At the Far Reaches of Empire

The Life of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra

Freeman M. Tovell

  • Published: 2008. Paperback 2009
  • Subject Listing: History
  • Bibliographic information: 400 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: US rights only
  • Distributed for: UBC Press
  • Contents

Capitán de Navío Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra was the most important Spanish naval officer on the Northwest Coast in the eighteenth century. Serving from 1774 to 1794, he participated in the search for the Northwest Passage and, with George Vancouver, endeavoured to forge a diplomatic resolution to the Nootka Sound controversy between Spain and Britain.

Freeman Tovell's thorough and nuanced study presents this officer of Spain's Enlightened Navy as a key figure in the history of the region. Intelligent, observant, and literate, Bodega received high praise from the viceroys of New Spain under whom he served. His enlightened policy toward the Nuu-chah-nulth and his close association with Chief Maquinna are a matter of record.

Bodega was not without his imperfections - when his overarching ambition to make a name for himself exceeded his financial reach, he incurred ruinous debts. As a Peruvian creole, he also struggled against the glass ceiling imposed by having been born outside Spain. Despite constant efforts for promotions, he never gained the full recognition from naval and political superiors that his achievements deserved.

Bodega's accomplishments place him in the company of Bering, Cook, Vancouver, La Pérouse, and Malaspina - those who advanced a better understanding of the geography, ethnography, and natural history of the area. The most complete study of Bodega and his epoch yet written, At the Far Reaches of Empire is an absorbing narrative of eighteenth-century empire building.
Freeman M. Tovell holds degrees in history from the University of Toronto and Harvard, and served in the Canadian Navy during World War II. He subsequently spent thirty-five years in the Canadian Foreign Service, including ambassadorships to Peru and Bolivia. He was for some years Foreign Service Visitor at the University of Victoria and has published numerous articles on Bodega y Quadra.
1. Beginnings

Part I. The Explorer
2. The 1775 Voyage on the Sonora
3. Preparations for the 1779 Voyage
4. The 1779 Voyage
5. Away from the North Pacific

Part II. The Commandant
6. The Nootka Crisis and the Spanish Response
7. The Administration of San Blas de Nayarit

Part III. The Diplomat
8. The Nootka Convention and the Expedition of the Limits
9. Bodega at Nootka
10. The Commissioners' Negotiations at Nootka
11. Leaving Nootka
12. Results and Consequences of the Expedition of the Limits
13. Endings

A. Bodega's Secret Instructions to Eliza for the Reoccupation of Nootka
B. Revillagigedo's Instructions to Bodega for the Expedition of the Limits
C. History and Description of Bodega's Viaje: The Official Report of the Expedition of the Limits
D. Biographical Notes
E. Rank Structure of the Spanish Navy