• Alessandro Malaspina and the voyage of disenchantment

      Letzring, Michael James (2012-05)
      Between 1775 and 1792 the shores of what is now Alaska and British Columbia were opened to European reconnaissance by a series of mostly Spanish expeditions. The most ambitious and prestigious of the Spanish expeditions was also one of the last; the Spanish hydrographic expedition of 1789-1794 --the Viaje Politico-Cientifico Alrededor del Mundo, created and commanded by Alessandro Malaspina. The Malaspina expedition was a technical tour-de-force that was meant both materially and symbolically to assert Spain's program of reform and modernization under the Bourbon monarchs, but Malaspina's liberal Enlightenment philosophy would in the end isolate him from the absolutist monarchy he served, dooming the results of the expedition to more than a century of obscurity and Malaspina to imprisonment and banishment. This thesis examines how European state cartography contributed to a competition for imperial space on the Northwest Coast and particularly how that space was shaped through the efforts of the Malaspina Expedition. A close examination of the Malaspina expedition and Malaspina's personal narrative opens a window on the distinctive Spanish imperialism of the late 18th century, and how the cartography of the region contributed to the territorial delineation of modern Alaska and British Columbia.