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Money, Fashion and Power

To what extent did money, fashion and power drive the fur trade?

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Suggested Activities

In this challenge, students learn about the economics, fashion and politics in the North American fur trade by assessing the extent to which each was a motivating factor in this industry.

Activity 1
Discuss, with the class, which is the greatest motivator of people's behaviour: money, fashion or power. Ask students to justify their responses with evidence or examples. Invite students to speculate on whether these factors have changed over time. Indicate that students will review the history of the fur trade to determine whether financial success, fashion or power seems to have been the main motivating factor. You may wish to poll the class to determine an initial judgement of Europeans' main motivation.

Activity 2
Provide each student or pair of students with a fact sheet that briefly summarizes key facts related to the economics, fashion and politics of the fur trade. Record the facts in boxes, as illustrated below, so information can be easily cut out and categorized. You may also ask students to gather and share facts.


The demand for beaver pelts was high as wide-brimmed felt hats came into fashion in the late 16th century.



The profits from the fur trade allowed France to send hundreds of settlers to New France.


Aboriginal peoples were key to the fur trade as they trapped the furs and carried them to the trading post.

Ask students to cut out each box and categorize the information under the appropriate heading; i.e., politics, fashion, economics. Direct students to use this evidence to decide the relative significance of each factor.

Activity 3
Ask students to individually create a pie chart that shows the extent to which money, fashion and power drove the fur trade. Suggest that students consider how many people the factor influenced and how strongly it influenced people when determining their allocation. Ask students to write a paragraph to explain the division of their pie chart. After students have had an opportunity to share their pie chart and justifications, repoll the class to see if students have changed their initial assessment.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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