Discovering the Region: Commentary

2. Lemuel Gulliver [Jonathan Swift], Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World

Jonathan Swift’s famous satire provides additional evidence of the Northwest Coast in the European imagination. The second land that Gulliver visited in his fictional travels, Brobdingnag was populated by giants—people so large that a man could actually carry a whale over his shoulder. Gulliver explained to readers that “this vast Tract of Land” was attached to “the North-west Parts of America.” On this fanciful map, Swift located Brobdingnag roughly in the vicinity of present-day Alaska, substantially to the north of the Strait of Anian and Capes Blanco and Mendocino. Although it would be more than fifty years before British navigators would actually set eyes on the Northwest Coast, Swift was perpetuating and adding to European conceptions of what existed there.

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