A Legacy of Exploitation

Early Capitalism in the Red River Colony, 1763–1821

By Susan Dianne Brophy
Categories: History, Canadian History, Indigenous Studies, Indigenous History
Publisher: UBC Press
Hardcover : 9780774866354, 298 pages, May 2022
Ebook (PDF) : 9780774866378, 298 pages, May 2022
Ebook (EPUB) : 9780774866385, 298 pages, May 2022
Paperback : 9780774866361, 298 pages, February 2023

Table of contents

Introduction: Exploitation and Autonomy

1 Reciprocity and Dispossession: Processes of Transformation

2 Monopoly and Competition: Contests over Indigenous Peoples’ Labour and Land

3 Honour and Duplicity: Debts of Rivals, Dreams of an Aristocrat

4 Servitude and Independence: The Settler Colonial “Experiment” Begins

5 Menace and Ally: Proclamation as Provocation

6 Consciousness and Ignorance: New Nation, Old Grievances

Conclusion: Continuity and Change

Notes; Bibliography; Index


The Red River Colony was the Hudson’s Bay Company’s first planned settlement. As a settler-colonial project par excellence, it was designed to undercut Indigenous peoples’ “troublesome” autonomy and curtain the company’s dependency on their labour. In this critical re-evaluation of the history of the Red River Colony, Susan Dianne Brophy upends standard accounts by foregrounding Indigenous producers as a driving force of change. A Legacy of Exploitation challenges the enduring yet misleading fantasy of Canada as a glorious nation of adventurers, showing how autonomy can become distorted as complicity in processes of dispossession.


  • Winner, Clio Prize (The Prairies), Canadian Historical Association 2023


In providing this “fundamental rethink” of Marxist analysis, the author has cleared a path that other scholars will surely follow. This is an important book.

- James Daschuk, University of Regina