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LECTURE: Jean Monnet, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the problem of French supply in the long First World War

March 7, 2024 at 12:30 PM to 2:00 PM

Location:B146 Loeb Building

Join us for the lecture “Jean Monnet, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the problem of French supply in the long First World War” with Dr. Erik Thomson, Associate Professor of History at the University of Manitoba.

DATE: Thursday, March 7th 

TIME: 12:30pm-2:00pm

LOCATION: Loeb Building B146

Registration is required. Please use the form below to register. 

About the Lecture: 

The Hudson’s Bay Company played a neglected role in the First World War, serving as a global purchasing agent and shipping firm that kept the French, and other British allies, supplied with food, commodities and manufactured goods that played a crucial role in winning the long war of attrition. Biographers of Jean Monnet have written the most about the HBC work, noting that Monnet began his long career as by recommending the HBC to the French government. This paper takes a closer look at the HBC’s role, examining hitherto unnoticed documents revealing French planning during late July and early August 1914 that reveals statesmen anticipating a long war of attrition that would require supplies and munition for a long war. It shows how a network of City-of-London based merchant bankers placed the HBC as the service of the French government, drawing on their worldwide networks to assemble a logistical supply network that served as an economic backbone of the allied powers. Long obscured by the construction of formal inter-allied economic organizations, the Hudson Bay Company’s showed how a crucial strength of the Entente powers—the financial, information and shipping networks of the British world system—drew upon private entrepreneurs to sustain the French people during a foreseen long-war of attrition.

About the Speaker: 

Erik Thomson is an Associate Professor at the University of Manitoba. He usually studies subjects at the intersection of commerce, diplomacy, war-finance and statecraft in the Swedish, Dutch and French seventeenth century. In 2020, he published with Svante Norrhem an edited volume called Economies of Allegiance: Subsidies, Diplomacy and State Formation in Europe, 1494-1989, with Lund University Press. He recently began research into the Hudson’s Bay Company’s French government business during WWI. He serves as vice-president of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association, and as a member of CAUT’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee.