Or, America’s Continuing War on the Cute and Fuzzy
Also Known As: No Captain & Tenille Jokes Here, No Sirree
Everything old is new again. At least, so says Matt Yglesias. Slate’s economic analyst reports (base on an entertaining Wall Street Journal article) that muskrat pelts from the Upper Midwest are fetching record prices due to rising demand in China. Historically nimble as always, he notes that fur trapping was a key “motive for early (largely French) white exploration” in the former Middle Ground – and so this is yet more evidence that old patterns appear to be reasserting themselves: “Asian industrialization seems to be pushing America back to its roots as a natural resource extraction hub.”
He’s not wrong – but I think he misses an important historical trend line by stretching as far back to the heyday of the coureur de bois. Collecting furs was indeed a key part of French colonialism in North America, but the direct connection to Asian markets (specifically, Canton) was not made until the American Revolution.