Fur, Fortune, and Empire
The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America
(W. W. Norton, 464 pp., 90 illus., 2010, ISBN: 978-0-393-06710-1, $29.95)
From the best-selling author of Leviathan comes this sweeping narrative of one of America's most historically rich industries. Beginning his epic history in the early 1600s, Eric Jay Dolin traces the dramatic rise and fall of the American fur industry, from the first Dutch encounters with the Indians to the rise of the conservation movement in the late nineteenth century. Dolin shows how the fur trade, driven by the demands of fashion, sparked controversy, fostered economic competition, and fueled wars among the European powers, as North America became a battleground for colonization and imperial aspirations. The trade in beaver, buffalo, sea otter, and other animal skins spurred the exploration and the settlement of the vast American continent, while it alternately enriched and gravely damaged the lives of America's native peoples. Populated by a larger-than-life cast-including Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant; President Thomas Jefferson; America's first multimillionaire, John Jacob Astor; and mountain man Kit Carson--Fur, Fortune, and Empire is the most comprehensive and compelling history of the American fur trade ever written.