The Merchant John Askin cover
The Merchant John Askin
Furs and Empire at British Michilimackinac
John Askin, a Scots-Irish migrant to North America, built his fur trade between the years 1758 and 1781 in the Great Lakes region of North America. His experience serves as a   vista from which to view important aspects of the British Empire in North America. The close interrelationship between trade and empire enabled Askin’s economic triumphs but also made him vulnerable to the consequences of imperial conflicts and mismanagement. The ephemeral, contested nature of British authority during the 1760s and 1770s created openings for men like Askin to develop a trade of smuggling liquor or to challenge the Hudson’s Bay Company’s monopoly over the fur trade, and allowed them to boast in front of British officers of having the “Key of Canada” in their pockets. How British officials responded to and even sanctioned such activities demonstrates the vital importance of trade and empire working in concert. Askin’s life’s work speaks to the collusive nature of the British Empire—its vital need for the North American merchants, officials, and Indigenous communities to establish effective accommodating relationships, transgress boundaries (real or imagined), and reject certain regulations in order to achieve the empire’s goals.
Subjects: History | Biography
Publication Date: September 1st, 2017
262 pages| 6 in x 9 in
Justin M. Carroll is an Assistant Professor of American History at Indiana University East.

Early Praise

“Although John Askin was one of the most prominent entrepreneurs of the period of British control of the Great Lakes (1760–1796), he has never been the subject of a comprehensive biography. Carroll illuminates the sometimes shadowy figure of Askin and clearly shows how he and his numerous business and family interests at Michilimackinac and later at Detroit influenced trade in the northern Great Lakes—and how it in turn affected him. This is an eminently readable account of a giant of Michigan’s first major industry”.
Brian Leigh Dunnigan, Associate Director and Curator of Maps, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
“This rich portrait of John Askin’s life offers a unique vista into the close interrelationship between trade and empire in the western Great Lakes. As a trader at Michilimackinac and Detroit, Askin lived at the peripheries of the First British Empire, and through his eyes we see how Indians influenced the outcomes of this more powerful empire, frequently forcing the powerful British to accede to Indian demands. Askin’s economic triumphs depended on his relationship with Indigenous people while the consequences of imperial conflicts and mismanagement often led Askin down financially disastrous pathways.”
Susan Sleeper-Smith, Professor, Department of History, Michigan State University, and coeditor of Why You Can’t Teach United States History without American Indians and author of Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes
“Justin Carroll has written a long needed business biography of John Askin, the most prominent trader at Michilimackinac during the late 1760s and 1770s. Carroll shows in detail how Askin’s changing relationships with British post commanders facilitated his rise and precipitated his fall as a major player in the fur trade. Anyone interested in the British presence in the western Great Lakes will find this book to be of great interest.”
Keith R. Widder, author of Beyond Pontiac’s Shadow: Michilimackinac and the Anglo-Indian War of 1763


Book AwardMidwest Book Award Finalist, Biography
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