Pierre-Esprit Radisson, a French adventurer, came to New France in 1651 in search of opportunity. Captured by the Iroquois at 16, he survived torture, was adopted by the Mohawks, and lived among the natives for over a year learning their customs and languages. Once back in New France he led the adventurous life of a "coureur de bois", becoming the partner of his brother-in-law, Medard Chouart Des Groseilliers. When French authorities rejected their plan to reach the rich fur territories of the Hudson's Bay area, they found ready backers and expertise for the expedition in England. Their first successful expedition of 1668-1669 resulted in the founding of the Hudson's Bay Company. Historians have been critical of Radisson and Des Groseilliers' changes of allegiance but Martin Fournier shows that they loyally served their English business partners until the political turmoil of the Exclusion Crisis against the succession of the Catholic Duke of York, Radisson's patron, forced the two Frenchmen to leave England. Radisson then worked briefly for French interests before permanently establishing the Nelson River trading post for the Hudson's Bay Company in 1684.
From 1687 until his death In this biography Martin Fournier makes use of Radisson's six travel narratives to provide an intimate portrait of this intriguing and complex figure. These narratives, too often neglected by historians, provide insight into Radisson's character and include accounts of his periods of captivity, guerilla expeditions and trading ventures among the natives. The volume should cast light on a remarkable figure who was as much at home in the North American wilderness as in the grandest salons of Europe.