Enlightened Zeal

Enlightened Zeal: The Hudson's Bay Company and Scientific Networks, 1670-1870

TED BINNEMA
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 488
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt6wrg45
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  • Book Info
    Enlightened Zeal
    Book Description:

    Enlightened Zealexamines the fascinating history of the Hudson's Bay Company's involvement in scientific networks during the company's two-hundred year chartered monopoly.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6694-8
    Subjects: Business, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-44)

    Science is never just about science, knowledge never just about knowledge. This is especially true of knowledge shared publically. That the public has often viewed science as a disinterested, unselfish, and even altruistic search for truths reflects the fact that scientists and promoters of science have often found it useful, and sometimes imperative, to convince others – and even themselves – thattheirscience at least, is unbiased and apolitical.¹ So widely accepted is this notion of science pursued for its own sake that not only the prestige but also the trustworthiness of science has long been connected with the myth of...

  7. Part I: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Science, 1670–1821
    • 2 “A Profound Secret”: The Adventurers and the Fellows from the 1660s to 1768
      (pp. 47-74)

      In some ways the circumstances in London during the 1660s and 1670s were favourable for the development of fruitful cooperation among Britain’s political, economic, and scientific elite. An informal “Invisible College” of natural philosophers dedicated to the accumulation of knowledge through experimentation and observation had begun meeting in 1645. Thanks to the Royalist sentiments of its “fellows,” in July 1662 King Charles II – only fifteen months after he was crowned in Westminster Abbey – granted this group a formal charter. Thus was born the Royal Society of London.¹

      Less than a decade after the formal establishment of the Royal Society, several...

    • 3 “Desirous to Encourage Science”: The Transit of Venus of 1769 and the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Collaboration with the Royal Society, 1768–1774
      (pp. 75-94)

      It took a rare alignment of planets – literally – for the Governor and Committee of the Hudson’s Bay Company to embrace opportunities to contribute to British science. That alignment occurred in 1769 when Venus passed directly between Earth and the Sun. Historians of science already know that the Transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769 were significant milestones in the history of astronomy and in the history of the expansion of Western scientific endeavour outside of Europe. Captain James Cook’s first voyage was the most famous expedition inspired by the Transit of Venus. The main purpose of Cook’s voyage was to...

    • 4 “Amends for the Narrow Prejudices”: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Science in an Era of Competitive Expansion, 1774–1821
      (pp. 95-126)

      Scientific networks unravel easily. And there was reason to expect scientific activity and cooperation to diminish in the HBC territories during the increasingly difficult years between 1774 and 1821. To compete with the North West Company (NWC) the HBC was induced to begin an inland expansion in 1774 (see figure 4.1). But circumstances only deteriorated for both the HBC and NWC as, by the late 1810s, ruinous competition and bitter rivalry threatened to drive both companies into bankruptcy. Only the amalgamation of the companies in 1821 averted disaster. But thanks largely to the efforts of the London Governor and Committee...

  8. Part II: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Science, 1821–1870
    • 5 “Benevolent Intentions”: The Hudson’s Bay Company, the Royal Navy, and the Search for the Northwest Passage, 1818–1855
      (pp. 129-168)

      If the Transit of Venus of 1769 marked the first great turning point in the history of science in the HBC, 1821 marks a second. After 1821, the HBC’s circumstances were dramatically different than they had been between the 1760s and 1821. During the years before 1821, commercial competition between the HBC and NWC became an increasingly important and costly preoccupation of the directors of the HBC. After 1821, the HBC faced significant commercial competitors only along the fringes of its vast territories. The lack of competition meant that after a few years of adjustment, the company enjoyed unprecedented prosperity...

    • 6 “The Liberal Spirit”: David Douglas, Edinburgh, and the Douglas Legacy, 1823–1870
      (pp. 169-198)

      The search for the Northwest Passage was one of the most high-profile ways in which the HBC supported science after 1818, but it was not the only way. Scientific organizations with which the company might cooperate proliferated in Great Britain in the 1820s. One scholar has described the period between 1820 and 1870 in Britain as the “heyday of natural history,” during which “natural theology made the study of natural history not only respectable, but almost a pious duty.”¹ Many individual scientists and scientific organizations in England and Scotland after 1823 turned to the northwest coast of North America as...

    • 7 “Disinterested Kindness”: The Hudson’s Bay Company and North American–Based Science, 1821–1870
      (pp. 199-237)

      Whether they were searching for the Northwest Passage along the bleak arctic coast or for new species of trees in the temperate rainforest of northwestern North America, British scientists found a steady patron in the HBC after 1821. The HBC also lent assistance to scientists based in the United States and Canada. But the company’s assistance to North American scientists had results and repercussions far more dangerous to the company than its support for British science had. Directors of the company had always known that their support for science could back-fire. The trouble unleashed by Christopher Middleton’s contributions to science...

    • colour plates
      (pp. None)
    • 8 “Knowing the Liberal Disposition”: The Hudson’s Bay Company and the Smithsonian Institution, 1855–1868
      (pp. 238-289)

      By 1855, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s contributions to British science had been growing for several decades, but the years between 1855 and 1868 were probably the most productive in the history of the HBC. The most remarkable change of the period however, was that the Smithsonian Institution, rather than scientists in the British world, became the primary beneficiary of the HBC’s patronage of science. This development could not have been predicted in 1855. HBC men in the Columbia District began assisting visiting American scientists such as John K. Townsend and Thomas Nuttall in the 1830s, and George Simpson, the company’s...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 290-293)

    When Robert Kennicott suggested to George Simpson in June 1859 that the HBC should establish a museum in Rupert’s Land, Simpson dismissed his proposal as unrealistic. It is impossible to know whether or not Kennicott made the suggestion to others, such as William Mactavish, but on 12 February 1862, while Kennicott was still in the HBC territories, a group of people in the Red River settlement established the “Institute of Rupert’s Land.”¹ Its executive included representatives of the three main groups expected to contribute to its activities: clergy, settlers, and HBC officers. David Anderson, the Lord Bishop of Rupert’s Land,...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 294-298)

    Science is driven by interests. Ironically, much of the prestige connected with supporting, undertaking, and sharing the results of scientific research is derived from the myth of its disinterestedness, objectivity, or even its philanthropy. The HBC may be among the earlier companies to experience the advantages of being perceived to a patron of science, but there have been many others. To be fair, the HBC’s (and any company’s) sponsorship of science was only a small part of its efforts to maintain a positive image with influential people. After 1818 the HBC’s support of Christian missionaries in its territories may have...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 299-404)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 405-438)
  13. Index
    (pp. 439-458)