A Legacy of Exploitation
Early Capitalism in the Red River Colony, 1763–1821
In A Legacy of Exploitation, Susan Dianne Brophy examines the early Red River Colony to show how its history informs present-day settler-colonial relations. This critical re-evaluation upends standard accounts of the Red River Colony by foregrounding Indigenous producers as a driving force of change.
As the primary producers of furs for the commercial trade, Indigenous peoples laboured in an exploitative system designed to benefit the companies. Yet the realities of the fur trade also meant that the companies could never exercise complete control over Indigenous producers. This intimate portrayal of the colony centres Indigenous peoples’ autonomy as an unwelcome fact that the Hudson’s Bay Company’s settlement at Red River intended to disrupt.
A Legacy of Exploitation offers a comprehensive account of legal, economic, and geopolitical relations to show how autonomy can become distorted as complicity in processes of dispossession. Brophy’s unflinching assessment lays bare the myths of pre-Confederation adventuring and the cruel reality of early settler-colonialism in Canada.
An important and timely book for students of Canadian history, those interested in the history of capitalism, anyone studying Indigenous peoples’ autonomy in the pre-Confederation era, and any settler committed to the ongoing work of reconciliation.
A Legacy of Exploitation is highly significant, even crucial. This excellent intervention into fur trade studies, British colonial history, and the history of the establishment of the Red River Colony will change how I write and teach.
Susan Brophy has done an excellent job writing an alternative and insightful analysis of Red River history. Her commentary also applies to broader fur trade dynamics, company histories, and international developments rarely considered by historians of the Canadian Northwest.
Susan Dianne Brophy is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies at St. Jerome’s University (federated with the University of Waterloo). She has published in journals including Constellations, European Journal of Political Theory, Labour/Le travail, Law and Critique, and Settler Colonial Studies.
Introduction: Exploitation and Autonomy
1 Reciprocity and Dispossession: Processes of Transformation
2 Monopoly and Competition: Contests over Indigenous Peoples’ Labour and Land
3 Honour and Duplicity: Debts of Rivals, Dreams of an Aristocrat
4 Servitude and Independence: The Settler Colonial “Experiment” Begins
5 Menace and Ally: Proclamation as Provocation
6 Consciousness and Ignorance: New Nation, Old Grievances
Conclusion: Continuity and Change
Notes; Bibliography; Index
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