This is the "1700's - European Exploration and Contact" page of the "British Columbia History" guide.
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British Columbia History   Tags: british_columbia, history  

The Vancouver Public Library has extensive primary and secondary resources on the history of British Columbia and Vancouver. This guide is designed to help you begin your research on this topic and use library resources effectively.
Last Updated: Feb 3, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Northwest History Index

This card index provides access to the Northwest History Collection, a heritage collection covering the early history and exploration of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest.
The collection includes:
  • magazine and newspaper articles
  • pamphlets
  • books
  • chapters in books
  • many other resources
As of August 1998, no new material has been added to the Northwest History Index. It is continued by the British Columbia Index.


Bill Helin painting depicts the damage caused by B.C.'s tsunami of 1700. (Bill Helin)

The oral histories of coastal aboriginal groups of British Columbia have long told of a massive earthquake and tsunami in early 1700, devastating the coast and its inhabitants. The painting above by Tsimshian artist Bill Helin depicts this event.
The 1700's marked a period of European exploration and contact with coastal aboriginal groups.
  • By the 1740's, Russians had begun trading on the B.C. coast.
  • In 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook became the first European to set foot in British Columbia on his third expedition to the Pacific.
  • During this time, Spanish explorers Perez and Quadra were also exploring the coast. A fort was built in Nootka Sound.
  • In 1776, a devastating small pox epidemic hit aboriginal communities, other epidemics followed. 
  • In 1793, Alexander MacKenzie became the first European to cross North America overland.

Recommended Books

Cover Art
A Perfect Eden - Michael Layland
Publication Date: 2016
This book gathers the early recorded histories and personal accounts left by Chinese seafarers, Spanish and British naval officers, traders seeking sea otter pelts, colonial surveyors, as well as soldiers, settlers, and other adventurers, starting from many centuries ago.

Cover Art
British Columbia Waters - Richard W. Blumenthal (Editor)
Publication Date: 2014
This follow-up book resumes the saga and follows George Vancouver and the Spanish in 1792 through British Columbia waters while they complete their circumnavigation of Vancouver Island.

Cover Art
French Canadians, Furs, and Indigenous Women in the Making of the Pacific Northwest - Jean Barman
Publication Date: 2015
For half a century, French Canadians were the region's largest group of newcomers, facilitating early overland crossings, driving the fur economy, initiating non-wholly-Indigenous agricultural settlement, and easing relations with Indigenous peoples. When the region was divided in 1846, they also ensured that the northern half would go to Britain, ultimately giving Canada its Pacific shoreline.

Cover Art
In the Footsteps of Alexander Mackenzie - Carol Blacklaws
Publication Date: 2015
In the late 1970s an archaeological team was sent into a remote region of British Columbia to document the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail--part of explorer Alexander Mackenzie's 18th-century crossing of North America.


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