The Northwest Coast: British Navigation, Trade, and Discoveries to 1812

The Northwest Coast: British Navigation, Trade, and Discoveries to 1812

The Northwest Coast: British Navigation, Trade, and Discoveries to 1812

The Northwest Coast: British Navigation, Trade, and Discoveries to 1812

Synopsis

The Northwest Coast documents Britain's rise to pre-eminence in this far-flung corner of the empire. It shows how the relentless activities of its commercial interests, the adroit use of its naval power, and the steely resolve of its diplomats secured British claims to dominion and rights to trade along the Northwest Coast. Written by a leading maritime scholar and based on fresh research into known manuscripts and printed works on Pacific trade and exploration, this book incorporates new interpretations on exploration and commercial activity in this area.

Excerpt

Although 1519 marks the European entry into the Pacific world, the Northwest Coast stood apart from European incursion until the mid-1770s -- fully a century and a half after Magellan's pathfinding voyage. This splendid isolation was owing to a number of factors, both geographical and political. Prevailing winds did not bring European ships easily to the eastern shores of the North Pacific but instead kept voyagers farther south along both the easterly and westerly trades. Spain was consolidating the empire in Mexico and, after 1565, was largely content to exploit the possibilities for trans-Pacific trade by the annual Manila to Acapulco galleon. Spanish explorations northward to the coast of Oregon served no immediate commercial benefit and, when undertaken, found no worrisome European opposition. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean, Manila grew as the eastern anchor of Spanish trade and empire. So extensive was Spanish oceanic enterprise that Spain could be said to control the Pacific -- 'the Spanish Lake.'

Spain's ascendancy was fragile and depended on factors largely beyond her control. The Dutch warred on the Portuguese, who, at Malacca, had established the gateway to the East Indies. The Dutch at Batavia, now Jakarta, had ousted yet another rival, the English, from Amboina and other eastern emporia. Japan lay open for Dutch, Portuguese, and English traders, but the constraints of the Japanese ituwabu system confined foreign trade solely to Nagasaki. The Shogunate tightly controlled the marketing of Chinese silks imported in Portuguese, English, and Dutch ships and Chinese junks. Macao, Batavia, and Manila were anchors of this trade and depended on Japanese willingness to engage in commerce with the wider world. China was beset by domestic turbulence and, in addition, faced border difficulties with Mongolian and Russian incursions. In 1689, however . . .

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