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Britannia's Navy on the West Coast of North America, 1812-1914

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“[Gough’s] research…has been thorough, his presentation is scholarly, and his case fully sustained.”—The Times Literary Supplement The influence of the Royal Navy on the development of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest was both effective and extensive. Yet all too frequently, its impact has been ignored by historians, who instead focus on the influence of explorers “[Gough’s] research…has been thorough, his presentation is scholarly, and his case fully sustained.”—The Times Literary Supplement The influence of the Royal Navy on the development of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest was both effective and extensive. Yet all too frequently, its impact has been ignored by historians, who instead focus on the influence of explorers, fur traders, settlers, and railway builders. In this thoroughly revised and expanded edition of his classic 1972 work, naval historian Barry Gough examines the contest for the Columbia country during the War of 1812, the 1844 British response to President Polk’s manifest destiny and cries of “Fifty-four forty or fight,” the gold-rush invasion of 30, 000 outsiders, and the jurisdictional dispute in the San Juan Islands that spawned the Pig War. The author looks at the Esquimalt-based fleet in the decade before British Columbia joined Canada and the Navy’s relationship with coastal First Nation over the five decades that preceded the Great War.


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“[Gough’s] research…has been thorough, his presentation is scholarly, and his case fully sustained.”—The Times Literary Supplement The influence of the Royal Navy on the development of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest was both effective and extensive. Yet all too frequently, its impact has been ignored by historians, who instead focus on the influence of explorers “[Gough’s] research…has been thorough, his presentation is scholarly, and his case fully sustained.”—The Times Literary Supplement The influence of the Royal Navy on the development of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest was both effective and extensive. Yet all too frequently, its impact has been ignored by historians, who instead focus on the influence of explorers, fur traders, settlers, and railway builders. In this thoroughly revised and expanded edition of his classic 1972 work, naval historian Barry Gough examines the contest for the Columbia country during the War of 1812, the 1844 British response to President Polk’s manifest destiny and cries of “Fifty-four forty or fight,” the gold-rush invasion of 30, 000 outsiders, and the jurisdictional dispute in the San Juan Islands that spawned the Pig War. The author looks at the Esquimalt-based fleet in the decade before British Columbia joined Canada and the Navy’s relationship with coastal First Nation over the five decades that preceded the Great War.

12 review for Britannia's Navy on the West Coast of North America, 1812-1914

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steve Birchmore

    A very interesting book primarily about what it says on the cover: Britannia's Navy on the West Coast of North America, 1812-1914. However it also seems an excellent primer on the development of what is now British Columbia. This is of particular interest to me, as all things Royal Navy always catch my attention, and I had also hoped to fly to Vancouver, visit Vancouver Island and do a road trip around the Canadian Rockies this summer - fingers crossed, it might still happen! I always like to kn A very interesting book primarily about what it says on the cover: Britannia's Navy on the West Coast of North America, 1812-1914. However it also seems an excellent primer on the development of what is now British Columbia. This is of particular interest to me, as all things Royal Navy always catch my attention, and I had also hoped to fly to Vancouver, visit Vancouver Island and do a road trip around the Canadian Rockies this summer - fingers crossed, it might still happen! I always like to know a little about the history and culture of places I may visit. One of the things I got out of this book, although not the first time I had come across these things, is how it could, I think very successfully be argued, that in the 19th Century, the USA was a far more nakedly imperialist state than the British Empire. This book gives numerous examples of the development of the British Empire in this part of the world, being about the protection of commercial ventures rather than grabbing of territory for the sake of it. Manifest Destiny, US President Polk, the annexation of Hawaii etc seem to tell a somewhat different story. Not that I am anti-American in any way, I've visited the USA many times and my experiences of Americans have been overwhelmingly positive, and if there had to be a foreign nation being the global superpower, I would rather it be the USA, than China, Russia, France or Germany - Australia would be my first choice, but sadly that doesn't seem very likely. It seems The British Empire came close to war with a belligerent USA on more occasions than I was aware of, and retreated with much diplomatic appeasement from the banks of the Columbia River in modern day Oregon to the Present Canadian border following several provocative incidents over the years covered in this book. The Admiralty and British Government eventually came to the conclusion that it would be impossible, or very difficult to defend, this part of Canada from the USA should war break out, and sought to develop a very friendly relationship with the USA. I was however, rather struck by the following quotation pp266: "The Northern victory in the Civil War destroyed any remaining possibility of a restoration of the balance of power in North America. Thereafter, Canadian-American relations and British policy with respect to the New World were posited upon the assumption that the United States had the preponderance of power on the continent. The provinces became a hostage to a subjective American judgement on the 'good behavior' of the British throughout the world". This quote lead me to consider, that if the British Empire were the naked imperialists and great evil that our modern day pundits would have us believe, then clearly the British Empire would have sided with the Break away Confederate states (i understand the French Empire would have been a willing accomplice) and the CSA would have won their independence and the inevitable eclipse of the British Empire by the USA might never have happened. Of course the rump USA would probably be forever hostile, but could possibly be be held in check by a grateful CSA. I don't think this is too far fetched as the British and French Empires had gone to war the Russian Empire about 10 years earlier (The Crimean War) mostly to stop the Russian Empire becoming too powerful. But British and French intervention in support of the CSA in the American Civil War didn't happen, but it probably would have, if the British Empire at that time was run by far sighted people whose overwhelming concern was was the maintenance and expansion of British power - the evil imperialists it seems most modern pundits would have us believe. I have recently learned that The Guardian Britain's premier left-wing newspaper, was in favour of British intervention in the American Civil War - on the side of the Confederate States! The Guardian supported the South's right to secede: https://www.theguardian.com/commentis... So, it seems this speculation is not as far fetched as it might initially appear. Another thing I found interesting to consider, was how the Royal Navy, from its base at Esquimalt on Vancouver Island had the local role in protecting settlers and traders from hostile Native Americans that the US Army had in the 19th Century from various forts in Wyoming and other frontier states, as portrayed in vast numbers of Western films, - a variety of gun-boat diplomacy. It also caught my attention that HMS Trincamolee was part of the Royal Navy Pacific squadron. HMS Trincomalee is a frigate of the Napoleonic (actually immediately post Napoleonic - launched in 1817 but ordered in 1812) era that has been fully restored and is now a museum ship in Hartlepool in North East England. I had the good fortune a couple of years back to be in the area and have time to go on board and visit the museum - well worth it if you interested in these things and get the chance. Overall, a very interesting well researched book

  2. 5 out of 5

    J

  3. 5 out of 5

    Linda Darlene

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jack Brown

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa Winn

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chuck

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ben

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ed Norman

  10. 4 out of 5

    Noah

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jazz • Min

  12. 5 out of 5

    Terry Wilson

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