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The first European explorers in Alberta were fur traders, including those with the Hudson's Bay Company, possibly as early as the 1690s. Settlement followed by the 1780s with the establishment of trading posts; by 1821 the Company was in control of the territory.
The population remained sparse in the westernmost of the Prairie provinces, until after 1896 when large-scale settling began and a thriving farming economy developed, based on ranching and wheat. Alberta joined Confederation in 1905.