Date of Award

5-2014

Degree Type

Creative Project

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

John D. Barton

Abstract

Careful study of the published history of the American Southwest reveals that historians have not provided a comprehensive analysis of the infrastructure that enabled the fur trade in the American Southwest to thrive. Analysis of that infrastructure unveils an amalgamation of blended characteristics derived from the French, British, and American systems along with characteristics derived from the Southwest’s own evolutionary development over time and space. This paper will detail and explain the shared characteristics of the Southwestern fur trade’s infrastructure, emphasizing the animals, people, depots, and supplies, during the era of the soft fur trade, which dealt primarily with beaver from 1821 to 1840. This work will show how that infrastructure was significant to the success of the Southwestern Fur Trade.

In order to avoid conflicting interpretations of phrases such as “the Southwest,” it is important to define some terms. For this work the Southwest is defined as the northern provinces of Old Mexico prior to the Mexican-American War. This includes lands south of the 42nd parallel, specifically as a region entailing modern day California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well as Wyoming west of the Continental Divide. Infrastructure is defined as “the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.”1 This study will advance a new theoretical approach to history by looking at the past as a series of infrastructures or components that allowed for, in this case, a fur trade to exist. This work will also highlight a region of rich and detailed history often left underexplored by historians.

4-24-2014