Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




As the English and French grappled for North American hegemony in the first half of the eighteenth century, trade with the Indian groups of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley transcended mere financial calculations and assumed a broader imperial significance. to the native peoples who exchanged their peltry for European manufactured goods, trade was the material manifestation of mutual obligation, political dialogue, and military alliance. If the contest for empire inevitably became a battle for the hearts and minds of potential Indian allies, the spoils of victory were most visibly reckoned in furs and skins.;Yet, despite the outspoken criticism of William J. Eccles, historians of Anglo-French trade rivalry continue to embrace the dubious claims of Cadwallader Colden and other eighteenth-century American imperialists that Canadian traders could not compete on level economic ground with their New York and Pennsylvania counterparts. Allegedly beset with shoddy and costly French goods, a jealous monopoly company that greedily fixed the price of furs and skins, and the levies and restrictions of a militaristic state, Canadians were deemed unable to match the success of their Anglo-American competitors, who conversely reaped the benefits of cheap and superior trade merchandise in a commerce largely free of meddling monopolists and obtrusive officials.;A rigorous cross-border comparison of trade-good costs, transportation charges, and peltry prices deflates this hoary myth of Anglo-American economic superiority. With few exceptions, French-Canadian fur traders supplied goods of equal or better quality at rates of exchange competitive with their New York and Pennsylvania rivals. Purely economic considerations, however, never determined success in the trade. as frustrated Anglo-American officials readily admitted, the cohesive and scrupulously-managed French-Canadian trade network proved aptly suited to winning and maintaining Indian friendship and alliance, while unregulated and unscrupulous American traders perennially poisoned Anglo-Indian relations. The persistence of characteristically Canadian commercial practices and Indian trade loyalties despite the 1760 conquest of New France is, perhaps, the most compelling measure of French-Canadian preeminence in the eighteenth-century contest for North American trade and empire.



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