Thomas Douglas, the Fifth Earl of Selkirk (1770–1820), was a complex man of his times, whose passions left an indelible mark on Canadian history. A product of the Scottish Enlightenment and witness to the French Revolution, he dedicated his fortune and energy to the vision of a new colony at the centre of North America. His final legacy, the Red River Settlement, led to the eventual end of the dominance of the fur trade and began the demographic and social transformation of western Canada.
The product of three decades of research, this is the definitive biography of Lord Selkirk. Bumsted’s passionate prose and thoughtful analysis illuminate not only the man, but also the political and economic realities of the British empire at the turn of the nineteenth century. He analyzes Selkirk’s position within these realities, showing how his paternalistic attitudes informed his “social experiments” in colonization and translated into unpredictable, and often tragic, outcomes. Bumsted also provides extensive detail on the complexities of colonization, the Scottish Enlightenment, Scottish peerage, the fur trade, the Red River settlement, and early British-Canadian politics.
“Probably the best biography of this complex, compartmentalized man that we are going to get, and that is no small achievement.”
“This is the work of a scholar at the top of his game. There is not going to be a better biography of Selkirk in a very long time.”