The Human Factor

At the beginning of Canada’s oldest company

When customers walk into a Hudson’s Bay department store — there are just over ninety of them across Canada — do they know much about its parent company? Sure, they’re probably aware that the Bay has been around a long time, that it proudly sponsors the Canadian Olympic team, and that it may soon end up in the hands of an American owner (again). But they may not realize the original Hudson’s Bay Company was once the lifeblood of early North America. And it’s doubtful they know that HBC was the main influencer and de facto government for much of the continent.

It appears that even some historians have things to learn about one of the world’s oldest businesses. For years, research into the formative relationship between the mammoth fur trader and its light brigade of employees has relied on incomplete conjecture and deficient source work. With Masters and Servants, Scott P. Stephen attempts to unveil...