At the Far Reaches of Empire: The Life of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra
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.