Brenda GoodmanCapitalism 464Fall 2018 PaperDr. Jon BeanThe Hudson Bay Company: A Royal SurvivorThe Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) is the oldest incorporated joint-stock merchandising company in the English-speaking world.1In 1670 King Charles II of England granted a royal charter giving HBC exclusive fur trade rights and control over an expansive territory surroundingthe Hudson Bay which is today Manitoba, Canada. HBC’s long history is entwined with the colonization of British North America, early French traders and the early settlers of Canada. HBC has survived the bubbles, recessions, depressions, wars and disaster to claim the royal title of being the oldest company in North America. HBC’s historic success was the establishment of its fundamental foundation of a centralized bureaucracy for continually organizing and updating fur transactions; ordering of trade goods; market analysis; shipping arrangements; employee and native relations;. HBC’s historic implicit requirement for documentation relating to policies, reports, journals and finite accounting coupled with its solid operational foundation has provided HBC with a system that it has utilized to expand and contract in an ever change world and economy. HBC has accomplished this for almost three hundred fifty years while always being tethered to its original business - trade and retail.1 Encyclopedia Canada, (2006), s.v. “Hudson Bay History.”1
Working from bottom to top and back againUnlike most contemporary trading concerns prior to 1670, the HBC evolved as a joint-stock company with a centralized bureaucracy. There were no independent posts or officials acting on behalf of the HBC. At annual general meetings, shareholders elected a governor and committee to organize fur auctions, order trade goods, hire men and arrange for shipping for the coming year. The London-based governor and committee set all the basic policies and oversaw the implementation of policies for the company. They based their decisions on annual reports, journals and account books supplied by the officials. The General Court also appointed a governor to act on their behalf in the bay area. Each factory (trading post) was commanded by a chief factor (trader) and his council of officers. The chief factor and his council were all required to send regular detailed reports on all activities in their area pertaining to the company and any pertinent information about political unrest or problems that might affect trade with the natives.From its conception by Royal Charter in 1670 and throughout its history, HBC has kept detailed records of its activities, growth and expansion. These detailed records, journals, reports,and other important documents have been kept beginning with the minutes from the first meetingin 1671. The archived documents up to 1970 take up 1,500 meters of shelfing space in the Hudson Bay Company Archives housed in Manitoba Canada.22 2
These archived regular reports sent by the chief factor and his council of officers to London were done by young poor but educated men recruited from London.