'That immense and dangerous sea': Spanish imperial policy and power during the exploration of the Salish Sea, 1790-1791




Drury, Devon

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



In the years between 1789 and 1792 the shores of what is now British Columbia were opened to European scrutiny by a series of mostly Spanish expeditions. As the coastline was charted and explored by agents of European empires, the Pacific Northwest captured the attention of Europe. In order to carry out these explorations the Spanish relied on what turned out to be an experiment in ‘gentle’ imperialism that depended on the support of the indigenous “colonized”. This thesis examines how the Spanish envisioned their imperial space on the Northwest Coast and particularly how that space was shaped through the exploration of the Salish Sea. A close examination of the Spanish explorations of 1790-91 opens a window on this distinctive Spanish imperialism, on Aboriginal culture and politics in this era, and on the cartographic and cultural mapping of this the centre of gravity of modern British Columbia.



Spain, Northwest Coast, Native-newcomer relations, Exploration