Lives Lived West of the Divide

Vancouver, BC based historian, Bruce McIntyre Watson, and the Centre for Social, Spatial, and Economic Justice, an academic research centre located on the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus, are pleased to introduce the new 3-volume set, Lives Lived West of the Divide: A Biographical Dictionary of Fur Traders Working West of the Rockies, 1793-1858.

The work is a result of 20 years of research into the many individuals involved in the fur trade west of the Rocky Mountains and spans the international border from Northern British Columbia to southern Oregon.  Avoiding the traditional fur trade historiography often written from the point of view of the decision makers, this more inclusive comprehensive biographical dictionary details the lives of over 3,500 individuals who were involved in the fur trade during the period 1793-1858. The main biographical section (which spans all three volumes) is introduced by chapters on the various groups of people and companies which employed them, as well as a detailed breakdown of the fur trade posts in terms of physical structure and the necessities that the men manufactured within the posts. This is followed by a lengthy narrative on the complex daily realities that the ordinary fur traders experienced, family lives, special events, daily routines, celebrations and holidays, conflicts and resolutions and adjustment to the realities of the inevitable non-fur trade pioneer settlement. Following the extensive biographical entry section is a comprehensive set of appendices detailing all of the fur trade forts and posts and their personnel, the ships servicing the land based fur trade, medical instruments and medicines found at the posts, a sampling of items that individuals ordered in, and a listing of books found in company and private post libraries. Last, showing how the fur traders moved on with their lives, is the post-fur trade settlement patterns on both sides of the international border.

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