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

By (author): Barry Gough
ISBN 9781772031096
Hardcover | Publication Date: June 16, 2016
Book Dimensions: 6 in x 9 in
416 Pages

About the Book

“[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.

About the Author(s)

Canadian historian Barry Gough has published more than eighteen books to critical acclaim, including Historical Dreadnoughts: Arthur Marder, Stephen Roskill and Battles for Naval History; Through Water, Ice & Fire: Schooner Nancy of the War of 1812; and Juan de Fuca’s Strait: Voyages in the Waterway of Forgotten Dreams. He has received many accolades, including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions to civic life in Canada, and the 2015 Mountbatten Literary Award for his book Pax Britannica: Ruling the Waves and Keeping the Peace before Armageddon. Dr. Gough is past-president of the British Columbia Historical Federation. He lives in Victoria, British Columbia.


“In this book, Professor Barry Gough has told the enthralling story of how the Royal Navy created, developed, and sustained its Pacific station, which became the largest in the British Empire during the nineteenth century. These far-sighted actions not only developed the Esquimalt naval base but they also secured the settlement of British Columbia in the face of threats from Russian territorial expansion, American “Manifest Destiny,” encroachment, gold prospectors from California, and Fenian filibusterers. This book is a stimulating product of Gough’s fifty years of work as an historian deeply involved in British and Canadian naval traditions.” —William S. Dudley, PhD, former Director, US Naval Historical Center
Britannia’s Navy updates and enhances a classic that shaped the study of imperial maritime peripheries. The new edition develops the role of the British captains and admirals who commanded the station, and the critical relationship they had with London policy makers at the foreign and colonial offices, which shaped local policies and their relation with Britain’s global economic and strategic position. The Royal Navy played a critical role in the development of British Columbia, from securing borders with the United States to promoting economic activity, and has left an indelible legacy on Canada’s west coast.” —Andrew Lambert, Professor of Naval History, King’s College, London
“Barry Gough’s formidable sweep through a century of British naval and imperial penetration of the northwest coast of North America displays on every page the peerless mastery of an author who has contemplated his topic for most of his adult lifetime. The book is not a naval history; it is a geopolitical study of what Alfred Thayer Mahan characterized as “sea power” and what Barry Gough much more cogently defines as “the pursuit of power and the pursuit of profit, in equal measure.” This prolonged British thrust for dominance in the North Pacific would today be encompassed within the phrase 'globalization.' The author eloquently describes in detail, breadth, and with awe how this goal was sought and achieved by a distant island nation in the face of competition by the sprawling and avaricious United States. Read and savor this book to understand the Anglo-American past in the Pacific and what it means for today and tomorrow.” —Kenneth J. Hagan, Professor and Museum Director Emeritus, US Naval Academy Captain, US Naval Reserve (Ret.)
“In this massively re-written and expanded version of Britannia's Navy on the West Coast of North America, the accomplished naval historian Barry Gough has turned a small classic of 1971 into a major scholarly work of 2016. The newer chapters, and especially the newer, extended archival notes, will impress every professional historian―Gough's command of the sources is remarkable. This vast region of the Northern Pacific, and the Northwest Coast of Canada, has now been brought into the larger story of British naval mastery in the nineteenth century. This is an invaluable work." —Paul Kennedy, Dilworth Professor of History, Yale University, and author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers and The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery