The colonization and the development of New France were closely associated with a raw material much needed in Europe: fur. Beaver, whose fur was used to make felt hats, is the starting point of Canada’s economic development. However, many other types of fur were exported. In Louisiana, for example, trade turned on deer skins.
A real economic engine, the fur trade also drove territorial expansion. It attracted many young men to the lands in the interior of the continent, including the famous Pays d’en haut, or the upper country, toward areas with greater fur resources. Combined with evangelization, it was trade that fostered contact with Aboriginal peoples. Furthermore, it caused a revolution in Aboriginal material culture and hunting practices.
The following article reveals all of the facets of the trade that proved fundamental for the rise of New France. It shows the extent to which trade was particularly well organized, and the well-defined role of each of the actors. Readers discover the varieties of traded furs, the stages in local preparation and their transformation in European workshops. The article relates the turbulent saga of trading companies and recounts the practices that led to the first economic crisis in Canada in the early 18th century.