- An island off the east coast of Canada, first visited by Vikings, and in the modern era by John Cabot in 1497. Its fertile fishing grounds, especially on the grand banks, have long been known and exploited by fishermen from various Western European nations.The island was annexed to Great Britain by Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1583, but its exact dimensions remained unknown until its shores were mapped by James Cook in the 1760s.Newfoundland enjoyed prosperity during the Napoleonic Wars, in large part as a result of sales of fish to the army in the Peninsula War. Newfoundland was ruled by Admirals until 1825; an assembly was granted in 1832. Responsible government was effectively granted in 1855. Although entry into the Canadian confederation was discussed, a tentative agreement to that effect was repudiated by the island’s electorate in 1868. Charles F. Bennett, a leading opponent of confederation, became prime minister of the colony in 1869. Confederation was rejected because it was felt that the interests, particularly in regard to the fishery, of Newfoundland conflicted with those of the mainland Maritime provinces. Newfoundland’s politics in the late nineteenth century were dominated by fisheries disputes with France and the United States, and it was often felt that the imperial government represented the island’s interests without enthusiasm. In World War I, however, Newfoundlanders fought with distinction, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment being almost wiped out on the Somme, and many fishermen serving in the Royal Navy.FURTHER READING:Rowe, Frederick W. A History of Newfoundland and Labrador. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980.MARK F. PROUDMAN
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.