge of wood, often no thicker than a pencil With onecut or a providential gust of wind, the connecting wood fibers rupture as the tree begins to fall Sensing the vibrations through its teeth or hearing the wood crack, the beaver scampers out of harm s way Some people claim that beavers can predict which way a tree will fall, or that they cut the trees so that it falls in the direction of their choosing This is not true, and a small number of beavers are so clueless on this account that, failing to get out of the way of the crashing lumber, they end up serving as their own executioners, crushed to death by the tree they have just felled.As I noted above, there is nothing really wrong with this book It is fine, from start to finish It s also short, so you won t be spending a great deal of time moving from one cover to the next Upon final reflection, and upon changing metaphors, I d conclude that Fur, Fortune, and Empire is like a breakfast of oatmeal, with a little cinnamon on top You will end up full, a few spoonfuls will taste sweet, and you re generally better off than if you d eaten three strips of bacon, three sausage links, and a fried egg sandwiched between two pancakes However, as a rule, I will never pay for oatmeal What I m saying, I suppose, is that if someone hands you this book, you could do worse than reading it On the other hand, if you are going to purchase a book covering the same topics, it might be worthwhile going elsewhere

  2. says:

    A marvelous and highly revealing history of the fur trade in America, right from the first permanent European settlements in the 17th century to the end of the 19th century A story of inspiring doggedness against an incredibly unforgiving environment and of the tragic clash of civilizations.Dolin s basic thesis is that fur was to the 17th and 19th centuries what oil was to the 20th, and it was the possibility of buying beaver furs in unprecedented quantities for fashion hungry Europe from India A marvelous and highly revealing history of the fur trade in America, right from the first permanent European settlements in the 17th century to the end of the 19th century A story of inspiring doggedness against an incredibly unforgiving environment and of the tragic clash of civilizations.Dolin s basic thesis is that fur was to the 17th and 19th centuries what oil was to the 20th, and it was the possibility of buying beaver furs in unprecedented quantities for fashion hungry Europe from Indians that largely drew first the Dutch and French and later the English to North America, so the settling and expansion of North America especially to the West tracks very closely with the fur trade Having access to the Mississippi and the Hudson rivers, the former were much better placed to buy fur in exchange for European goods, at first trinkets like utensils and clothing but later deadlier commodities like guns and alcohol The Dutch started trading for beaver pelts in their New Amsterdam colony, while the French swept in from Canada and controlled the Mississippi This led to an inevitable clash between the British and the French for control of the Great Lakes region After the French and Indian War, clashes arose between the British and the colonies regarding jurisdiction over the newly opened vast Ohio territory and its lucrative fur possibilities, and this was at least one of the factors leading to the American Revolution Americans continued to duke it out with the British even as both expanded into the Northwest, this time killing sea otters in unprecedented numbers for trade with China with brutal techniques and gleeful avarice The Lewis and Clark expedition was at least in part a quest to map lucrative locations for the fur trade.One of the highlights of the book is the light it sheds on early European Indian relations which were muchbenign compared to later years In almost every case the Indians welcomed the Europeans at first contact and were in awe of their guns and other modern technology Partly out of necessity the Europeans were completely dependent on the natives at first for fetching furs from the deep interior and partly out of genuine respect and curiosity, Europeans established trading relationships with the Indians through trading posts, and the Indians were often canny enough to play competing French and British trappers and companies against each other to get the best price The relationship started changing when the Europeans becameland hungry and when they started taking advantage of the Indians by plying them with alcohol the independent forays of European trappers also started reducing their dependence on native fur acquisition But there were violent clashes on both sides, sometimes instigated by Indians butoften invoked by European greed.The book has memorable portraits of key fur trappers, sailors and soldiers who braved unbelievable rigors of starvation, predation and hostile engagements with Indians to get the furs, living for months in inhospitable, sub zero temperatures in the Midwest and the Great Plains One of these mountain men was Hugo Glass who was mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead before he endured an astonishing foot journey to reach civilization Glass was the inspiration for the movie The Revenant The mountain men are fascinating mostly originating from Kentucky, Tennessee and other border states, they were the most free lancing among the free lancing trappers, traveling with aplomb whenever and wherever they wanted, yet 80% of them were married and a third took Indian wives What is truly interesting is that these uneducated, hardy men were often as well read as an East Coast businessman and practiced a kind of equality among themselves and their wives, often living in communal camps, that might have been unique on the continent for the times Other memorable characters include John Jacob Astor, one of America s first millionaires who thrived on and greatly expanded the fur trade, Captain James Cook who was the first to discover the Northwest before he was killed in Hawaii and frontiersmen like Kit Carson, Daniel Boone and Manuel Lisa.The last part of the book deals with the tragic effects the fur trade had on America s fauna as well as on the Indians By the 1850s or so Europeans and Indians had both hunted the beaver nearly to extinction before they discovered a new source of fur the American buffalo or bison With that discovery began probably the greatest episode of manmade carnage in history At the beginning tens of millions of buffalo roamed the Great Plains and the Southwest by the end of 1890 there were a few hundred The building of the transcontinental railroad sealed the fate of both the buffalo and the Indians in whose life the buffalo was so intimately integrated that they would use and consume every single part of it, including the scrotum and the tail, the heart and the blood Meanwhile, Europeans started killing the animal for sport, sometimes lazily shooting it from train compartments and leaving the carcasses rotting The long range rifle made it possible for a single hunter to kill dozens in a day and waste most of their meat Soon the plains were literally dotted with rotting carcasses and skulls for as far as the eye could see The westward expansion also split the Indian population into small groups which were at the mercy of settlers and the U.S Army, leading to their complete subjugation This was truly a sad chapter in the history of the United States, and one that frankly brought tears to my eyes.Not just the buffalo but the beaver and the sea otter were killed in the tens of millions and hunted to near extinction, so it s perhaps a miracle that they are still around While the history of the fur trade tells the story of expansion, greed, killings and conquest along with one of resilience, doggedness and adventure, its aftermath tells a story of hope even as Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, Thoreau and others reminded Americans of humans deep connection to nature, made a strong push for conservation and assigned large areas of the country to conservation where bison, otters and other animals killed during the fur trade started thriving again A few years ago a beaver was spotted on the Bronx River in New York for the first time in two hundred years Perhaps there is a kernel of compassion and hope in the gnarly undergrowth of man s cruelty after all

  3. says:

    Well researched look at the fur trade from its earliest days It was painful to read I almost gave up half way through when he got to the clubbing of Sea Otters Thankfully, most of the book focuses on the business and politics of the trade A central, if depressing, part of American history.One thing I forgot to include was a small critique of the author s overemphasis on the role of the fur trade in the War of 1812 He barely mentions impressment, for instance, which is central according to A Well researched look at the fur trade from its earliest days It was painful to read I almost gave up half way through when he got to the clubbing of Sea Otters Thankfully, most of the book focuses on the business and politics of the trade A central, if depressing, part of American history.One thing I forgot to include was a small critique of the author s overemphasis on the role of the fur trade in the War of 1812 He barely mentions impressment, for instance, which is central according to Alan Taylor in The Civil War of 1812.I also thought it was very interesting that the fur trade increased Native American dependence on the trade they traded furs for tools and weapons and then became dependent on them as the skills required to make their own failed to be passed down

  4. says:

    Another fantastic book What a lot of things I never knew I wish schools presented history this way I think this book really gets to the heart of why and how certain events happened in our country To say that there were French and Indian wars is not enough To say the British fought the French and Indians is not enough What were they fighting over The impression in my mind from eons ago was simply land But it was what the land signified, and it wasn t land for land s sake or simply for col Another fantastic book What a lot of things I never knew I wish schools presented history this way I think this book really gets to the heart of why and how certain events happened in our country To say that there were French and Indian wars is not enough To say the British fought the French and Indians is not enough What were they fighting over The impression in my mind from eons ago was simply land But it was what the land signified, and it wasn t land for land s sake or simply for colonization It was for the fur trade I had no idea that the fur trade was so enormous in our economy for much of our history Most of us grew up hearing about the triangle trade between Africa, the West Indies, America, and Europe which is actually 4 places, if you ask me This book also raises the question How come we learned mostly about Plymouth Rock and the Puritans, and or Jamestown, Virginia, but scarcely anything at all, if anything, about the Spanish in Florida, the British and French in Quebec, the Russians in Alaska and California The huge emphasis on our special 13 colonies leaves the very skewed impression that this was the only populated area on the continent But the Spaniards settled here 100 years before the Puritans We need acohesive history that pulls all the strings of this country s beginnings together, and this book does a marvelous job Besides that, it s an adventurous and interesting ride

  5. says:

    I saw this book at the library and decided to read it because I had been to the Museum of the North American Fur Trade in Chadron, NE and wanted to knowAs a side note, this MNAFT is a fantastic small museum and well worth a detour from a trip to The Badlands and the Black Hills It started, or perhaps I started, off strong, but it quickly became repetitive The argument didn t really seem to build through the book and I ended up skimming the last 60 pages or so because I had pretty much g I saw this book at the library and decided to read it because I had been to the Museum of the North American Fur Trade in Chadron, NE and wanted to knowAs a side note, this MNAFT is a fantastic small museum and well worth a detour from a trip to The Badlands and the Black Hills It started, or perhaps I started, off strong, but it quickly became repetitive The argument didn t really seem to build through the book and I ended up skimming the last 60 pages or so because I had pretty much gotten the author s point fur was important the fur trade was a source of conflict we killed all the beaver, sea otters, and buffalo The information on the animals was interesting, and in general, I appreciate a nonmilitary approach to history There are some interesting anecdotes and colorful characters, but not enough to make the book great

  6. says:

    An excellent, and eye opening treatment of the oft overlooked mainstay of colonial and early republican America the fur trade mostly beaver, but also otter and buffalo Dolan considers a grand sweep from the 16th through 20th centuries, with especial emphasis on the fur wars of the northeast 1600s through 1780s and the combat between Astor s American Fur Company and British interests in the early 18th Century In addition, Dolan sensitively examines the complex relationships between traders An excellent, and eye opening treatment of the oft overlooked mainstay of colonial and early republican America the fur trade mostly beaver, but also otter and buffalo Dolan considers a grand sweep from the 16th through 20th centuries, with especial emphasis on the fur wars of the northeast 1600s through 1780s and the combat between Astor s American Fur Company and British interests in the early 18th Century In addition, Dolan sensitively examines the complex relationships between traders and the Native Americans who so often serve multiple roles as suppliers, rivals, victims, and opponents

  7. says:

    This book is very readable but the author makes an unforgiveable mistake on page 212 by identifying James Monroe as the US President in 1812 who declared war on Great Britain That type of mistake creates doubt in my mind over the veracity of the entire book Thus I gave it 3 instead of 4.

  8. says:

    excellent i got it because i was curious about astor ia , but found the book compelling from cover to cover.

  9. says:

    We read this for an animal rights reading group I did not expect it to be really animal friendly, but I was interested in this history But not only is the book not overly friendly to animals following the speciesist but accept language tradition of referring to a species of animals in the singular i.e., beaver were being trapped, rather than beavers, which removes any semblance of individuality from the lives being brutally taken and lumps them together as a a unit or, in this case, produc We read this for an animal rights reading group I did not expect it to be really animal friendly, but I was interested in this history But not only is the book not overly friendly to animals following the speciesist but accept language tradition of referring to a species of animals in the singular i.e., beaver were being trapped, rather than beavers, which removes any semblance of individuality from the lives being brutally taken and lumps them together as a a unit or, in this case, product , but the author also seems uninterested in newer scholarship there are one or two exceptions particularly from the point of view of Native Americans Although he does mention at the outset that it is troubling that most contemporary sources are from the white European American perspective, he does not make any effort to find pretty much anything from other points of view This becomes particularly apparent in the over long, rather boring chapter s on the Mountain Men, and one gets the feeling the author, like many before him, romanticized these people Although Dolin s history shows that Native Americans and he mainly refers to them as Indians, occasionally distinguishing between one tribe nation and another, and frequently lumping them all together welcomed the European traders and trappers, and Dolin makes some effort to show how, once a number of Native Americans became indebted to the Europeans and later, to the American traders and thereby were forced to sell off the only thing they had to pay their debts their land and even if this seems plausible for the earliest of traders, by the time large numbers of English people start appearing in North America, there is the question of how much resistance there might have been by the Native Americans, and it is a question that is either not thought about by the author or glossed over Dolin takes some time to explain how Native chiefs at points wrote and plead with European traders to stop providing alcohol as a trade and how the Europeans and Americans did not heed those wishes, but again, he does not spend much time on this I still found this book pretty interesting and was fairly accepting of the facts Dolin presents up until page 178, where he writes of fur trader Manuel Lisa, engaging in unnecessary editorializing about this trader trapper s characteristics born of Spanish parents in New Orleans, Lisa nevertheless has a Mexican face, with rascality written all over it If one turns to the pictures in the book and finds the painting of Lisa, he looks like any other tightly wound white man from 1818 It was at this point I began to really distrust Dolin s history, and realized that by his using mainly contemporary sources, or sources for the most part, I didn t count dating to the very early 20th century, he is not presenting a full picture of the history of the fur trade Further, he takes letters written by Mountain Men and presents them as truth well, he does in one instance, for trapper Jedidiah Smith, who writes the most ridiculously transparent piece of self serving bullshit I have read in a while to describe why he is a fur trapper Dolin writes in all sincerity Grueling, extensive, and dangerous expeditions were typical of Smith s entire career as a mountain man He was driven not only by the desire to find beaver and explore new lands but also by his devotion to those he left behind Italics are mine Dolin s source is this letter It is, that I may be able to help those of the family who stand in needthat I face every dangertraverse the mountains covered with eternal snowpass over the Sandy Plains in heat of summer, where I may cool my overheated bodythat I go for days without eating, am pretty well satisfied if I can gather a few roots, a few snails 239 When you read about Smith s refusal to leave California at the direction of its then Spanish governor among other things , you do not get the feeling this is a self sacrificing young man who would have preferred to stay home and keep books or something For Dolin to take this really rather self aggrandizing letter at face value of proof of Smith s intentions makes me question a lot of other facts presented in this book particularly, again, as so much is based on early history and personal narrative.Dolin also presents many of the Native Americans who oppose the trappers and explorers as bent on revenge particularly in the chapter about the mountain men and their exploits, he seems to use the fact that other Native tribes were against, say, the Blackfeet or Mojave as a kind of justification for the European white expansion, though he doesn t put it in quite those terms The way Dolin words these passages reflects this a few Mojave were eager for revenge p 237 and in cases where trading posts were disputed by the Americans and British over the Oregon Territory, Dolin makes no mention of what the Native Americans of those lands thought, did, or felt He doesn t even say the resources on the Native reaction were not easy to locate, and therefore I have left it out rather than speculate or something of such nature When Dolin writes of Nez Perce and American trappers coming against the Blackfeet, he gives no context for this, and comes at it from the perspective mainly of the Lewis and Clark expedition and one guy named Colter, who receives over two pages of description for what he went through There is also, of course, the millions, if not billions, of individual animals who were murdered for fashion and other things particularly beavers, buffaloes, and sea otters, according to Dolin His chapters on beavers and sea otters are where the book really becomes interesting, but I have to wonder why the other millions of animals who were killed for fur appear only in the epilogue, and why buffaloes only rate mention at the end of the book There are also a couple of footnotes and passages that tell of entertainment the mountain men engaged in while visiting the Spanish run territories, or just things they did for fun, such as pitting bears against bulls The descriptions are so violent I had to skim through them there is also a small section describing a beaver trap, and it s written in a rather dry, academic way Dolin reserves his horror for the treatment of the mountain men by others, it seems He doesn t even seem too horrified that the mountain men would sometimes trade their wives usually Native American during a card game He does describe some things as carnage, I will give him that particularly the slaughter of the buffaloes and of seals, but even though this is definitely not an animal rights or pro animal book, I didn t expect quite so little about the animal victims themselves They are the very ones who the fur trade was is literally built on, and yet they rate the least mention within the cast of characters As I read, I became quite angry at times at the way these people John Jacob Astor, who, if I thought of at all, I thought was probably involved in banking or something whose fortunes were made literally off the backs of beavers and otters and seals and bears oh yeah, and there is that passage where a mountain man runs into a mama grizzly and she and her cubs end up dead and raccoons and squirrels and rabbits and on and on and on Occasionally he alludes to some of this as in the years when the trappers couldn t find any beavers to kill because they had killed them all The history of the fur trade is complicated, and trying to fit in several hundred years of one aspect of American history must have been a pretty daunting task Nevertheless, Dolin s book is uneven, and if he wanted to keep it at its current length, he certainly could have removed a lot of the stories of mountain men and individual traders and their journey up the Missouri River There could becurrent scholarship from the point of view of various Native Americans, and certainly a littleinformation on the carnage and devastation of the animal victims There could be less infatuation or romance of the mountain men

  10. says:

    Riveting at first Quite eye opening about the founding of Plymouth It s not just that Christians were migrating from European persecutors The pilgrims were being bankrolled by European fur trade investors.This book had me enthralled throughout the 1600s and early 1700s The English, French, Dutch, and Spanish colonizers and their trade with the Indians were explained with greater context and madesense than anything the old high school history textbooks conveyed.However, I began losing i Riveting at first Quite eye opening about the founding of Plymouth It s not just that Christians were migrating from European persecutors The pilgrims were being bankrolled by European fur trade investors.This book had me enthralled throughout the 1600s and early 1700s The English, French, Dutch, and Spanish colonizers and their trade with the Indians were explained with greater context and madesense than anything the old high school history textbooks conveyed.However, I began losing interest by the French Indian War, which I think was literally described in one paragraph That conflict was one of the few world historical events that I remember involving fur in some way But this book totally glossed over it, saying there was too much detail about that war to go into I felt like there was a big set up with the different European powers jockeying for control of the fur trading posts and the North American rivers But once it reached the level of armed conflict, the explanations stopped.And on it went like that, with major events written off as beyond the scope of the author s research I suppose the author wanted to focus on lesser known aspects of the fur trade that have not been written about But it seemed a bit awkward and incomplete this way.My second problem with the book was that it didn t engage me the way other historical nonfiction books have This book was similar in concept to Daniel Yergin s The Prize The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, in that it dealt with the pioneers of a major industrial sector However, this came nowhere close to Yergin s ability to create quick, fascinating mini biographies of the men who built an economic empire It mimicked the style by giving mini bios of fur traders and mountain men, but the stories were not as engaging, funny, or informative as they could have been A lot of the fur traders came across as jerks not because they dealt in furs but because we were rarely told about the skills or strengths they had which helped them tame the wilderness The fur traders explored the West, but I did not come away with an understanding of where their zeal or drive came from.I did learn a lot through this book about the beaver, buffalo, and sea otter their natural history, why and how they were hunted trapped, etc I knew how the buffalo population had been decimated, but I had not known the extent to which the sea otter was nearly obliterated, and has yet to recover.And I came to appreciate the depth and magnitude of trade relations with Indian tribes American history wasn t just about dislocation, contagious diseases, and broken treaties There were a lot of cordial relations and trade benefits obtained from both sides And each tribe s relations with the U.S were different, and this book did a great job of sussing all that out.That being said, I didn t learn too much about human nature from this book

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