A Diary of Lord Selkirk's Expedition on
the Banks of the Red River 1816-1817
by Antoine de Courten Trafford Publishing

"Spring takes a long time in coming: the nights are still cold, and there is no sign of vegetation yet. The prairies are in flames."

Books on history often suffer from a bad reputation. Frequently lumped together by uninformed readers and declared "boring," some excellent works, especially those on more obscure topics, never reach the wider audience they deserve. Hopefully that will not be the case with this excellent first-hand account of early Canadian history.

In the early 1800s Lord Selkirk, who owned considerable stock in the Hudson's Bay Company, was granted a concession of land that comprised what is now known as Manitoba, North Dakota, and Minnesota. He founded a colony along the banks of the Red River in present-day Winnipeg and peopled it with settlers from his native Scotland. However, a rival to Selkirk's trading company, the North West Company, also had a fort nearby. Conflict broke out and Selkirk received permission to restore order with former soldiers from the Meuron and Watteville regiments. The author's book, culled primarily from the memoirs of Lieutenant Frederic de Graffenried and Lieutenant Gaspard Fauche, as well as an overview of events by M. Guy de Meuron, offers an intriguing picture of the hardships encountered by the participants during their expedition to and subsequent calming of the region. Graffenried's narrative of his personal struggles and observations is especially compelling.

De Courten took on a difficult task with his book, having to rely on German, French, and English versions of the primary sources before compiling this bi-lingual (French and English) text. The result, though, is a highly readable and fascinating glimpse into a little-known chapter in history.

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