Is Nootka Sound real?
The second episode of Taboo opens with East India Company leader Sir Stuart Strange, played with haughty vigor by Jonathan Pryce, putting a hit out on Hardy's Delaney. It's an exciting way for the action to start, especially since so much of last week was spent watching Hardy dig in the mud and sprinkle magic dust on graves. What's eating at Pryce? Nootka Sound, the strip of land that Hardy received from his now-dead father and which the East India Company really wants to control.
Unlike Tom Hardy's seemingly anachronistic haircut, Nootka Sound is not yet another invention of the writing staff. While it might sound like the name of a '90s post-rock band, Nootka Sound is actually an inlet on the west coast of Vancouver Island and a real source of international military conflicts during the era in which Taboo takes place. ("Sound" or "inlet" means a small arm of a sea, a lake, or a river.) Nootka Island is not an especially large piece of land -- it's 534sqkm in area -- but its potential as a trade outpost with China made it particularly valuable to men like Delaney's dearly departed (and entirely fictional) father.
Before the arrival of the Europeans, the land was controlled by the Nuu-chah-nulth tribe. This is particularly important to Taboo because it's implied that Delaney's mother was a member of this tribe and, as last episode suggested, she was gifted to his father as part of some likely nefarious colonial deal. Part of the second episode deals with Delaney seeking proof that the land was acquired by treaty and not by conquest. He also sets up his own shipping company -- named the Delaney Nootka Trading Company -- and buys a boat from the East India Company that he quickly discovers was once used to transport slaves. The sins of the past are always resurfacing.
This complex history is often glossed over pretty quickly on the show to get to more atmospheric shots of Tom Hardy's tattoos, but Knight seems to have done some serious research. As this helpful primer from Radio Times points out, there was a conflict between the Nuu-chah-nulth tribe, the Spanish, and the British in the 1790s referred to as the Nootka Incident. Taboo takes place in 1814, meaning the writers have taken some liberties with the past, which seems fair enough when you're making a show about a guy who dresses like a goth Mad Hatter.