First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia

First Invaders by Alan Twigg

First Invaders

The Literary Origins of British Columbia

by Alan Twigg


  • Autumn 2004
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-018-7 (1-55380-018-4)
  • 6″ x 9″ Trade Paperback, 230 pages
  • History, Literary Reference, Pacific Northwest Coast

This unprecedented volume about British Columbia’s earliest authors and first explorers (prior to 1800) provides a fascinating range of characters, events and intrigues. The names Cook and Quadra ring a bell for most of us, as do Bering and Vancouver, but what about the first year-round European resident of B.C., the Irish drunkard John Mackay? He voluntarily wintered at Nootka Sound in 1786 well before the more famous John Jewitt became the so-called “white slave” of Chief Maquinna in 1803.

A year later the first European woman to visit and write about British Columbia was the eighteen-year-old bride Frances Barkley. She circumnavigated the globe with her husband after making a lasting impression with her long red hair at Friendly Cove in 1787. And how much do we know about the Greek-born navigator Juan de Fuca? Or the Machiavelli of the maritime fur trade, John Meares? More than 50 pre-nineteenth-century characters are presented — each with his or her own entry and bibliography.

Alan Twigg has researched and skilfully introduced the first people to write about the west coast of Canada, provided extracts, gathered images, taken photographs and let the composite story unravel like a mini-series. First Invaders concludes with Alexander Mackenzie and his over-land trek to the Pacific in 1793, after providing ample coverage of the many lesser-known Spaniards and Americans who arrived in the wake of Captain James Cook in 1778 — and Captain Juan Pérez, the “discoverer” of British Columbia, in 1774.

“There is absolutely no substitute for this panorama of our shared beginnings.”
—Mark Forsythe, CBC Almanac

“First Invaders is a delightful blend of coastal history and literary exploration. I got lost and found in it.”
—Edith Iglauer, author of Fishing with John

Alan Twigg’s Literary History of British Columbia:


Reviews & Awards

Shortlisted for the BC Book Prize

“Alan Twigg’s engrossing new book, First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, is filled with intriguing historical facts.” —Vancouver Sun

“fascinating reading” —Times Colonist

“Twigg has a good sense of narrative and renders all his subjects as interesting characters each engaged in his own quest.” —Canadian Literature

“a valuable legacy of unique and often surprising factual accounts from known and obscure individuals” —LitCrits

“The range of sources documented makes First Invaders a valuable resource by any measure” —British Columbia History

“Twigg’s entrance on the stage of History is refreshing and welcome” —Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada

First Invaders is a treasure trove of little-known information . . . it’s hard to imagine a more enthusiastic guide.”
Quill and Quire

First Invaders is a fascinating literary exploration . . . the most enjoyable book on B.C. history I have read for years” —Georgia Straight