Brief History
Newfoundland has strong claims to being the longest serving colony in the British Empire. It could even claim to being the oldest colony if you are not counting Wales, Ireland and the Channel Islands. It was claimed for the English as long ago as 1497 by John Cabot working on behalf of the British Crown.

It was formally claimed again in 1583 by Sir Humphrey Gilbert. He intended it to be little more than a replenishing base for fishermen and hunters so there was no permanent population. Gilbert himself was lost at sea during his return voyage, thereby ending any more permanent plans for settlement.

Yet another attempt at colonisation was attempted in 1610 by John Guy from Bristol. He arrived with with 39 other colonists for Cuper's Cove. The colony was not as profitable as had been hoped for by the investors but some settlers remained anyway forming the very earliest European population on the island. By 1620, the fishermen of England's West Country had excluded other nations from most of the east coast of Newfoundland, while fishermen from France dominated the island's south coast and Northern Peninsula.

In fact, Anglo-French competition in the Northern Hemisphere would be fierce throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The French settled mainly in the St Lawrence River waterways but they had to pass Newfoundland to get to and from their colonies. There was also the curious anamoly of the French settlement on the tiny islands of St Pierre and Miquelon immediately to the South of Newfoundland. This antagonism was only resolved by the fighting of the Seven Years War which ultimately saw the banishment of the French from virtually all of Canada.

Newfoundland was a most loyal colony up until the Twentieth Century. The prime example of their loyalty was their sacrifices in the First World War where Newfoundland had the highest casualty rate per population for any of the participants.

Newfoundland had stayed stubbornly independent from the rest of the Canadian mainland. It felt that its prime industry of fishing had little in common with the agricultural priorities of the Great Plains. However, the 1930s saw the worldwide depression and Newfoundland was particularly hard hit. In fact, it went bankrupt and British Commissioners had to be sent to the island to administer its finances from their Hotel rooms in St John's. World War Two further demonstrated the colony's dire financial situation in being unable to afford appropriate defences. America stepped in to help defend the colony. In 1949, the colony finally bit the bullet and applied to join the Canadian Federation although only be a wafer thin 50.5 v 49.5 percent majority.

Map of Newfoundland
National Archive Newfoundland Images
Anthem of Newfoundland
Thanks to Michael Jamieson Bristow
1583 - 1949
Significant Individuals
1583 - 1949
The Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Website
Suggested Reading
Come from Away
by David Macfarlane

Sir William MacGregor
by R B Joyce

How I Became a Governor
by Sir Ralph Williams


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by Stephen Luscombe