TOVELL, Freeman M. (1918-2011)




Author Tags: Essentials 2010, Maritime, Spanish

QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:

As the pre-eminent Spanish captain who explored the Pacific Northwest coast prior to 1800, Peruvian-born Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra is the subject of Freeman M. Tovell’s impressively sober, extensively researched, non-fanciful biography, At the Far Reaches of Empire: The Life of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra (2008), the first in-depth profile of Bodega y Quadra in English. It received the Keith Matthews Award from the Canadian Nautical Research Society for best book on a Canadian nautical subject.

Tovell, a former diplomat who served in Peru, points out that his subject is more commonly known as Bodega or else Bodega y Quadra in Spain, the United States, Mexico and Peru—rather than simply Quadra.
In terms of sophistication and accomplishments, Quadra’s only rival during his era was the Italian-born Malaspina. Both were gentlemen who deserve greater recognition.

Bodega’s reputation suffers because there is no genuine portrait of him, a fate that has also befallen the remarkable pathfinder David Thompson. “His enlightened policy toward the Nuu-chah-nulth people and his close association with Chief Maquinna are a matter of record,” writes Tovell, “and his cordial hospitality to all, including his British rival George Vancouver, has been universally admired.

“Such praise is deserved, but Bodega had his imperfections. He incurred enormous debts when his overreaching ambition to make a name for himself in his chosen career exceeded his financial circumstances. Serving on the outer edge of the empire, he lacked the support of an influential patron at the Spanish royal court. Furthermore, as a colonial-born subject from Peru, he was hampered by the governmental prejudice that hindered colonial subjects seeking high rank in the church and government. Despite his constant efforts to be promoted from four-ring captain to flag rank, he was never able to gain full recognition for his achievements from his naval superiors and political masters.”

After Captains Bodega y Quadra and George Vancouver met at Nootka Sound in 1792, hosted by Maquinna, to dissolve simmering hostilities between Spain and England, maps soon thereafter ascribed the name “Vancouver and Quadra’s Island” to what later became known as Vancouver Island. The Hudson’s Bay Company expunged the Spaniard’s name. The island opposite Campbell River, originally called Valdes Island, was renamed Quadra Island in 1903. The extent to which British Columbia could have been “Spanish Columbia” is not fully realized by most residents of B.C.


FULL ENTRY:

At the Far Reaches of Empire: The Life of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra (UBC Press $85) by Freeman M. Tovell provides the first in-depth career profile, in English, of the pre-eminent Spanish sea captain who explored the Pacific Northwest prior to 1800, Peruvian-born Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra. The biography received the Keith Matthews Award from the Canadian Nautical Research Society for best book on a Canadian nautical subject in 2009.

Tovell, a former diplomat who served in Peru, points out that his subject is more commonly known as Bodega or else Bodega y Quadra in Spain, United States, Mexico and Peru. In terms of sophistication and accomplishments, Quadra’s only rival was the Italian-born Malaspina. Both were gentlemen who deserve greater recognition. Bodega's reputation suffers because there is no genuine portrait of him, a fate that has also befallen the remarkable pathfinder David Thompson.

"His enlightened policy toward the Nootkan people and his close association with Chief Maquinna are a matter of record," writes Tovell, "and his cordial hospitality to all, including his British rival George Vancouver, has been universally admired. Such praise is deserved, but Bodega had his imperfections. He incurred enormous debts when his overreaching ambition to make a name for himself in his chosen career exceeded his financial circumstances. Serving on the outer edge of the empire, he lacked the support of an influential patron at the Spanish royal court. Furthermore, as a colonial-born subject from Peru, he was hampered by the governmental prejudice that hindered colonial subjects seeking high rank in the church and government. Despite his constant efforts to be promoted from four-ring captain to flag rank, he was never able to gain full recognition for his achievements from his naval superiors and political masters."

Freeman Tovell’s At the Far Reaches of Empire also won an Honorable Mention for the 2008 NASOH (North American Society for Oceanic History) John Lyman Award for “Canadian Naval and Maritime History.

9780774813662

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
At the Far Reaches of Empire: The Life of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra

BOOKS:

At the Far Reaches of Empire: The Life of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra (UBC Press, 2008).

[See Quadra entry]

[BCBW 2010]

At the Far Reaches of Empire
Review (2008)



If there is one new book that needed to be written for British Columbia more than any other, a strong argument can be made that Freeman M. Tovell has just spent many years writing it.

At the Far Reaches of Empire: The Life of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra (UBC Press, $39.95 softcover) is an impressively sober, extensively researched, non-fanciful biography that—at long last—provides a finely nuanced understanding of the life and times of Spain’s most influential sea captain in B.C. history.

Yes, Juan Pérez made the first recorded European “discovery” of future B.C. territory in 1774. Yes, Tuscany-born Alejandro Malaspina made a significant voyage intended to mirror the scientific accomplishments of Captain James Cook. And, yes, Don José Maria Narváez reached the Lower Mainland area in 1791, prior to Captain George Vancouver. And Captain Dioniso Galiano provided important mapping input to Vancouver in 1792.

But it was the sophisticated diplomat, Peruvian-born Bodega y Quadra [not just “Quadra,” as he is commonly known in B.C.], who led the second Spanish expedition (in 1775) to reach B.C. waters prior to Captain Cook; who first claimed Spanish sovereignty over Alaska (in 1775); who led a second voyage as far north as Cook Inlet (in 1779); and who famously settled the Nootka dispute with Captain Vancouver at Nootka Sound (in 1792) and thereby curtailed further international conflict.

After the Spanish flag was finally lowered at Nootka Sound (on March 28, 1795) and Cala de los Amigos (Friendly Cove) became neutral territory, Bodega y Quadra’s ambitions continued to be stifled by increasing debts and he suffered from Spanish prejudices against him simply because he was not born in Spain. He died at the San Blas naval port (just south of present-day California) in 1794, at age 49.

Since then, Bodega y Quadra has been under-celebrated for more than two centuries. Yes, Quadra Island was named in 1903, but few British Columbians realize that Vancouver Island was named “the Island of Quadra and Vancouver” on early maps of the 1800s until Hudson’s Bay Company traders abbreviated the name to reflect British chauvinism.

The virtues of Tovell’s thoroughness cannot be adequately expressed in this space. Suffice to say you won’t hear thunderous applause for his Herculean efforts to fill a gaping hole in B.C. history, but At the Far Reaches of Empire easily qualifies as one of the books that most validates the importance of the B.C. publishing industry in recent years.

With history degrees from University of Toronto and Harvard, Tovell is former Canadian ambassador to Peru and Bolivia who served in the Canadian navy during World War II.

0774813660

--review by Alan Twigg

[BCBW 2008]

Tovell wins Matthews Award
Press Release (2009)



UBC Press author wins the Keith Matthews Award

UBC Press author, Freeman Tovell, wins the Keith Matthews Award for best book on a Canadian nautical subject for his book At the Far Reaches of Empire: The Life of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra.

At the Far Reaches of Empire, is garnering rave reviews from all quarters, but was honoured this past weekend with a major award from the Canadian Nautical Research Society, whose awards committee had this to say about the book:

“This richly detailed, comprehensive, and balanced study of the famed Spanish navigator, Juan Francisco de la Bodega Y Quadra, adds enormously to our understanding of exploration and diplomatic interaction along the northwest coast of North America in the late 18th century. Freeman Tovell’s impeccably researched and lively biography of Bodega serves as an interpretive model from which to explore complex Anglo-Spanish imperial rivalries at the time of the Nootka Sound crisis and also sheds fascinating light on native-newcomer relations in the region. At the Far Reaches of Empire is definitive, vivid, compelling, and penetrating. It is a work of massive scholarly importance to the history of British Columbia, Canada, and the Pacific Northwest.”

Freeman Tovell, now 91 years old and living in Victoria BC, spent the last 30 years researching and writing about the life of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra. Tovell holds degrees in history from the University of Toronto and Harvard, and served in the Canadian Navy during World War II. He subsequently spent thirty-five years in the Canadian Foreign Service, including ambassadorships to Peru and Bolivia.

The award was presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Nautical Research Society, held in Victoria BC. The Society’s aims are to promote nautical research in Canada, disseminate the results of such research and to encourage an awareness of Canada's maritime heritage.



1918-2011
Obituary


from Ottawa Citizen

TOVELL, Freeman Massey 1918 - 2011 On Monday, March 7, peacefully with all his family, at home in Victoria in his 93rd year. Cherished husband of Rosita Anna LeSueur for 69 years. Dear father of Susan (Peter Moogk), Rosemarie, Patricia (Paul Skahan) and Peter (Mark Plummer). Loving grandfather of Jonathan, Benjamin (Lisa Cunningham), Anna and Daniel. Brother of Vincent and the late Walter and Harold. Son of Harold Murchison Tovell and Ruth Massey Tovell. Freeman left his doctoral studies in history at Harvard University to enlist in the Royal Canadian Navy in 1942. In 1944 he entered the fledgling Department of External Affairs with postings in Peru, Bolivia, Denmark and the USA. The highlights of his diplomatic career included service as assistant to Lester Pearson, ambassador to Peru and Bolivia and director of the cultural affairs division. The latter office allowed Freeman to pursue his deep interest in the arts, fostering the international reputations of Canadian artists, writers and musicians. Retiring to Victoria in 1978, Freeman served on the boards of the Victoria Symphony Orchestra and the Maritime Museum of BC. The achievement in which he took the greatest pride was his research and award winning book on Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra which revealed the neglected history of Spanish exploration of the Canadian west coast. His all encompassing love and support sustained his family. His generosity of spirit and his wry sense of humour brought pleasure to all who knew him. Freeman was a gentleman in every sense of the word. A memorial service will be held at St. George the Martyr Anglican Church, 3909 St. Georges Lane, Cadboro Bay in Victoria on Monday, March 14 at 2:00 pm.