Newfoundland's Twin Celebrations

Newfoundland celebrates fifty years as Canada's tenth province and remembers the Vikings arriving a thousand years earlier.

Newfoundland has two reasons to celebrate as it approaches the millennium. Until 1949 Britain’s oldest colony, in 1999 it marks fifty years as Canada’s tenth province. In 2000, Newfoundland also remembers the arrival of the Vikings a thousand years before. Recent evidence confirms that credit for its discovery can no longer be attributed to John Cabot in 1497.

An Italian citizen, Cabot obtained a petition from Henry VII of England for a voyage of discovery, hoping that he would find spices and jewels. Instead he found fish. Portuguese, French and English mariners followed him to Newfoundland for its cod caught off the Grand Banks. They also hunted whales and seals for oil, soap and food. As a result of their efforts, the merchants and sea-captains made fortunes for themselves.

In 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert formally claimed Newfoundland for England. But the English authorities treated Newfoundland as a fishing station, not as a place to settle. 

North America’s first court of justice was held in Trinity presided over by mariner and merchant Sir Richard Whitbourne, who called all the fishermen together in 1615 and held court. In 1620, he published a book, Discourse and Discovery of Newfoundland.

Want the full article and website archive access?

Subscribe now

Already a member? Log in now

 

The History Today Newsletter

Sign up for our free weekly email

X