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Keepers of the Record

Keepers of the Record: The History of the Hudson's Bay Company Archives

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 384
Stable URL:
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  • Book Info
    Keepers of the Record
    Book Description:

    Winner, Manitoba Day Award, Association of Manitoba Archives (2008)

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6049-9
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword (pp. ix-xii)
    Maureen Dolyniuk

    In 1975 the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives opened for public research in Manitoba following transfer of the records from Hudson’s Bay House in London. Some staff members working here today still recall the unusual way in which the documents were loaded onto the shelves in those early years. They were loaded from the bottom up, rather than the top down, in order to prevent the shelves from tipping over under the weight of the volumes. It was amazing how we got used to this arrangement and found it more difficult to adjust to the other way around – that is, scanning...

  4. Acknowledgments (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. [Illustrations] (pp. xv-2)
  6. Introduction (pp. 3-12)

    The Hudson’s Bay Company Archives contains the business records of the Hudson’s Bay Company, collected, preserved, and protected for more than three centuries as evidence of the Company’s legal and professional obligations to its shareholders, to its employees, to the monarchy of Great Britain and Canada, and to the government of Canada. It holds rare and unique evidence and information about business, scientific, historical, political, and archival significance. Over three thousand linear metres of records, including the original vellum and leather-bound minute books, are now maintained in air-conditioned and humiditycontrolled space at the Archives of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

    This history...

  7. 1 if it can bee Soe Soone done: The First Fifty Years of Record-Keeping, 1670–1720 (pp. 13-42)

    If we are to appreciate fully the Hudson’s Bay Company’s success in keeping its records, we must judge the Company and its records in relation to the time period in which they were created. That requires an understanding of the people involved and their interconnections with the monarchy, government, business, society, and each other. How did the Company get started? What did England look like in the mid-seventeenth century? What is the historical setting for this business and these records?

    Charles II was restored to the British throne in 1660 after a decade of the Puritanism of Cromwell’s regime. The...

  8. 2 upon no Account to Communicate any of the Company’s Affairs: Record-Keeping and Corporate Memory, 1720–1800 (pp. 43-82)

    Within fifty years of its receiving the charter, the business of the Hudson’s Bay Company was conducted as much in remote North America as in the exciting city of London and at the royal court. By 1720 the Company had established itself on firm ground in the area of Hudson Bay with four forts – Albany, York, Eastmain, and Churchill – and had settled into large and secure premises in London. Its charter had been challenged, successfully defended, and confirmed in Parliament. Even when that endorsement was rescinded in 1697, the royal warrant continued as the basis for the Company’s presence in...

  9. 3 a regular communication: The Record-Keeping of Amalgamation and Colonization, 1800–1830 (pp. 83-114)

    For most of the years between 1780 and 1820, the story of the Hudson’s Bay Company is inextricably interconnected with that of the equally remarkable North West Company. The intense animosity between the two competitors for the North American fur trade continued into the nineteenth century and ended with their amalgamation. The company that emerged from decades of rivalry had the autonomy, control, and name of the HBC with the additional trading territory of the former NWC and a new energy. In the process, the HBC changed its way of doing business, and the fur trade expanded across North America....

  10. 4 request the favour of your particular attention: Expanding Horizons Require Detailed Record-Keeping, 1830–1860 (pp. 115-142)

    With the amalgamation of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company in 1821, the administrative responsibilities of the London office mushroomed. The position of secretary became one of increasing importance in the organization of the Company, and William Smith very capably handled the job for twenty-five years, from 1818 to 1843. Besides the usual correspondence, meeting preparation, and minutes, he also managed the business affairs of and served as executor for many of the servants in North America. The position by this time was becoming more like that of the modern chief executive officer, and the assistant secretary...

  11. 5 to surrender to Her Majesty: Record-Keeping in a New Country, 1860–1920 (pp. 143-181)

    The second half of the nineteenth century was prosperous and provided better conditions of life for the majority of people in Britain. The population was growing, and so was the middle class, with unprecedented numbers in the professions and business. Industry boomed and, with it, advances in transportation and technology. Rail lines traversed the country and steamships plied the oceans. The British Empire expanded to include almost one-fifth of the land on earth.¹ It was a time of efflorescence in the arts and sciences. The first Great Exhibition was held in England in 1851, celebrating British manufacturing and trade. The...

  12. 6 custodians of a great inheritance: Developments Evolving from the 250th Anniversary, 1920–1930 (pp. 182-217)

    From its emphasis on the fur trade, the Hudson’s Bay Company had diversified into retail trade and land sales, but its role as “true and absolute Lordes and Proprietor” of almost half the North American continent, as defined in the royal charter, had ended with the Deed of Surrender. In 1920 the Company of Adventurers had been in business for 250 years. The First World War had been over for two years, bringing peace and an end to four years of wartime restrictions and regulation. The world was slowly returning to order, but not without noticeable losses, including an Old...

  13. 7 rendered available for inspection by students of history: Establishment of the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, 1930–1960 (pp. 218-261)

    The decade of the 1920s and the governorship of Charles Sale slammed shut in 1930, a year after the collapse of the North American stock market and the worldwide downturn in everything commercial. The Company experienced heavy operating losses in its retail trade that would last well into the 1930s; no dividends were paid to shareholders from 1931 to 1938. The financial situation was reported to the Committee in December 1930:

    The difficult conditions of trading for the current year as foreshadowed by the Governor at the Annual General Meeting on the 27th June, 1930, have proved to be even...

  14. 8 to deposit its Archives in Winnipeg: Transfer of the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives to Canada, 1960–1974 (pp. 262-286)

    The Company continued to enjoy the public relations value of its history at the same time as it permitted access to and publication from its archives. The positive experience of its archival program during the mid-twentieth century laid the groundwork for resolution of the remaining problems of access to the archives: the limitations of their geographical location in London (which the microfilm program had not fully resolved) and the matter of access to the post-1870 records.

    There had been interest in transferring the archives of the HBC to Canada as early as 1932. The Company had briefly considered handing the...

  15. Postscript (pp. 287-295)

    When the Hudson’s Bay Company archives moved to Canada in 1974, Hartwell Bowsfield of York University in Toronto took over the editorship of the Hudson’s Bay Record Society from Glyndwr Williams. Publication of records from the HBCA continued with volumes thirty-one to thirty-three. Then in 1983, after forty-five years, the society was dissolved. The Company, suffering from the economic realities of the early 1980s, high interest rates and reduced consumer spending, had determined it could no longer support the society. Subscriptions were providing only one-quarter of the cost of the publications, and that did not include the substantial administrative and...

  16. APPENDIX ONE Secretaries of the Hudson’s Bay Company (pp. 296-297)
  17. APPENDIX TWO Archivists of the Hudson’s Bay Company (pp. 298-302)
  18. Notes (pp. 303-334)
  19. Bibliography (pp. 335-346)
  20. Index (pp. 347-360)