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History General

Beyond the River and the Bay

Some Observations on the State of the Canadian Northwest in 1811 with a View to Providing the Intending Settler with an Intimate Knowledge of That Country

by (author) Eric Ross

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Dec 1970
General, General, 19th Century
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    Publish Date
    Dec 1970
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Beyond the River and the Bay brings to life the exciting landscape of the Canadian Northwest in the early years of the nineteenth century when the fur traders from the St. Lawrence clashed with their rivals from Hudson Bay. The book is based on an imaginary long-lost manuscript by Ian Alexander Bell Robertson entitled "Some Observations on the State of the Canadian Northwest in 1811." Robertson, a friend of Lord Selkirk and Sir Walter Scott, was invented by Ross in order to integrate into the test remarks by such contemporary observers as David Thompson, Daniel Harmon, Peter Fidler, and Alexander Mackenzie.


This book provides a picture of the Northwest at it was immediately prior first white settlement, based on sources that would have been available to a writer at that time. The arrival of the first agricultural pioneers in the Northwest in 1811 marked the beginning of the end of the era of the Indian and the fur trade, and the first faltering steps towards permanent settlement which later was to change the face of the West, a face which had remained for many centuries virtually unscarred by the hand of man. The Northwest of 1811, still in its natural state, is well worth knowing today, not only as a backdrop against which to project the fur trade during its most exciting period, but also as a starting point for modern studies of the geography and history of the region

About the author

ERIC ROSS was born in Moncton, N.B., and studied history at the University of New Brunswick and geography at Edinburgh University. He taught at the University of Victoria, was a visiting professor at Université Laval and at Edinburgh University, head of the department of geography at Bishop's University, and is at present head of the department of geography at Mount Allison University.

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Editorial Reviews

"One of the best histories of the Canadian Northwest ever written, this study is intribuing for its approach as much as for its contest." Library Journal

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