At the Far Reaches of Empire
496 pages, 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
2 maps, full-colour insert containing 19 illustrations
Release Date:01 Nov 2008
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Release Date:21 Apr 2008
Release Date:01 Nov 2008
Release Date:01 Jan 2009

At the Far Reaches of Empire

The Life of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra

UBC Press

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.


  • 2009, Winner - Keith Matthews Award, Canadian Nautical Research Society
  • 2008, Commended - John Lyman Award, North American Society for Ocean History
Tovell utilizes a great volume of primary and secondary sources – Tovell’s research is admirable. He is an excellent biographer, who examines the incredible life of Bodega y Quadra and provides understanding about the period ... This book is highly recommended for history students interested in Spain’s claim to the Pacific Northwest. CLAHR, Vol.14, No.4
Tovell takes time to make the six-month journey. He tells the tale with an economy of words and yet with intriguing details that conjure to mind the difficulties of travel 250 years ago. … Tovell…, with consummate craftsmanship leads his readers through the development at Nootka…. If there’s a history lover in the family with a celebration on the horizon, introduce them to Freeman Tovell and his fascinating tales of courage, diplomacy, and intrigue when Victoria was still unknown on the far reaches of the Spanish Empire. Jim Hume, Victoria Times-Colonist
This new study by Freeman Tovell, by reason of its broad coverage, meticulous research, ad balanced approach, will become an indispensable tool for any scholar interested in this topic. […] The book, exemplary in its layout and printing, has clearly been a labour of love for the author, witnesses the excellent illustrations (many in colour) that he has gathered over the years. Taken as a whole, Freeman Tovell’s work is a notable addition to the history of British Columbia. Roderick J. Barman, BC Studies, No. 159
An interesting, compelling, meticulously researched, fact filled biography of one of Spain’s more prominent naval scholar ... Tovell’s reader will be drawn in to savor and digest each chapter of this work which will appeal to the everyday reader and scholar alike ... UBC Press is to be commended for publishing [the book] in a handsomely bound hard cover edition as well as a more reasonably priced soft cover edition. I recommend it highly; it will be a valuable addition to your BC bookshelf. BC History, Vol. 42, No. 1
Freeman M. Tovell served in the Canadian Navy during World War II, and subsequently spent thirty-five years in the Canadian Foreign Service, including ambassadorships to Peru and Bolivia. He was 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








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