Episode 021: Eugene Tesdahl, Smuggling in Colonial America & Living History

Did you know that John Hancock was a smuggler?

021-TesdahlSmuggling presented a large problem for the imperial governments of Great Britain and France during the colonial period.

Dr. Eugene Tesdahl, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, joins us to discuss the business of smuggling in colonial North America and his involvement with living history as a French and Indian War-era re-enactor.


About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

eugene_tesdahlIn today’s episode, Dr. Eugene Tesdahl, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, joins us to discuss smuggling in colonial North America.

Gene uses the example of the infamous Albany-Montréal fur trade to reveal how Great Britain and France defined smuggling and why some colonists opted to conduct illegal trade; what types of goods the British colonists in Albany exchanged with the French colonists in Montréal; and the surprising role that Native and Euro-American women played in the illicit Albany-Montréal trade.

Additionally, Gene helps us explore the everyday lives of the colonists who lived in New France by taking us into the world of living history where Gene adopts the role of a French fur trader, or coureur de bois, Henri François Letannier.


What You’ll Discover

  • Information about Gene and how he found his passion for early American history
  • How Gene came to study the Albany-Montréal fur trade, 1700-1754
  • Why the fur traders of Albany looked to New France for furs
  • What smuggling is and how imperial governments defined the trade
  • How the British Navigation Acts facilitated and hindered the colonists’ ability to send raw materials back to their mother or father countries
  • What goods the Albany traders exchanged with the French fur traders for peltry
  • The role of women in the Albany-Montréal fur trade
  • The role Native American men and women played in the Albany-Montréal fur trade
  • How Gene tracked down the activities of early American smugglers in historical records
  • Henri-FrancoisHow long the Albany-Montréal trade operated and when it reached its height
  • The actions Great Britain and France took to stop the illegal trade
  • How Gene became interested in living history and how he found his historic character Henri François Letannier
  • How first-person historical interpretation fits in with the study of history
  • How Gene uses first-person historical interpretation in his classroom
  • Information about the role religion played in the lives of early American French fur traders
  • How early American French fur traders lived and what they ate
  • Information about the life expectancy for early American French fur traders
  • The types of work early American French fur traders engaged in
  • How Gene’s experiences with re-enactment/living history have helped him better understand the historical period he studies
  • How you can get involved in living history or historical re-enactment


Links to People, Places, and Publications


Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

What might have happened if the governors of New York or New France had stopped the Albany-Montréal fur trade before the French and Indian War?


Dr. Eugene Tesdahl’s Recommended Books about the French and Indian War

Nouvelle France

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