Alejandro Malaspina: Portrait of a Visionary


200 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-1830-4
DDC 910'.92




Reviewed by J.H. Galloway

J.H. Galloway is a professor of geography at the University of Toronto.


Malaspina was an Italian-born navigator of exceptional ability who
sailed in the service of Spain. He is principally remembered for his
voyage around the Pacific during the years 1789–94. (There is a
Canadian connection. During the summer of 1792, Malaspina sailed along
the coast of British Columbia, reaching 60° N before he turned back to
Nootka Sound and Mexico.) Like Captain Cook before him, Malaspina
brought on the voyage artists and scientists to record the life of the
Pacific. Shortly after his return to Madrid, he was arrested and spent
seven years in an isolated fortress. Following his imprisonment, he was
banished from Spain; he died in Italy in 1810.

In this biography, Kendrick is more concerned with Malaspina’s
political and economic agenda (an agenda that eventually led to his
imprisonment) than with his achievements as a navigator. Malaspina was
very familiar with the works of the writers of the Enlightenment. He was
influenced in particular by Adam Smith and developed strong views on the
reform of the economy and on trade between Spanish America and the
Philippines. Although his recommendations were not necessarily new, he
appears to have put them forward with a total absence of political
sensitivity; he failed to heed well-intended warnings, and finally took
a step too far.

Readers interested in the history of European exploration of the
Pacific will be disappointed by this book. Kendrick does not place
Malaspina’s voyage in the broad context of Pacific exploration by
comparing his achievements with those of Cook, Bougainville, and others.
His book contains only a few examples of the work of the artists and
scientists on board. And while Kendrick makes a concerted effort to
understand Malaspina’s political personality, we learn almost nothing
about his personal life.

Alejandro Malaspina, which includes a useful bibliography, is
recommended for the general reader.


Kendrick, John., “Alejandro Malaspina: Portrait of a Visionary,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 15, 2024,