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

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9780393340020: Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America
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A Seattle Times selection for one of Best Non-Fiction Books of 2010
Winner of the New England Historial Association's 2010 James P. Hanlan Award
Winner of the Outdoor Writers Association of America 2011 Excellence in Craft Award, Book Division, First Place

"A compelling and well-annotated tale of greed, slaughter and geopolitics." ―Los Angeles Times

As Henry Hudson sailed up the broad river that would one day bear his name, he grew concerned that his Dutch patrons would be disappointed in his failure to find the fabled route to the Orient. What became immediately apparent, however, from the Indians clad in deer skins and "good furs" was that Hudson had discovered something just as tantalizing.

The news of Hudson's 1609 voyage to America ignited a fierce competition to lay claim to this uncharted continent, teeming with untapped natural resources.  The result was the creation of an American fur trade, which fostered economic rivalries and fueled wars among the European powers, and later between the United States and Great Britain, as North America became a battleground for colonization and imperial aspirations.

In Fur, Fortune, and Empire, best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin chronicles the rise and fall of the fur trade of old, when the rallying cry was "get the furs while they last." Beavers, sea otters, and buffalos were slaughtered, used for their precious pelts that were tailored into extravagant hats, coats, and sleigh blankets. To read Fur, Fortune, and Empire then is to understand how North America was explored, exploited, and settled, while its native Indians were alternately enriched and exploited by the trade.  As Dolin demonstrates, fur, both an economic elixir and an agent of destruction, became inextricably linked to many key events in American history, including the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812, as well as to the relentless pull of Manifest Destiny and the opening of the West.

This work provides an international cast beyond the scope of any Hollywood epic, including Thomas Morton, the rabble-rouser who infuriated the Pilgrims by trading guns with the Indians; British explorer Captain James Cook, whose discovery in the Pacific Northwest helped launch America's China trade; Thomas Jefferson who dreamed of expanding the fur trade beyond the Mississippi; America's first multimillionaire John Jacob Astor, who built a fortune on a foundation of fur; and intrepid mountain men such as Kit Carson and Jedediah Smith, who sliced their way through an awe inspiring and unforgiving landscape, leaving behind a mythic legacy still resonates today.

Concluding with the virtual extinction of the buffalo in the late 1800s, Fur, Fortune, and Empire is an epic history that brings to vivid life three hundred years of the American experience, conclusively demonstrating that the fur trade played a seminal role in creating the nation we are today. 125 black-and-white illustrations

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From the Back Cover:

From the bestselling author of Leviathan comes a sweeping narrative of one of America's most historically rich industries. Beginning in the early 1600s, Dolin traces the dramatic rise and fall of the American fur trade, from the first Dutch encounters with the Indians to the conservation movement in the late nineteenth century. He shows how the fur trade sparked controversy, fostered economic competition, and fueled wars among European powers as North America became a battleground for colonization and imperial aspirations. The trade in beaver, buffalo, sea otter, and other furs 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. Fur, Fortune, and Empire is the most comprehensive and compelling history of the American fur trade ever written.

About the Author:

Eric Jay Dolin is the author of the bestselling Leviathan: The History of Whaling In America, which was chosen as one of the best nonfiction books of 2007 by The Los Angeles TimesThe Boston Globe, and The Providence Journal, and was chosen by Amazon.com's editors as one of the top ten history books of 2007. Leviathan also won the 2007 John Lyman Award for U. S. Maritime History, and the 23rd Annual L. Byrne Waterman Award, given by the New Bedford Whaling Museum, for outstanding contributions to whaling research and history. His last book, Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America, was chosen by New West, The Seattle Times, and the Rocky Mountain Land Library as one of the best nonfiction books of 2010, and it also won the 2011 James P. Hanlan Book Award, given by the New England Historical Association. A graduate of Brown, Yale, and MIT, where he received his Ph.D. in environmental policy, he lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.

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