Globalization--north America and the Fur Trade, ca. 1550-1800s



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HSTAA 221

Nash


Globalization--North America and the Fur Trade, ca. 1550-1800s
I. Economies in the 16th Century

A. Native America: subsistence economies

-example: New England

-Indians capable of being wasteful (e.g., extravagant potlatches), but the structure of native societies does not generally encourage ever-increasing consumption

B. Europe: (emerging) Capitalist Economy

--less social regulation of exchange, consumption, accumulation (market is stronger, trade and accumulation is accepted, encouraged);

--“mercantilism”an imperial policy that revolves around resource extraction in colonies
II. The Fur Trade and its Social Effects on Native American Societies

A. When and what was the fur trade?

B. Why trade with Europeans?

C. What made this trade different?

1. the size of the network/market

(a *global* market)

2. middlemen (fur trade “entrepreneurs”) and the expansionist imperative of capitalism

3. trade not regulated/constrained by sociocultural customs on the part of Europeans

D. Effect on Indian societies

-more material wealth

(Historian James Axtell, “the first consumer revolution in North America”)

-more war (e.g., Iroquois “beaver wars”, 1650-1700)

-economic dependency

-positive feedback loop hunting generates more needs that can only be satisfied by tradein order to trade, Indians need to hunt more

-introduction of alcohol exacerbates this

-digression: alcohol in the fur trade

-why do Indians drink? Genetic versus social/cultural explanations
III. Local Ecological Effects

A. beaver trade

-beaver as “keystone species” their presence affects ecology more than their numbers and size would suggest

-crucial role of beavers in meadow/riverine ecologies


B. Pacific sea otter trade (Russians, British, Americans in 18th Century, 1740-1910)

--otters=another keystone species

--population from 150,000-300,000 down to 1000-2000

--dramatic effects on Pacific Coast food webs


IV. Conclusion

A. Cultural and material power of the capitalist market: animals turned into commodities; Native Americans brought into global market



B. Uneven effects of “globalization” on people and landscapes: winners and losers


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