Thompson’s Highway: British Columbia’s Fur Trade, 1800–1850

Thompson's Highway, by Alan Twigg

Thompson’s Highway:

British Columbia’s Fur Trade, 1800–1850

by Alan Twigg


  • Autumn 2006
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-039-2 (1-55380-039-7)
  • 6″ x 9″ Trade Paperback, 254 pages
  • History

For his third volume about BC literary history, Alan Twigg traces the writings of David Thompson, Alexander Mackenzie, Simon Fraser and thirty of their peers, mainly Scotsmen, who founded and managed more than fifty forts west of the Rockies prior to 1850.

This lively and unprecedented panorama introduces remarkable but little-known characters such as the wandering artist Paul Kane; the spy Henry James Warre; the botanist David Douglas; the “white slave of the Nootka,” John Jewitt; the devout Christian Daniel Harmon; and John D’Wolf (Herman Melville’s uncle), the inspiration for Moby Dick.

Thompson’s Highway anticipates a wide range of bicentennial events to mark David Thompson’s mapping of the Columbia River, near Golden, BC, in 1807. After the failure of Alexander Mackenzie and Simon Fraser to find a navigable route to the Pacific Ocean, it was the remarkable mapmaker, David Thompson, who was instrumental in creating the “highway” for commerce that connected both sides of the North American continent. Thompson’s exploration and mapping enabled George Simpson, the “Little Emperor” of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and James Douglas, the founding father of the province, finally to bring viability to the corporate fur trade on the so-called Western Slope.

“Twigg is the Ali Baba of Canadian literary studies. He finds literary gems from the often silent and discursive past and brings them to life. . . . Since the deaths of W. Kaye Lamb, William Ireland, Margaret Ormsby, and Charles Lillard, Twigg has been the main voice for what I call the British Columbia narrative.” —Barry Gough, Bibliographical Society of Canada

Alan Twigg’s Literary History of British Columbia:


Reviews & Awards:

“Passionately, almost obsessively, Twigg has been drawing the map of our conglomerate culture” —Pacific Rim Review of Books

“lively, and energetic, slangy and accessible, and well informed” —Georgia Straight

Thompson’s Highway usefully introduces readers to a new topic, aiding them with its extensive bibliography.” —BC Studies