A Company with Sovereignty and Subjects of its Own? The Case of the Hudson's Bay Company, 1670-1763
University of Ottawa; University of the Witwatersrand
February 7, 2011
Canadian Journal of Law and Society (Revue Canadienne Droit et Société), Vol. 26, No. 1, 2011
Questions about the ways in which colonial subjects were acquired and maintained, and how it was that multiple and often contradictory sovereignties came to overlap in history, may not be purely academic. We raise them today because they spring from issues that remain unresolved, concerning rights to land, resources, and self-determination. Following recent scholarship on the English East India Company, the author redefines the Hudson’s Bay Company, during the period before widespread settler colonialism, as a state (or “company-state”), and in this way argues that the HBC-state possessed its own kind of sovereignty. The article make three main arguments: that it was up to the HBC, not the Crown, to found Rupert’s Land, defend its establishments, make alliances with locals, and challenge intruders; that HBC rule extended to cover not only the company’s employees but, eventually, an indigenous “home guard” population; and that the HBC welfare regime transformed the relationship between ruler and ruled.
Keywords: Hudson’s Bay Company, Rupert’s Land, colonialism, sovereignty, jurisdiction, land, government, welfare, Aboriginal peoples
Date posted: February 10, 2011
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