To the Ends of the Earth: A Study of the Explorative Discourse Promoting British Expansionism in Canada

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Virginia Tech


Between 1760 and 1833, English explorers systematically filled in the map of British North America. Many of those explorers worked for two fur-trading companies: the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company. In pursuit of new sources of fur, they opened western Canada to European comprehension. Their published accounts of geographic exploration provided the British audience with new geographical information about North America. New geographic information often paved the way for settlement. However, in the case of the Canadian West, increased geographic comprehension did not necessarily lead to settlement. By 1833, the explorers had built a base of knowledge from which the British conceptualized the Canadian wilderness. Over the course of seventy years, the British conception of western Canada remained remarkably consistent. The popular British image of western Canada, persisting into the 1830s, was of a wasteland fit only for the fur trade. The British, who had been expanding around the world for several hundred years, were not yet interested in settlement in western Canada. This thesis seeks to expand upon the link that existed between the fur trade, its employees, and their influence on the British conception of western Canada.



Hudson's Bay Company, Alexander Mackenzie, David Thompson, James Cook, Samuel Hearne, George Vancouver, North West Company, Canada, Fur Trade, North America, Peter Pond, Aaron Arrowsmith, Western Exploration