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  • The Company

  • The Rise and Fall of the Hudson’s Bay Empire
  • Written by: Stephen R. Bown
  • Narrated by: Traber Burns
  • Length: 16 hrs and 5 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (128 ratings)

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The Company cover art

The Company

Written by: Stephen R. Bown
Narrated by: Traber Burns
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Publisher's Summary

A thrilling new telling of the story of modern Canada’s origins

The story of the Hudson’s Bay Company, dramatic and adventurous and complex, is the story of modern Canada’s creation. And yet it hasn’t been told in a book for over 30 years and never in such depth and vivid detail as in Stephen R. Bown’s exciting new telling.

The company started out small in 1670, trading practical manufactured goods for furs with the indigenous inhabitants of inland subarctic Canada. Controlled by a handful of English aristocrats, it expanded into a powerful political force that ruled the lives of many thousands of people - from the Lowlands south and west of Hudson Bay, to the Tundra, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the Pacific Northwest. It transformed the culture and economy of many indigenous groups and ended up as the most important political and economic force in northern and western North America.

When the company was faced with competition from French traders in the 1780s, the result was a bloody corporate battle, the coming of Governor George Simpson - one of the greatest villains in Canadian history - and the company assuming political control and ruthless dominance. By the time its monopoly was rescinded after 200 years, the Hudson’s Bay Company had reworked the entire northern North American world.

Stephen R. Bown has a scholar’s profound knowledge and understanding of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s history but wears his learning lightly in a narrative as compelling and rich in well-drawn characters as a pause-resisting novel.

©2020 Stephen R. Bown (P)2021 Blackstone Publishing

What listeners say about The Company

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Disappointing

I had hoped to hear history as outlined as from all sides but from the beginning in this story the author says that the coureur des bois were French traders that took indigenous wives to further the fur trade and when that’s all that is said I feel this over generalizes the rich history of the birth of the Métis nation which was a partnership of communities. As a Métis person listening it’s abruptly devaluing. Maybe it is better explained later in this story but I couldn’t keep listening as the French enunciation was so bad as well. I was hoping after reading The Northwest is Our Mother that I could hear more history from other parts of Canada and Europe but it already seemed to start with the colonial savage Indian perspective and that also turned me off.

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14 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Worthwhile Read

I thoroughly enjoyed this title and learned a lot. With respect to the performance, like some other listeners, I occasionally got distracted by the narrator's non-Canadian pronunciations (portage, The Pas, etc.); however, this was only a minor annoyance.

I would love to see a review of this book by an Indigenous listener with some familial history of HBC—maybe as a Metis. The overall impression I got was that (at least initially) relations between the company and indigenous peoples were reasonably convivial, and that only towards the end of the monopoly did it deteriorate. I don't know if this is true, or if non-indigenous perceptions are just sugar coated. Nonetheless it is a great read.

Entertaining. Captivating. Educational. I wish Audible would negotiate and make available the maps and drawings on a website for subscribers as this would save you having to go to your computer and look things up all the time.

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3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Tells why Canada and Canadians are the way we are.

This book was amazing! It really explains how we as Canadians got where we are today. I really appreciated the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ culture and skills. They are always acknowledged as the guides for white explorers without whom all expeditions would have failed. Their knowledge and interpersonal skills are truly astounding. Matonabee is a new personal hero. Canada never had a civil war but the trade wars were pretty much the same thing. It was very informative to learn how the original respectful trading practices degraded over the years due to a few powerful peoples biases. I think I will hate George Simpson forever. The Boone ad well written in an entertaining style and the narrator had a pleasant voice.

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2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Entertaining, Challenging and Enjoyable History

This is the first book about Canadian history I’ve listened to in a long time, wow, highly recommended this. It’s kind of three books in one, an economic history of the fur trade, an adventurous account of many of the explorers of western Canada, and a history of the relationships between the First Nations and the early traders and setters of the country. It’s a complex, fascinating and informative listen/read by an author who has a novelists skill in storytelling.

It will be a challenging read for anyone who has a pre-packaged view of history, colonization or the tragedy of First Nations / European interaction in the formative years of our country. People who want a simple good guys and bad guys narrative will be dissatisfied. The story would no doubt be vastly enriched by firsthand accounts from First Nations participants but the author does make some attempts to reflect on these missing stories and how the “big man” view of history is typically false. One moment in the narrative the writer remarks that the famous “explorers” we think of in western Canadian history… Mackenzie, Hearne, Henday they weren’t explorers at all … they were baggage in the canoe of the First Nations traders who took them for a ride-along.

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1 person found this helpful

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Loved it

It was a very interesting update of Canadian History. I liked it because it was about the people and the struggles they endured. it was more in line with the stories told by my Canadian ancestors. It did not gloss over or glorify the early leaders in various communities. I am sure that we will hear more as we delve more into the reality of our peoples' history.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Île-à-la-Crosse

The place name pronunciations are off putting , particularly when he says La Cross. I'm confident he means Île-à-la-Crosse on the Cedar Lake -La Ronge route. But the first time I heard it it was a WTf. a reader familiar with the colloquial would have been a better choice. Not a problem if you're familiar but embarrassing if you repeat. Others as well though none enough to be too confusing.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Great Read/Listen

I enjoy history books like this that just tell what happened without trying to push a narrative, The years of history in this book are touched be so many that summarizing this time in a feeling, a sentence, or a paragraph is impossible.
Well done, as the research putting this together would have been a huge undertaking, then moulding it into an enjoyable book is a wonderful thing.
Thanks

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A well written history of HBC

I enjoyed the story telling very much. It was a quick listen. I learned quite a lot from this book. It felt like a crash course on Canadian history.

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  • Overall
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Great book on Canadian history

I enjoyed listening to this book. It is amazing to learn how one monopoly basically defined the future, territory and economics of North-Western Canada. I recommend it to everybody interested in Canadian history.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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Dry

So much adventure and exploring and it all seemed like a technical manual. Much preferred Bush Runner and The Northwest is our Mother. Cover most of the same topics but in a manner that intrigued me much more than this.

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