Telling the Transnational Self: Shifting Identities in the Voyages of Pierre-
Esprit Radisson

Hilliker, Robert J.

Between his birth, most likely in Paris, in 1636, and his death, in London, in 1710, Pierre-Esprit Radisson led a vagabond life. His youth was spent in the colonies of New France and among the neighboring Native American communities. At roughly fifteen years of age he was taken captive by the Iroquois and adopted into a Mohawk family. After his return to New France, Radisson made good use of his knowledge of Native American customs, traveling west into Huronia with his brother-in-law and trading for furs. After a falling-out with the governor of New France, however, Radisson and his brother-in-law ended up in England, where Radisson made a manuscript record of their voyages. Radisson then played a key role in the founding of the Hudson's Bay Company, which, from 1670 onwards, established the English as an important force in the fur trade. Radisson, however, returned to the service of the French king, Louis XIV, briefly in the 1680s, in large part because of anti-French sentiment in the Company. And yet, Radisson's family ties in England made it difficult for him to find the kind of employment he had hoped for in France, and so he returned again to England, where he remained until his death. This essay examines his life and writings in the context of changing concepts of identity and authorship in the seventeenth century.

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July 8, 2011