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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (112 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Eric Jay Dolin Narrator: Tom Weine Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Fur, Fortune, and Empire is the most comprehensive and compelling history of the American fur trade ever written.

As Henry Hudson sailed up the broad river that would one day bear his name, he grew concerned that his Dutch patrons would be disappointed in his failure to find the fabled route to the Orient. What became immediately apparent, however, from the Indians clad in deer skins and “good furs” was that Hudson had discovered something just as tantalizing.

The news of Hudson’s 1609 voyage to America ignited a fierce competition to lay claim to this uncharted continent, teeming with untapped natural resources. The result was the creation of an American fur trade, which fostered economic rivalries and fueled wars among the European powers and later between the United States and Great Britain, as North America became a battleground for colonization and imperial aspirations.

In Fur, Fortune, and Empire, bestselling author Eric Jay Dolin chronicles the rise and fall of the fur trade of old, when the rallying cry was “get the furs while they last.” Beavers, sea otters, and buffalos were slaughtered, used for their precious pelts that were tailored into extravagant hats, coats, and sleigh blankets. To read Fur, Fortune, and Empire then is to understand how North America was explored, exploited, and settled, while its native Indians were alternately enriched and exploited by the trade. As Dolin demonstrates, fur, both an economic elixir and an agent of destruction, became inextricably linked to many key events in American history, including the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812, as well as to the relentless pull of Manifest Destiny and the opening of the West.

This work provides an international cast beyond the scope of any Hollywood epic, including Thomas Morton, the rabble-rouser who infuriated the Pilgrims by trading guns with the Indians; British explorer Captain James Cook, whose discovery in the Pacific Northwest helped launch America’s China trade; Thomas Jefferson who dreamed of expanding the fur trade beyond the Mississippi; America’s first multimillionaire John Jacob Astor, who built a fortune on a foundation of fur; and intrepid mountain men such as Kit Carson and Jedediah Smith, who sliced their way through an awe inspiring and unforgiving landscape, leaving behind a mythic legacy still resonates today.

Concluding with the virtual extinction of the buffalo in the late 1800s, Fur, Fortune, and Empire is an epic history that brings to vivid life three hundred years of the American experience, conclusively demonstrating that the fur trade played a seminal role in creating the nation we are today.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Nobody writes about the link between American history and natural history with the scholarly grace of Eric Jay Dolin. Fur, Fortune, and Empire is a landmark study filled with a cast of eccentric Western-type characters. Dolin’s research is prodigious. Not since the days of Francis Parkman has a historian analyzed the fur trade industry with such brilliance. Highly recommended!”

    Douglas Brinkley, bestselling author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America

  • “[An] absorbing story…Dolin, author of the acclaimed Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, offers another good history well told.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Dolin’s book tells the story of America from Pilgrim times to the end of the nineteenth century by means of the fur trade, a driving economic force in discovery, exploration, and settlement. Tom Weiner’s narration is crisp and professional, his voice strong.”


  • “Eric Jay Dolin…brings together all the exhilarating and tragic aspects of that trade through the nineteenth century…an absorbing and comprehensive ride through the trade’s history.”


  • “A delightful history, reminding readers that while noble ideals led to the settling of the United States, the fur trade paid the bills.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Nancy Anderson | 12/23/2013

    " Great big read, especially for someone who wants to learn more about the American fur trade -- quite different from the Canadian indeed! Adventure, danger, and sometimes but not always "a golden round of profits." "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Dot | 11/22/2013

    " Another suprising look about our past. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Don | 8/2/2013

    " There's a lot to know about fur. Without it, America might have never got off the East Coast. This story goes in a lot of directions and all over the country, but Mr. Dolin does a nice job of making it move along. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Linda | 4/8/2013

    " So many amazing facts, persons who showed up unexpectedly, impact of fur trade on Indian land loss and culture. I'm going to have my AP US students do this as a summer reading requirement and compare it with Facing East from Indian Country. "

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About the Author
Author Eric Jay Dolin

Eric Jay Dolin is the author of Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, which was chosen as one of the best nonfiction books of 2007 by the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe. It also won the 2007 John Lyman Award for US Maritime History. A graduate of Brown, Yale, and MIT, where he received his PhD in environmental policy, he lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.