Pacific Northwest: Discovery and Early Exploration by Sea, Land, and River


288 pages
Contains Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88839-236-2
DDC 979.5'01




Reviewed by John Kendle

John Kendle is a history professor at St. John’s College, University
of Manitoba.


Nuffield defines the Pacific Northwest as that region north of
California that drains into the Pacific Ocean. It was a part of the
world virtually unknown to Europeans as recently as the late eighteenth
century. Nuffield outlines why and how that vast area was gradually
drawn into the European nexus. He begins by establishing the chronology
and context of European voyages of exploration and discovery. The
book’s early sections, which deal with extraordinary sea voyages and
the clashes of European empires on the oceans of the world through to
the 1800s, are its best parts. One has a sense of the global dimensions
of actions that rested so completely on individual ambition and will.
The remainder of the book is a faithful rendering of each of the major
searches along the river systems of the interior in search of the sea to
the west. The famous journeys of the La Vérendryes, Alexander
Mackenzie, David Thompson, Lewis and Clark, and Simon Fraser are treated
at length.

Nuffield explores only cursorily or by implication the relationships
between European explorers and the aboriginal peoples of the Plains and
of the Pacific Northwest who guided, advised, and supported them. For
some readers this will prove a weakness, but in fairness, the author’s
intent was otherwise. This is a well-written, engaging, and reliable
guide to some of the most important and dramatic European journeys of
discovery into the Pacific Northwest.


Nuffield, Edward W., “Pacific Northwest: Discovery and Early Exploration by Sea, Land, and River,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,