The Walker Expedition to Quebec, 1711

Vol 94 (1953), Professor G.S. Graham

The episode that is the subject of this volume occurred during the War of the Spanish Succession.

At the time that Marlborough had completed his successful campaign in Europe, the Secretary of State for War, Henry St John, had for some time been under pressure to help the colonial forces in northern America and the trade on that coast. Port Royal (renamed Annapolis Royal) in Nova Scotia had already been easily taken in 1710 and it was decided to send an expedition to capture Quebec, and drive the French out of Canada.

Several factors combined to doom the project from the start; political considerations obtruded, including the choice, not an obvious one, of Admiral Sir Hovenden Walker to command it. Strenuous attempts were made, unsuccessfully, to keep it a great secret, which considerably hampered the administrative preparations. There were no reliable charts of the St Lawrence River, nor were reliable pilots easily obtainable as there had been very little traffic with Quebec by sea. Lastly, numerous delays meant that the final preparations were rushed to avoid being caught upriver in the severe Canadian winter. The upshot was that the expedition was an abject failure with seven transports and a storeship being driven ashore and lost in a gale.

The volume is based on Walker’s contemporary journal, published in 1720, which is quite detailed and makes no attempt to show events in a favourable light to himself.

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About Gerald Graham

Gerald Graham was born on 27 April 1903 in Ontario, Canada. His father was a Presbyterian minister
from Scotland, his mother was Irish. He was an outstanding student at Queen͛s University, Kingston,
Ontario, gaining a BA in 1924, and an MA in 1925. He won a scholarship to Harvard in 1927 and
another to Trinity College Cambridge where he completed his PhD in 1927. He won a Rockefeller
fellowship for 1929-30, spending time in Germany and then taught at Harvard from 1930. He moved
back to Ontario to Queen͛s as professor in 1936. In 1941 a Guggenheim fellowship took him back to
the USA but in 1941 he joined up ending as an instructor at Canada͛s navy officer training school as a
lieutenant commander. He served on destroyers during his vacations and saw service on D Day.
After the war he moved permanently to London, as a lecturer and in 1947 a reader in history at
Birkbeck College. In 1949 he was appointed Rhodes professor in imperial history at King͛s College,
London and published a series of important books analysing the links between sea power and
imperial policy.
His tenure of the Rhodes chair coincided with growing African nationalism and decolonisation. His
seminar at the IHR became an engine for the decolonisation of imperial history, attracting students
from all over the world. After his retirement a list of his post-graduate students occupying university
positions contained over two hundred names. He died on 5 July 1988.
His publications include

  • Empire of the North Atlantic (1950).
  • The Walker Expedition to Quebec, 1711 (Navy Records Society, 1953).
  • The Politics of Naval Supremacy (1965).
  • Great Britain in the Indian Ocean (1967).
  • The China Station: War and Diplomacy, 1830-1860 (1978).