The Fishery in the Sixteenth Century
To understand the speed with which the late fifteenth century discoveries were followed by the rapid exploitation of the Newfoundland fisheries by thousands of European fishermen, it is necessary to know something about the European economy and European society at this time, and the importance of medieval fisheries to both. This is because the Newfoundland fisheries were not an entirely new development. Rather, they were an extension overseas of technologies, consumer tastes, marketing strategies, investment practices, shipping, etc. which were already in place before Europeans became aware that Newfoundland even existed.
A thorough though somewhat dated introduction to the economy is provided by E.E. Rich & C.H. Wilson (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, vol. V: The Economic Organization of Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977). A less detailed but possibly clearer account is given in the opening chapters of Ralph Davis, The Rise of the Atlantic Economies (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1973). Readings such as these will reveal to the student that a number of forces were at work in medieval Europe which set the stage for the rapid development of the European fisheries at Newfoundland in the fifteenth century – the burgeoning population which generated consumer demand for fish both among the elite and the masses, which in turn stimulated development in markets; commercial techniques; a pronounced improvement in the European capability for deep-water fishing voyages, including shipping as well as fishing technology. An excellent overview of these forces is provided by Richard C. Hoffmann in his article, "Carp, Cods, Connections: New Fisheries in the Medieval European Economy and Environment," in Mary J. Henninger-Voss (ed.), Animals in Human Histories: The Mirror of Nature and Culture (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2002), 3-55.
For more regional and national treatments of medieval fisheries, students might turn to three essays that appear in David J. Starkey, Jón Th. Thór, Ingo Heidbrink (eds.), A History of the North Atlantic Fisheries, Volume 1: From Early Times to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Bremen: Hauschild for the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum, 2009). One by Robb Robinson surveys “The Fisheries of Northwest Europe, c.1100-1850,” pp. 127-171. A second by Alf Ragnar Nielssen examines “Norwegian Fisheries, c.1100-1859,” pp. 83-122. The third by J.Th. Thór focuses on the “Icelandic Fisheries, c. 900-1900,” pp. 323-349. All three make clear that the cod fishery and cod trade were not new when John Cabot ventured into Newfoundland waters in 1497, but were already centuries old by then. In other words, the rapid birth and growth of the European fisheries and trade at Newfoundland after 1500 cannot be understood in isolation from what went before.
Why was fish so
important to the early modern European diet?
According to Laurier Turgeon,
sixteenth-century consumer demand was a powerful factor in shaping the rapid
expansion of the fisheries at Newfoundland; see "Codfish, Consumption, and
Colonization: The Creation of the French Atlantic World During the Sixteenth
Century," in Caroline A. Williams (ed.), Bridging the Early Modern Atlantic
World: People, Products, and Practices on the Move (Aldershot, Hamps. and
Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2009), 33-56. Yet consumer tastes and
which shaped market demand)
were already well-established by the
time Newfoundland was discovered. What determined those tastes?
Students are quick to conclude – and to go no further in their assumptions –
that religion was the dominant factor in generating demand for fish. And there
is some truth to this. In “Take This Penance Now, and Afterwards the Fare will
Improve: Seafood and Late Medieval Diet,” in David J. Starkey, Chris Reid, Neil Ashcroft (eds.),
England’s Sea Fisheries: The Commercial Sea Fisheries of England and Wales
since 1300 (London: Chatham Publishing, 2000), pp. 36-44,
suggests that the
rationale for medieval consumption was largely cultural, by which he
means “religious.” Yet Woolgar quickly cautions that religious sensibilities and
demands varied considerably, depending on where one lived, what class one came
from, what century or even what decade one lived in, and so on. The relationship
between religion and diet was very, very complex, and Woolgar concludes his
essay with the observation that, by the end of the sixteenth century, “the
cultural significance of fish consumption had a wholly different basis” than it
did before Cabot stumbled across the vast fish stocks of the northeast
Atlantic. Other scholars support this conclusion; while fish was indeed often eaten
for religious reasons, there were also many other factors – including
availability of fish and the lack of availability of meat – which drove demand.
See Petra J.E.M. van Dam, “Fish for Feast and Fast: Fish Consumption in the
Netherlands in the Late Middle Ages,” in Louis Sicking and Darlene
Abreu-Ferreira (eds.), Beyond the Catch: Fisheries of the North Atlantic,
the North Sea and the Baltic, 900-1850 (The Hague: Brill, 2008), 309-336.
As mentioned above, Laurier Turgeon's essay “Codfish, Consumption, and Colonization” argues persuasively that consumer demand in sixteenth-century
France was a driving force in shaping the birth and rapid development of the
fisheries at Newfoundland. In the particular case of Spanish demand for fish,
Regina Grafe examines the nature and scale of consumer demand for cod and other
fish; see “Popish Habits vs. Nutritional Need: Fasting and Fish Consumption in
Iberia in the Early Modern Period,” University of Oxford Discussion Papers
in Economic and Social History Number 55, May 2004
If the Medieval and Early Modern periods were important for establishing a strong demand for fish in the European diet well before the discovery of Newfoundland, that period also saw the first beginnings of what might be called “state policy” towards the fishing industries and trades. Again, students have a tendency to assume that the state played a critical role in developing policies and strategies to encourage the fisheries. And there is no question that emerging states recognized the value of the fisheries and of the fish trades in providing employment and sea experience for mariners which might serve the state well in time of war, and endeavoured to develop regulatory systems to nurture those same fisheries and trades. See Gordon Jackson, “State Concern for the Fisheries, 1485-1815,” in David J. Starkey, Chris Reid, Neil Ashcroft (eds.), England’s Sea Fisheries: The Commercial Sea Fisheries of England and Wales since 1300 (London: Chatham Publishing, 2000), pp. 46-53. But it is essential to recognize that the modern central states of today were only just beginning to grope their ways into existence in the fifteenth century. By comparison with today, the ability of those emerging states to exercise control over fisheries and trades was weak. The passage of regulations did not necessarily mean the effective enforcement of regulations. This would be a recurring theme in the history of the Newfoundland fisheries and trades after 1500.
Another essay that is as compelling as it is comprehensive in its argument – that the early modern history of European trans-Atlantic expansion can only be understood properly when the maritime and oceanic dimension of "Atlantic History" is recognized – is W. Jeffrey Bolster’s "Putting the Ocean in Atlantic History: Maritime Communities and Marine Ecology in the Northwest Atlantic, 1500-1800," American Historical Review CXIII: 1 (February 2008), 19-47. Bolster explores not only the economic forces that generated the rapid growth of European fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic but also the ecological factors that contributed to a series of adaptations and extensions of the early fisheries. An extremely valuable article and an excellent demonstration of the depth of understanding that a new generation of researchers are bringing to the study of the late medieval context for the Newfoundland fishing industry is provided by Maryanne Kowaleski in "The expansion of the south-western fisheries in late medieval England," Economic History Review LIII: 3 (August 2000): 429-454. Kowaleski shows how important and how complex the English Westcountry fishing industry was on the eve of the discovery of the new fishing grounds at Newfoundland, though her essay also begs the question, "why did Westcountry fishing interests not respond more vigorously to the discovery of the Newfoundland fishing grounds?"
It is increasingly apparent that a particularly important factor in European responses to the discovery of the fishing grounds at Newfoundland was the earlier experience of the fishery and fish trade in Iceland. Yet that experience has often been misunderstood, and if we are therefore to understand why Bristol played so central a role in the English re-discovery of Newfoundland at the end of the fifteenth century yet seemingly failed to play a leading role in the development of the fisheries there, then we need to begin with Iceland and the English experience with the cod fishery and cod trade there. A good starting point for this would be Bruce Gelsinger, Icelandic Enterprise, Commerce and Economy in the Middle Ages (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1981), which remains the most comprehensive study of Iceland and the late medieval economy. A useful overview of the history of the Icelandic fishery and the fish trade that it supported is provided by J.Th. Thór in his essay, already mentioned previously, “Icelandic Fisheries, c. 900-1900,” in David J. Starkey, Jón Th. Thór, Ingo Heidbrink (eds.), A History of the North Atlantic Fisheries, Volume 1: From Early Times to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Bremen: Hauschild for the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum, 2009), pp. 323-349. To best understand the English cod trade and fishing industry at Iceland, however, one should turn to Wendy Childs, “England’s Icelandic Trade in the Fifteenth Century: The Role of the Port of Hull,” in Poul Holm, Olaf Janzen, Jón Thór, eds., Northern Seas Yearbook 1995, Association for the History of the Northern Seas (Esbjerg, Denmark: Fiskeri- og Søfartsmuseet, 1995), 11-31, Evan T. Jones, “England’s Icelandic fishery in the Early Modern period,” in David Starkey et al. (eds.), England’s Sea Fisheries: The Commercial Fisheries of England and Wales since 1300 (London: Chatham Publishing, 2000) – a slightly different "pre-print" version is available on-line at <http://hdl.handle.net/1983/600> – and Evan T. Jones, "The journal of the Voyage of the Marigold to Iceland, 1654," in Susan Rose (ed.), The Naval Miscellany, Volume VII (Aldershot, Hants. & Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008), 97-127. These publications make very clear the distinction that must be made between the English cod trade with Iceland and the English cod fishery there. Jones’ work is particularly important because he also emphasizes that the East Anglia-based English fishery at Iceland showed great vigour and growth at the turn of the sixteenth century, not the decline that allegedly contributed to England’s shift to the Newfoundland fishery, and that the English Icelandic fishery not only persisted into the seventeenth century but may have exceeded the English fishery at Newfoundland in productivity as late as the 1630s. And since the English Icelandic fishery was based in the North Sea coastal ports of eastern England, we can now better understand the apparent contradiction between Bristol’s central role in the process of trans-Atlantic discovery late in the fifteenth century and its seemingly indifferent response to the opportunities of the Newfoundland fishing industry during much of the ensuing sixteenth century – Bristol had not been a player in England’s cod-fishing industry but rather was primarily active in the North Atlantic as a centre for trade, and it was in quest of commercial opportunities, not fishing grounds, that Bristol’s support for the voyages of Cabot and those who followed must be understood. It is a point that Evan Jones developed in an earlier paper, “Bristol and Newfoundland 1490-1570,” in Iona Bulgin (ed.), Cabot and His World Symposium June 1997: Papers and Presentations (St. John’s: Newfoundland Historical Society, 1999), 73-81.
Once students have a better understanding of the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century cod trade and cod fisheries centred on Iceland, they will be better equipped to turn their attention to the literature on the sixteenth-century cod fisheries at Newfoundland. The most influential work on the subject is probably Harold Innis, The Cod Fisheries; The History of an International Economy (rev. ed.; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1940, 1954). Though dated and lacking the sophistication of analysis that is now essential, this pioneering work still impresses one with its massive detail and the international flavour of its sources. The process of revision is, of course, constant, and significant new works have appeared that not only attempt to provide a broader perspective of the cod fisheries than anything Innis attempted, but also incorporate much (though not all) of the research that has appeared in the several decades since Innis’ work was last revised; see for instance, George A. Rose, Cod: The Ecological History of the North Atlantic Fishery (St. John’s, NL: Breakwater Books, 2007). The revisionist literature of recent decades also informs an essay by Olaf Janzen that endeavours to provide a sweeping overview of all of the different European fisheries at Newfoundland during the sixteenth century, though admittedly with far less analysis and detail than Innis or Rose; see “The European Presence in Newfoundland, 1500-1604,” also found in Iona Bulgin (ed.), Cabot and His World Symposium June 1997: Papers and Presentations (St. John’s: Newfoundland Historical Society, 1999), 129-38. Jim Candow has written an even more up-to-date and thorough survey that students and scholars alike will welcome; see James E. Candow, "The Organisation and Conduct of European and Domestic Fisheries in Northeast North America, 1502-1854," in David J. Starkey, Jón Th. Thór, Ingo Heidbrink (eds.), A History of the North Atlantic Fisheries, Volume 1: From Early Times to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Bremen: Hauschild for the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum, 2009), 387-415. Another comprehensive overview that can be recommended is “History of Fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic: The 500-Year Perspective” by W.H. Lear in the Journal of Northwest Atlantic Fishery Science, XXIII (1998): 41–73; it is available on-line at: <http://journal.nafo.int/dnn/Volumes/Articles/ID/276/categoryId/31/History-of-Fisheries-in-the-Northwest-Atlantic-The-500-Year-Perspective>. Also of great value are Plate 21, “The Migratory Fisheries” and Plate 22, “The 16th Century Fishery” in the Historical Atlas of Canada [hereafter cited as HAC], vol. I, which provide invaluable graphics depicting the ways in which the several fisheries developed and functioned, supported by succinct textual analysis.
For those, however, who desire more than a broad survey treatment of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Newfoundland fisheries, they would be well-advised to seek out several publications by Peter Pope. He has written extensively on the subject, both at a more general level as well as more detailed analysis. For example, one of the most manageable and digestible accounts of the European fisheries at Newfoundland in the sixteenth century is Pope's essay, “The 16th-Century Fishing Voyage.” It appears in James E. Candow and Carol Corbin (eds.), How Deep Is The Ocean? Historical Essays on Canada’s Atlantic Fishery (Sydney, NS: University College of Cape Breton Press, 1997), 15-30. See also Pope’s essay, “The Scale of the Early Modern Newfoundland Cod Fishery,” in David J. Starkey and James E. Candow (eds.), The North Atlantic Fisheries: Supply, Marketing and Consumption, 1560-1990 (Studia Atlantica 8; Hull: North Atlantic Fisheries History Association, Maritime Historical Studies Centre, University of Hull, 2006), 9-28. While Pope says little here that he has not already said in several others of his recent publications, this is unquestionably a useful and comprehensive survey for those seeking a quick study of the subject. In “The Admiral System as Conflict Management in the Transatlantic Migratory Fisheries, 1500-1800,” in Robb Robinson, Martin Wilcox, Matthew McCarthy (eds.), Human and Environmental Interactions in the Development of the North Atlantic Fisheries (“Studia Atlantica, 9”; Hull: North Atlantic Fisheries History Association, 2015), pp. 23-46, Pope explains how early transatlantic fishers allocated shore space to fishers and thereby scattered ethnic groups along the North American littoral. He demonstrates that the notion that the dry fishery and the use of shore stations were restricted essentially to the English is an historical superstition. Whether they came from Portugal, Brittany, Normandy, the Basque Country, or the west of England, fishermen were familiar with the land-based dry cure, and used it when fishing inshore.
Other useful surveys of the period are provided by the introduction to Laurier Turgeon’s examination of “French Fishers, Fur Traders, and Amerindians During the Sixteenth Century: History and Archaeology,” William & Mary Quarterly, Third Ser., LV: 4 (October 1998), 585-610, as well as by David Quinn’s essay, "The Newfoundland Trades: Cod-fishing and Whaling, 1514-1613," which accompanies a strong collection of documents in the fourth volume of New American World. These will introduce students to the complexities and international character of the early fishing industry and trade.
But for a deeper understanding of the answers to the apparently simple question of who fished where and why during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, one should turn first to W. Jeffrey Bolster’s "Putting the Ocean in Atlantic History: Maritime Communities and Marine Ecology in the Northwest Atlantic, 1500-1800," American Historical Review CXIII: 1 (February 2008), 19-47. This essay examines both the social and economic forces that contributed to the expansion of European fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic but also the ecological factors that shaped those fisheries during what Bolster terms the "Age of the Ocean" from 1500 to 1800. Next, turn to two more essays by Peter Pope: "The European Occupation of Southeast Newfoundland: Archaeological Perspectives on Competition for Fishing Rooms, 1530-1680," in Christian Roy, Jean Bélisle, Marc-André Bernier, and Brad Loewen (eds.), ArchéoLogiques; Collection Hors-Série 1. Mer et Monde: Questions d’archéologie maritime (Québec: Association des archéologiques du Québec, 2003), 122-133; and "Transformation of the Maritime Cultural Landscape of Atlantic Canada by Migratory European Fishermen, 1500-1800," which appears in Louis Sicking and Darlene Abreu-Ferreira (eds.), Beyond the Catch: Fisheries of the North Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic, 900-1850 (The Hague: Brill, 2008), 123-154. Here Pope shows that the patterns of occupation and exploitation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries require careful attention to several factors and forces – from the nature of navigational skills, to the proximity of European homelands to the Newfoundland fishing grounds, to competition for preferred shore spaces. At one point he emphasizes that the major constraint on this industry was not labour recruitment but access to fishing rooms.
Once they have a reasonable understanding of the nature of the sixteenth-century fisheries, students should examine Daniel Vickers, “The Price of Fish: A Price Index for Cod, 1505-1892,” Acadiensis XXV: 2 (Spring 1996), 62-81, as well as Santiago Piquero and Ernesto López, "New Evidence for the Price of Cod in Spain: The Basque Country, 1560-1900," in David J. Starkey and James E. Candow (eds.), The North Atlantic Fisheries: Supply, Marketing and Consumption, 1560-1990 (Studia Atlantica 8; Hull: North Atlantic Fisheries History Association, Maritime Historical Studies Centre, University of Hull, 2006), 195-211. These will provide a good appreciation of the value of Newfoundland fish over time as a trading commodity, even as it introduces them to the extreme difficulty scholars face in trying to measure value in distant times.
Students venturing into a study of the early Newfoundland fishery will also benefit immensely from a number of recent publications which have given close scrutiny to available quantitative data. The collapse of the cod stocks in the twentieth century has intensified interest in historical data sets on which to base estimates of the size of cod stocks in the past, the better to understand the impact of industrial fisheries in the present. This of course begs the question, "how reliable are the historical statistics ?" For example, R. Forsey and W.H. Lear offered an assessment of Historical Catches and Catch Rates of Atlantic Cod at Newfoundland During 1677-1833 (Canadian Data Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences No.662) (St. John's: Science Branch, Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans, 1987). This should be paired with Peter Pope’s cautionary analysis of the nature and reliability of the surviving statistics that describe such things as the size of the fishing fleets and the quantity of fish caught during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; see "Early Estimates: Assessments of Catches in the Newfoundland Cod Fishery, 1660-1690," in Daniel Vickers (ed.), Marine Resources and Human Societies in the North Atlantic Since 1500: Papers Presented at the conference entitled "Marine Resources and Human Societies in the North Atlantic Since 1500," October 20-22, 1995 (ISER Conference Paper Number 5; St. John's, NF: The Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1997). pp. 7-40. Another analysis of the nature and reliability of quantitative data preserved in the records for this period is presented by David J. Starkey and Michael Haines in "The Newfoundland Fisheries, c. 1500-1900: A British Perspective," in Poul Holm, Tim D. Smith, David J. Starkey (eds.), The Exploited Seas: New Directions for Marine Environmental History (Research in Maritime History, No. 21; St. John’s, NF: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2002), 1-11. Jeffrey A. Hutchings interprets the consequences of fluctuations in the cod stocks throughout the history of the Newfoundland fishery; see "Spatial and Temporal Variation in the Exploitation of Northern Cod, Gadus morhua: A Historical Perspective from 1500 to the Present," in Daniel Vickers (ed., Marine Resources and Human Societies in the North Atlantic Since 1500: Papers Presented at the conference entitled "Marine Resources and Human Societies in the North Atlantic Since 1500," October 20-22, 1995 (ISER Conference Paper Number 5; St. John's, NF: The Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1997), 41-68. Another analysis of historical cod stocks, based on archaeofaunal data acquired at sites at Red Bay, Ferryland, Bay Bulls and Crouse (on the Northern Peninsula) which span from the middle sixteenth century to the early nineteenth century, concludes that there is some indication that cod stocks were already being significantly affected by the European fisheries in the seventeenth century. The authors of this paper suggest that what is noteworthy is not just that cod stocks were affected, but that “significant fishing returns were able to be sustained for so long”; that cod stocks withstood the pressure of the fisheries until the period from 1850 onwards “is a testament to just how productive the waters of Newfoundland and Labrador were...” See Matthew W. Betts, Stéphane Noël, Eric Tourigny, Mélissa Burns, Peter E. Pope, and Stephen L. Cumbaa in the e-journal Journal of the North Atlantic, No. 24 (2014), “Special Volume: Zooarchaeology of the Historic Cod Fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada,” pp. 1-21. See also Andrew A. Rosenberg, W. Jeffrey Bolster, Karen E. Alexander, William B. Leavenworth, Andrew B Cooper, and Matthew G. McKenzie, “The History of Ocean Resources: Modeling Cod Biomass Using Historical Records,” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, III, No. 2 (2005), 84-90. These efforts to calculate the size of fish stocks and the dimensions of catch rates might also be usefully compared with similar studies of the fisheries in waters adjacent to Newfoundland. Jeffrey Bolster, Karen E. Alexander, and William B. Leavenworth offer an assessment of "The Historical Abundance of Cod on the Nova Scotia Shelf" in Jeremy B.C. Jackson, Karen Alexander, and Enric Sala (eds.), Shifting Baselines: The Past and the Future of Ocean Fisheries (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2011), 79-113.
Difficult though it may be to place reliable conclusions on statistical data from three or four centuries agos, they can nevertheless provide important insight, not only into production patterns but also into settlement permanency. For example, Ransom A. Myers uses Scott Gordon’s bio-economic model for an open access fishery to confirm that fishermen in three bays in Newfoundland tended to settle permanently when catch rates exceeded a particular threshold levels (forty quintals of dried salt cod per man per year); see "Testing Ecological Models: The Influence of Catch Rates on Settlement of Fishermen in Newfoundland, 1710-1833," in Poul Holm, Tim D. Smith, David J. Starkey (eds.), The Exploited Seas: New Directions for Marine Environmental History (Research in Maritime History, No. 21; St. John’s, NF: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2002), pp. 13-29. Finally, the environmental impact of the European fisheries in Newfoundland waters was not confined to fish. Peter Pope shows that cod fishers were large-scale predators of seabirds as well as cod throughout the two centuries of the migratory fishery’s hey-day (1550-1750); see Peter E. Pope, "Early Migratory Fishermen and Newfoundland’s Seabird Colonies," in a new e-journal, the Journal of the North Atlantic II: Special Issue I (October 2009): 57-74.
Which Europeans were first to fish in Newfoundland waters? In the larger scheme of things, the answer is probably not all that important; unfortunately, the question generates considerable heat today, more out of a sense of nationalistic chauvinism than serious historical inquiry. Basque, Portuguese, French, English -- all claim to have been here first, and while historians have tried to set the record straight, this is always difficult. Thus, and with no evidence to support the claim, a Portuguese presence in Newfoundland waters before 1492 is implied by Daviken Studnicki-Gizbert in A Nation upon the Ocean Sea: Portugal's Atlantic Diaspora and the Crisis of the Spanish Empire, 1492-1640 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). Similarly, despite a lack of evidence on the one hand, and strong documentary evidence to the contrary, there are claims that the Basques were fishing at Newfoundland before Cabot’s voyage of 1497; see for example Mark Kurlansky, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (Toronto: A.A. Knopf, 1997). Even academics who acknowledge that the Basque fisheries at Newfoundland began well into the sixteenth century manage to contradict themselves by opening the door to a Basque presence before 1500; contrast for instance, the information provided on p. 189 with that on p. 179 in George A. Rose, Cod: The Ecological History of the North Atlantic Fishery (St. John’s, NL: Breakwater Books, 2007). Such assertions are frustrating to scholars like Selma Barkham, whose publications show that claims of a pre-Cabot Basque presence in the Newfoundland fisheries are simply not consistent with the evidence; see her brief paper “Resumo da evolución da pesca nas costas do este de Canadá,” in Pontevedra e o Mar: actas do Simposio de historia marítima do século XII ao XVI en Pontevedra o 29 e 30 de novembro e 1 de decembro de 2001 (Pontevedra, Spain: Concello de Pontevedra, 2003),177-181.
The earliest voyages for which documentation exists were
Breton, a few years after the beginning of the sixteenth century; Portuguese voyages
appear to have followed soon after.
focuses his attention on the first few decades of the sixteenth-century French
fishery in his essay "La pêche française à la ‘terre neufve’ avant Champlain ou
l’avènement d’une proto-industrie," in Mickaël Augeron and Dominique Guillemet
(eds.), Champlain ou les portes du Nouveau-Monde: Cinq siècles d’échanges
entre le centre-ouest français et l’Amérique du nord, XVe-XXe siècles (La
Créche: Geste éditions,
A brief but useful
overview of the French fishery at Newfoundland in the sixteenth century is
also provided by Jacques Lévêque de Pontharquart in his essay "The International
Presence in Newfoundland in the 16th Century," in Etienne Bernet,
Marie-Hélène Desjardins-Ménègalli (eds.), The French Shore Fishery: A
Collection of Essays, published by L’Association Fécamp Terre-Neuve in
their series Les Annales du Patrimoine de Fécamp numéro 10 (2003), pp. 7-11. In that same publication can be found another essay that
carries the story of the French fishery forward into the seventeenth century;
see Peter E. Pope, "The Petit Nord in the Seventeenth Century and the
Transatlantic French Fishery" in Etienne Bernet, Marie-Hélène
Desjardins-Ménègalli (eds.), The French Shore Fishery: A Collection of
Essays, published by L’Association Fécamp Terre-Neuve in their series Les Annales
du Patrimoine de Fécamp
10 (2003), pp.13-17. One of Pope’s more recent publications reveals how
archaeological investigations broaden the understanding of the French Petit Nord
derived through purely documentary sources; see Peter E. Pope, “The Champ Paya
Fishing Room on Newfoundland's Petit Nord and the Maritime Cultural Landscape of
the French Shore Fishery, 1504-1904,” in Scott Jamieson, Anne Pelta, Anne
Thareau (eds.), Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, Occasional Papers No. 3:
The French Presence in Newfoundland and Labrador: Past, Present, and Future
(St. John’s: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2015), pp. 113-139. However,
the touchstone for almost all studies of the French
presence in the Newfoundland fishery has long been Charles de
la Morandière, Histoire de la
Pêche Française de la Morue dans l'Amérique Septentrionale des Origines à 1789 (3
vols.; Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 1962-1966); this is a massive and extremely thorough
work. Still, it is essentially a descriptive study. Analysis was left to those who followed
this pioneering effort, a point which was made in Charles Carrière, "La Pêche de
Terre-Neuve," Revue d'histoire économique et sociale XLII (mai 1964): 255-264.
An extremely useful, and more digestible, overview of the French fishery is Laurier
Turgeon's essay, "Le temps des pêches lointaines: permanences et transformations
(vers 1500-vers 1850)," in Michel Mollat (directeur), Histoire des Pêches
Maritimes en France (Toulouse: Privat, 1987), 133-181.
Broad surveys such as these rest on a solid foundation of research into some of the major French ports outfitting for the fishery and active in the trade. For instance, the most important French port active in the Newfoundland fishery and trade in the early period was arguably Bordeaux. The starting point for any study of this port is unquestionably Jacques Bernard’s pioneering work, Navires et gens de mer à Bordeaux (3 vols.; Paris, 1968); see especially vol. II, 805-826, "Les premiers armements pour Terre-Neuve." Yet in the years since Bernard’s work first appeared, a wealth of new information about Bordeaux and its role in the sixteenth-century fisheries continues to be gleaned from the notarial records, as Laurier Turgeon explains in "Pour redécouvrir notre 16e siècle: les pêches à Terre-Neuve d'après les archives notariales de Bordeaux," Revue d'histoire de l'amérique française XXXIX: 4(Spring 1986): 523-50. More recent – and more accessible – is another article by Turgeon on "Bordeaux and the Newfoundland Trade during the Sixteenth Century," International Journal of Maritime History IX: 2 (December 1997): 1-28. Here, he sets out to establish the centrality of Bordeaux’s role in the sixteenth-century Newfoundland trade, identifying that trade as one of the major commercial activities in the North Atlantic during that period. He also argues convincingly that the Basques were then one of the most important elements within the Bordeaux commercial community. He develops similar arguments, though with a slightly different perspective, in "French Fishers, Fur Traders, and Amerindians During the Sixteenth Century: History and Archaeology," William and Mary Quarterly, Third Ser., LV: 4 (October 1998), 585-610. The Basque role in the early French fishing industry, together with the intricacies of their commercial connections with Spain, is further explored by Michael Barkham in "French Basque 'New Found Land’ Entrepreneurs and the Import of Codfish and Whale Oil to Northern Spain, c.1580 to c.1620: The Case of Adam de Chibau, Burgess of Saint-Jean-de-Luz and ‘Sieur de St. Julien’," Newfoundland Studies X: 1(Spring 1994): 1-43, while the role of the Basques in developing the sixteenth-century cod fishery in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is explained in an excellent but scarce article by Selma Barkham; see Aperçu de l'évolution de la pêche sur les côtes de l'Est canadien," 118e congrès national des sociétées historiques et scientifiques (Pau, 1993), 173-180. Another essay by Michael Barkham focuses on Martin de Hoyarsabal "as a good example of the active and expert Basque maritime entrepreneur of the second half of the sixteenth century, who had good contacts in many ports of western Europe and who could sail frequently and with ease in the waters of the Old and New Worlds." See "New Documents Concerning the French Basque Pilot, Martin de Hoyarsabal, Author of the First Detailed Rutter for the ‘New Found Land’ (1579," Newfoundland Studies XIX: 1 (Spring 2003; Special Issue on "The New Early Modern Newfoundland: to 1730"): 103-131.
Bordeaux as well as the nearby Basque ports were not alone in their involvement in the French fisheries at Newfoundland. This is revealed graphically – and impressively – in Plate 22, "The 16th Century Fishery" by John Mannion and Selma Barkham in HAC, Vol. I, previously mentioned. Over fifty ports were actively engaged in the French fisheries during this period, and some of them have been the focus of specific studies. For example, one port which specialized in the early French bank fishery is discussed in J. Froger, "Les Sables d'Olonne, grand port morutier sous l'Ancien Régime, XVIe-XVIIIe siècles," Olona #80 (1976): 1-10. "Les Sables d’Olonne, grand port morutier sous l’Ancien Régime, XVIe-XVIIIe siècles," Olona #80 (1976): 1-10. Jacques Leveque de Pontharquart takes a detailed look not only at Norman ports during that century but also at the way in which Norman involvement in the fisehry and trade attracted the participation of merchants outside the region; see "Rôles des marchands de l’extérieur dans la pêche normande au XVIe siècle," in Éric Barré (dir.), Deuxièmes Journées d’Histoire de la Grande Pêche (Fécamp, 11-12 octobre 2003) (Paris: Société Française d’Histoire Maritime, 2003), 49-56.
Portuguese participation in the sixteenth-century Newfoundland fisheries has not been researched nearly as thoroughly. Apart from the discussion in Innis' The Cod Fisheries and the editorial commentary in the fourth volume of David Quinn's New American World, there has been until recently very little scholarly work on the Portuguese. Sally C. Cole's essay, "Cod, God and Family: The Portuguese Newfoundland Cod Fishery," Mast: Maritime Anthropological Studies III: 1(1990): 30-47, did little to correct this for the early period beyond synthesizing what little was known. Indeed, the available evidence is so meagre that Darlene Abreu-Ferreira concludes that the Portuguese presence in the sixteenth century fishery has been grossly exaggerated and that the Portuguese fishery at Newfoundland was not significant at all; see "Portugal's Cod Fishery in the 16th Century: Myths and Misconceptions," in James E. Candow and Carol Corbin (eds.), How Deep Is The Ocean? Historical Essays on Canada's Atlantic Fishery (Sydney, NS: University College of Cape Breton Press, 1997), 31-44, as well as "Terra Nova through the Iberian Looking Glass: The Portuguese-Newfoundland Cod Fishery in the Sixteenth Century," Canadian Historical Review LXXIX: 1 (March 1998): 100-115, which also appears in Iona Bulgin (ed.), Cabot and His World Symposium June 1997: Papers and Presentations (St. John's: Newfoundland Historical Society, 1999), 139-152. These articles are all drawn from her doctoral dissertation, The Cod Trade in Early-modern Portugal: Deregulation, English Domination, and the Decline of Female Cod Merchants (PhD thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1996).
Yet the absence of documentary evidence is not in itself proof that the Portuguese fishery did not exist at a significant level. For one thing, sixteenth-century documents have survived in a very fragmentary and incomplete state. See for example Amândio Jorge Morais Barros, “Cod Fishery and Global Trade: Porto’s Ships in Newfoundland in the Sixteenth Century,” in Robb Robinson, Martin Wilcox, Matthew McCarthy (eds.), Human and Environmental Interactions in the Development of the North Atlantic Fisheries (“Studia Atlantica, 9”; Hull: North Atlantic Fisheries History Association, 2015), pp. 7-22. For another, the Iberian fishing fleet that was attacked with such devastating effect by the Englishman Bernard Drake consisted almost entirely of Portuguese ships. The attack, discussed in David Quinn's essay on Drake in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography [hereafter cited as DCB], I: 278-280, seems to confirm that Portugal was an important participant in the fishery at Newfoundland for the better part of the sixteenth century, since the number of ships involved represented a substantial amount of capital by any standard. The argument that a significant Portuguese fishery did exist, at least until the 1580s, is also indicated by surviving fiscal records; see Inês Amorim, "The Evolution of Portuguese Fisheries in the Medieval and Early Modern Period: A Fiscal Approach," in Louis Sicking and Darlene Abreu-Ferreira (eds.), Beyond the Catch: Fisheries of the North Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic, 900-1850 (The Hague: Brill, 2008), 245-279 (esp. 263-265), as well as her survey of "Portuguese Fisheries, c. 1100-1830," in David J. Starkey, Jón Th. Thór, Ingo Heidbrink (eds.), A History of the North Atlantic Fisheries, Volume 1: From Early Times to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Bremen: Hauschild for the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum, 2009), 279-298. As well, there was a powerful Portuguese influence on the toponymy of Newfoundland which suggests that a vigorous Portuguese presence did exist there during this early period; see Plate 22, "The Sixteenth Century Fishery" in the HAC, Vol. I.
The other noteworthy Iberian fishery at Newfoundland in the sixteenth century was that of the Basques, though too often it is misleadingly identified simply as a "Spanish" fishery because it was based primarily in the Basque ports of what is now northern Spain. Before venturing into an assessment of the so-called "Spanish" fishery in sixteenth-century Newfoundland, students would be well-advised to learn more about the Basque people. A good start would be Julio Caro Baroja, The Basques, originally published in 1949 and not translated until 1971; that 1971 translation has recently been reprinted (Reno: Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada, 2009); another survey of the Basques as a people is Roger Collins, The Basques (New York: Blackwell, 1986).
Once equipped with an historical context through background reading, students will be better equipped to understand the role of the Basques in the early modern European fishery at Newfoundland. The first thorough examination of the Basque fishery was by Harold Innis in "The Rise and Fall of the Spanish Fishery in Newfoundland," Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, third series, vol. XXV (1931), section ii, 51-70; the essay has since been reprinted in Mary Q. Innis (ed.), Essays in Canadian Economic History, 43-61. Many of Innis’ conclusions still have merit, despite the decades that have passed since his essay was first published. This is particularly true with respect to his analysis of the decline of the Basque fishery. Seemingly so vigorous in the mid 1500s, the Spanish Basque fishery went into a decline around the turn of the seventeenth century, and continued to fade until it had practically lost all significance by the mid-1600s, is undeniable. Innis attributed this to the ruinous effect of the policies of the central government in Madrid on the local Basque economy, an argument which in general terms is supported by more recent literature. See for instance Selma Barkham, "Guipuzcoan Shipping in 1571 with Particular Reference to the Decline of the Transatlantic Fishing Industry," Anglo-American Contributions to Basque Studies: Essays in Honor of Jon Bilbao, XIII (1977): 73-81, which examines the problem by focussing on a single year, as well as Selma Huxley Barkham and Michael M. Barkham, "The Arriolas of Urazandi: Maritime Enterprise in Vizcaya and Guipuzcoa (c.1540 to c.1630)," in R. Basurto LarraZaga (ed.), Homenaje a Francisco de Abrisketa (Bolibar: Sociedad Bolivariana del País Vasco, 1993), 269-298, which examines the problem by focussing on a single family. The decline of Spanish and Basque shipping figures prominently in these analyses, and is the particular focus of an essay by Regina Grafe; see "The Strange Tale of the Decline of Spanish Shipping," in Richard Unger (ed.), Shipping and Economic Growth 1350-1850 (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011), 81-115.
Nevertheless, many of the particulars of Innis’ discussion, such as the alleged relationship between the availability of salt and preferences for a wet cure in preserving cod, have been challenged, as one might expect given the amount of scholarship that the subject has attracted. Selma Huxley-Barkham and her son Michael have played a particularly instrumental role in revising our understanding of the complex history of the Basque fisheries. For instance, Michael Barkham has put together an excellent overview of the Spanish Basque fishery, one that takes all the recent scholarship into account; see "The Offshore and Distant-Water Fisheries of the Spanish Basques, c. 1500-1650," in David J. Starkey, Jón Th. Thór, Ingo Heidbrink (eds.), A History of the North Atlantic Fisheries, Volume 1: From Early Times to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Bremen: Hauschild for the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum, 2009), 229-249.In "The Mentality of the Men behind Sixteenth-Century Spanish Voyages to Terranova," Selma Huxley Barkham takes us into the mentalité of Basque investors and outfitters; the article appears in Germaine Warkentin and Carolyn Podruchny (eds.), Decentring the Renaissance: Canada and Europe in Multidisciplinary Perspective, 1500-1700 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), 110-124. Another recent article by Hilario Casado Alonso uses insurance contracts to confirm that the owners, ships, and sailors who engaged in the Newfoundland fishery also engaged in other international trades in order to diversify their activities and reduce risks; see "La pêche à Terre-Neuve et le commerce international: deux activités complémentaires au XVIe siècle" in Annales de Bretagne et des Pays de l'Ouest, CXXI: 2 (juin 2013), pp. 111-132. Fishing and trade were complementary activities, and ships did not specialize on one or the other. This point is strikingly supported by Javi Castro in “The Basque Seal Trade with Labrador in the Seventeenth Century,” an essay which appeared in Newfoundland and Labrador Studies. Special Issue: Papers on the Basques in Newfoundland and Labrador in the Seventeenth Century, XXXIII: 1 (Spring 2018), pp. 63-82. Not only did the trade in seal skins provide Basques with yet another New World commodity to deliver to home markets, it also brought the Basques into closer contact with the Inuit of the Labrador coast, as Brad Loewen explains in “The World of Capitena Ioannis: Basques and Inuit in the 17th Century,” Canadian Journal of Archaeology/Journal Canadien d’Archéologie XLI (2017), pp. 165-203. Another recent essay on Basque maritime commercial networks is "The Spanish Basque Country in Global Trade Networks in the Eighteenth Century" by Álvaro Aragón Ruano and Alberto Angulo Morales, published in the International Journal of Maritime History, XXV: 1 (June 2013), pp.149-172. While they make almost no mention of Newfoundland, the argument they develop about Basque trade diversification suggest that students wishing to understand the way in which the Basque maritime economy functioned in the Early Modern period need to look beyond the literature that focuses on what they were doing in Newfoundland and Labrador. The articles by Alonso and by Ruano and Morales provide invaluable context for what went on here.
The versatility and diversity of Basque voyages generally is clearly reflected within Basque fishing voyages. Michael Barkham reveals the degree to which Basque investment and shipping was more than just a phenomenon based exclusively in the ports of northern Spain; see "French Basque `New Found Land' Entrepreneurs and the Import of Codfish and Whale Oil to Northern Spain, c.1580 to c.1620: The Case of Adam de Chibau, Burgess of Saint-Jean-de-Luz and `Sieur de St. Julien'," Newfoundland Studies X: 1 (Spring 1994): 1-43. Barkham develops the relationship between Basque shipbuilding, shipping, and investment in the trans-Atlantic fisheries much more fully in his two dissertations, Spanish Basque Shipbuilding: The Port of Zumaya 1560-1600. An Historic Economic Geography of a Merchant Capitalist Industry (MA thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1985) and Shipowning, shipbuilding and trans-Atlantic fishing in Spanish Basque ports, 1560-1630 (PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 1991).
The decline of the Basque fishery did not completely eliminate Spain as a factor in Newfoundland. On the contrary, by the beginning of the seventeenth century, Spain was fast developing into an important market for the cod fisheries of other nationalities, and the growing inability of the Spanish Basque to satisfy the demand of Spanish consumers for fish almost certainly contributed to the expansion of the French fishery and the rise of the English fishery at Newfoundland in the late sixteenth century and throughout the seventeenth century. There is some evidence that a Spanish fishery did persist into the eighteenth century; see Comercio y Burguesia Mercantil de Bilbao en la Segunda Mitad del Sigo XVIII (Bilbao: Servicio Editorial Universidad del País Vasco, 1983) by Román Basurto LarraZaga, a book on the eighteenth-century merchant community of Bilbao. And the Madrid government did occasionally attempt to reassert its stake in the Newfoundland fishery by invoking its role as a founder of the fishery. See for instance Vera Lee Brown’s essay, "Spanish Claims to a Share in the Newfoundland Fisheries in the Eighteenth Century," Canadian Historical Association Annual Report, 1925, 64-82. But neither France nor England treated these pretensions very seriously. The Spanish fishery at Newfoundland was simply no longer significant after the turn of the seventeenth century.
Nevertheless, by then Spanish consumers had developed a voracious appetite for cod. In "Popish Habits vs. Nutritional Need: Fasting and Fish Consumption in Iberia in the Early Modern Period," University of Oxford Discussion Papers in Economic and Social History Number 55, May 2004, Regina Grafe examines the nature and scale of consumer demand for cod and other fish. See also see Santiago Piquero and Ernesto López, "New Evidence for the Price of Cod in Spain: The Basque Country, 1560-1900," in David J. Starkey and James E. Candow (eds.), The North Atlantic Fisheries: Supply, Marketing and Consumption, 1560-1990 (Studia Atlantica 8; Hull: North Atlantic Fisheries History Association, Maritime Historical Studies Centre, University of Hull, 2006), 195-211. The response of French and English fish merchants to satisfy Iberian demand for fish in the final quarter of the sixteenth century strongly suggests that patterns of exploitation and dominance in Newfoundland may have been determined by commercial and market conditions in Europe. More investigation is needed here.
Traditionally, the kind of fish that European consumers preferred – whether dried or wet, salted or pickled – has been attributed to combinations of cost, religion, and convenience. See for instance John Gilchrist, "Exploration and Enterprise – the Newfoundland Fishery c.1497-1677," in David Macmillan (ed.), Canadian Business History: Selected Studies, 1497-1971 (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1972), 7-26. Yet surveys like Gilchrist’s are increasingly dated, particularly in the way they explain the reasons for the adoption of different cures of fish by the various nationalities; too little emphasis is given to the role played by market preferences. Indeed, it has become quite clear that we do not know enough about what happened to Newfoundland fish once it arrived in Spain. Very little has been published in English on the commercial networks, distribution system, and consumer patterns of the Spanish market, yet without those networks and patterns, there would have been no fishery or trade; Regina Grafe’s paper, mentioned in the previous paragraph, is a welcome exception. In other publications, Grafe also offers some intriguing insights into the costs of shipping Newfoundland saltfish to Spain. Thus, she calculates that the cost of moving saltfish from coastal receiving ports to Spanish inland markets in the middle of the seventeenth century were twenty-five times greater than the cost of transporting saltfish across the Atlantic in the first place – a compelling reason in its own right for Spain to favour light-weight saltfish over the wet cod preferred in northern France, where rivers provided easier access to the interior. See "Turning Maritime History into Global History: Some Conclusions from the Impact of Globalization in Early Modern Spain," in Maria Fusaro and Amélia Polónia (eds.), Maritime History as Global History ("Research in Maritime History," No. 43; St. John's, NL: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2010), 249-266. See esp. Table 1 on p. 258; the data in this table are drawn from Grafe’s book, Distant Tyranny: Markets, Power and Backwardness in Spain, 1650-1800 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011). A convenient synthesis of our current understanding of these themes is provided in “The Logic of English Saltcod: An Historiographical Revision” by Olaf Janzen, published in The Northern Mariner / Le marin du nord, XXIII, No. 2 (April 2013), 123-134; Janzen draws on the work of Grafe, Pope, and others in his efforts to show how consumer demand and logistical challenges in delivering Newfoundland cod to market helped shape the English fishery's preference for producing salt cod. A revised, shorter version of the paper which gave more focus to Devonshire in the saltfish trade was presented in April 2017 at a conference on the Newfoundland-Devon connection; it was subsequently published as “Devonshire, Iberia, and the logic of the trade in Newfoundland saltfish” in the Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art CXLIX (June 2017): 179-190.
Apart from Grafe’s research, too much of the scholarly work about Newfoundland cod and Spanish markets that could provide valuable insight is written – understandably – in Spanish, and while many specialists in Newfoundland history are able to read French, far too few can read Spanish. For instance, in the book on the eighteenth-century merchant community of Bilbao mentioned in the previous paragraph, Román Basurto Larrañaga provides some analysis of Bilbaoan interaction with foreign suppliers of Newfoundland cod, especially British ones; see Chapt. 4, "La Negociacion del Bacalao. Relaciones Comerciales entre Bilbao y Terranova en la Segunda Mitad del Siglo XVIII." A more recent study, Mundo urbano y actividad mercantil Bilbao 1700-1810 ("Biblioteca de Historia del Pueblo Vasco," No. 9; Bilbao: Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa, 1994) by Aingeru Zabala Uriarte, goes into Bilbao’s involvement in even greater depth. In short, and as Grafe confirms in her essay, there is great potential for a much better understanding of the market demands and forces in Spain that were so central to the fishery and trade at Newfoundland.
Besides the cod fishery, the Basques also harvested other marine resources. Indeed, the decline of the Basque (or “Spanish”) cod fisheries did not bring an end to the Basque presence in Newfoundland waters, as was once believed. Even before the end of the sixteenth century, the Basques had begun to expand into sealing, both in direct harvesting and in a trade with local indigenous people for seal pelts and skins which were carried back to their homeland and transformed into leather products. The contact which this trade generated with the Labrador Inuit is discussed by Javi Castro in “The Basque Seal Trade with Labrador in the Seventeenth Century,” Newfoundland and Labrador Studies. Special Issue: Papers on the Basques in Newfoundland and Labrador in the Seventeenth Century XXXIII: 1 (Spring 2018), pp. 63-82, as well as by Brad Loewen in “The World of Capitena Ioannis: Basques and Inuit in the 17th Century,” Canadian Journal of Archaeology/Journal Canadien d’Archéologie XLI (2017), pp.165-203. That same theme resulted in several papers which were published in Contact in the 16th Century: Networks Among Fishers, Foragers, and Farmers (Gatineau, QC: Canadian Museum of History; Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2016), edited by Brad Loewen and Claude Chapdelaine.
Sealing must have provided a profitable resource
that complimented cod fishing, particularly as Basque fishermen followed the retreating pack ice in the spring,
up the west coast of Newfoundland towards the Labrador straits. But
the real prize on the Labrador coast, at least in the mid- to late-sixteenth
century, was the whale fishery. Most of our interest in the Spanish Basque
presence in Newfoundland in the past few decades has focussed on this activity in the region of the Straits of
Belle Isle from roughly the 1540s to the end of that century. The Basques had
already established a whaling industry in Europe before Newfoundland and
Labrador were discovered. Useful details about that whaling industry can be
found in Daniel Francis, A History of World Whaling (Markham, ON:
Viking, 1990) and Richard Ellis, Men and Whales (New York: Knopf,
1991). Soon after the cod fishery became established in
Newfoundland, word spread back to Europe that the region was also rich in
whales, especially on the Labrador coast in the Straits of Belle Isle, which
functioned as a “choke point” for whales as they migrated in and out of the Gulf
of St. Lawrence. In “The Basque Whalers: The Source of Their Success,” The
Mariner’s Mirror LXXXVI: 3 (August 2000), 261-271, Julian de Zulueta
provides a useful essay on Basque whaling, both before and after the discovery
of the Labrador whaling grounds. He identifies the factors critical to Basque
success, including the quality of their ships, a well-organized system for
financing and insuring voyages, and avoidance distractions such as laying claim
to territory. He also gives attention to the nature and quality of the diet of
the Basque whalers, something that is often overlooked by other treatments of
the subject. It did not therefore take long before the Basques were making
annual voyages to the new whaling grounds, and soon, the whale oil processed by
the Basques in Labrador was making its way to
various markets throughout Europe; see for example the reference to English
imports of Basque whale oil in Janet E. Hollinshead, “Chester, Liverpool and the
Basque Region in the Sixteenth Century,” The Mariner’s Mirror 85, No. 4
(November 1999), 387-395.
Much of what we know about the production end of Basque whaling in Labrador can be credited to Selma Barkham and her pioneering archival research in Spain. This led to the archaeological efforts at Red Bay of Robert Grenier and James Tuck. Many publications ensued and the result is, quite literally, an entirely new chapter in Newfoundland history. For example, Selma Barkham, "The Documentary Evidence for Basque Whaling Ships in the Strait of Belle Isle," and James Tuck, "A Sixteenth Century Whaling Station at Red Bay, Labrador," both appear in G.M. Story (ed.), Early European Settlement and Exploitation in Atlantic Canada: Selected Papers (St. John's: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1982), 53-96 and 41-52. A more recent update of her research is provided by Barkham in "The Basque Whaling Establishments in Labrador 1536-1632 - A Summary," Arctic XXXVII: 4 (December 1984): 515-9, while Tuck and Grenier describe their work in considerable detail in "A 16th Century Basque Whaling Station in Labrador," Scientific American CCXLV (November 1981): 180-4, 186-8, 190; see also Judith A. Logan and James A. Tuck, "A Sixteenth Century Basque Whaling Port in Southern Labrador," Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology International XXII: 3 (1990): 65-72.
The nautical dimension of Basque whaling as revealed by what was found at Red Bay has been compiled by Robert Grenier, Mark-André Bernier, and Willis Stevens into The Underwater Archaeology of Red Bay: Basque Shipbuilding and Whaling in the 16th century (Ottawa: Parks Canada, 2007). In five volumes, this massive work examines what was found beneath the surface of Red Bay, the material culture which that archaeology has revealed, the remains of the ship found there in the harbour, information about the rigging, vessel use and related studies, all followed by a volume devoted entirely to appendices, glossary and bibliography. It is an intimidating work in its detail, and so expensive that few libraries will have it. Fortunately, for those seeking a more accessible treatment of Basque whaling, The Basque Coast of Newfoundland by Selma Barkham was published in 1989 by the Great Northern Peninsula Development Association. This little booklet was written for a general readership, and is handsomely illustrated with photographs and reprints of contemporary charts, but it is based on a solid foundation of scholarly research. Much of Barkham’s research was conducted in the employ of the Canadian government, which commissioned an extremely readable and perceptive survey of the Basque whaling industry based on her work; see Jean-Pierre Proulx, Basque Whaling in Labrador in the 16th century (Ottawa: National Historic Sites, 1993).
Research into the Basque whaling industry in Labrador continues to this day, so that our understanding of the complexity of that industry improves steadily. For instance, by studying whale-oil casks, Brad Loewen has been able to reconstruct the itinerary of Basque whaling voyages and, more importantly, to demonstrate the degree to which a whaling expedition to the Labrador coast was not simply an activity controlled by a single Basque port, but required the participation of a host of European Atlantic ports and regions; see Brad Loewen, “Whale-oil casks and Atlantic trade networks, circa 1565,” in Marinella Pasquinucci and Timm Weski (eds.), Close Encounters: Sea- and Riverborne Trade, Ports and Hinterlands, Ship Construction and Navigation in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and in Modern Time (BAR [British Archaeological Report] International Series No. 1283; Oxford: Archaeopress, 2004), 171-178. In another example of the constant revision that results from on-going research at Red Bay, a study of the genetic material taken from the remains of whalebone found there is forcing us to reassess the impact that Basque whaling had on stocks of right whales. Where once it was believed that the Basques contributed to the collapse of the population of the northern right whale in the modern era, it now appears that they took very few right whales, and that Basque whaling had a much greater impact (in terms of numbers of whales removed) on the bowhead whale population than on the western North Atlantic right whale population; see "Genetic analysis of 16th-century whale bones prompts a revision of the impact of Basque whaling on right and bowhead whales in the western North Atlantic" by Toolika Rastogi, Moira W. Brown, Brenna A. McLeod, Timothy R. Frasier, Robert Grenier, Stephen L. Cumbaa, Jeya Nadarajah, and Bradley N. White, in the Canadian Journal of Zoology LXXXII (2004): 1647-1654; see also B.A. McLeod, M.W. Brown, M.J. Moore, W. Stevens, S.H. Barkham, M. Barkham, and B.N. White, "Bowhead Whales, and Not Right Whales, Were the Primary Target of 16th- to 17th-Century Basque Whalers in the Western North Atlantic," Arctic LXI: 1 (March 2008): 61-75. These findings have since been summarized by Brenna McLeod in an article that is probably easier for general readers to understand; see her "Red Tiles and Baleen: Basque Whalers on the Coast of Labrador," Newfoundland Quarterly C: 4 (2008): 16-19, 34-35.
The attention given to Spanish Basques often casts their French cousins into the shadow. Yet not only Breton and Norman but also French Basque fishermen were among the first to exploit the fishing grounds at Newfoundland, as is explained in Joseph LeHuenen, "The Role of the Basque, Breton and Norman Cod Fishermen in the Discovery of North America from the XVIth to the End of the XVIIIth Century," Arctic XXXVII: 4 (December 1984): 520-7. A very good discussion of both the close collaboration between French Basques and their Spanish compatriots appears in Michael Barkham, "French Basque `New Found Land' Entrepreneurs and the Import of Codfish and Whale Oil to Northern Spain, c.1580 to c.1620: The Case of Adam de Chibau, Burgess of Saint- Jean-de-Luz and `Sieur de St. Julien'," Newfoundland Studies X: 1 (Spring 1994): 1-43. The sixteenth century French Basque presence in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is surveyed by Selma Barkham in "Aperçu de l'évolution de la pêche sur les côtes de l'Est canadien," 118e congrès national des sociétées historiques et scientifiques (Pau, 1993), 173-180, as well as by René Bélanger in his study of Les Basques dans l'estuaire du Saint-Laurent 1535-1635 (Montréal: Les Presses de l'Université du Québec, 1971). The importance of French Basques in the process of establishing a European presence in the St. Lawrence River estuary and Gulf has recently been recognized by the Canadian federal government, which has designated Lîle aux Basques on the south side of the estuary a National Historic Site; see André Desmartis, "Lîle aux Basques désignée lieu historique national au Canada," Le naturaliste canadien CXXVI: 1 (Hiver 2002): 4-8. The island has the richest concentration of Basque sites in the Gulf and River St. Lawrence. Unlike Red Bay, which was the focal point of whaling activity by Basques of northern Spain, Lîle aux Basques attracted French Basques, particularly during the period 1584-1637. And unlike their Spanish cousins, these Basques engaged not only in whaling but also developed a significant trade in furs with local aborigines. Overall, the toponymic impact of the Basques on Canadas eastern seaboard has been substantial; see Alan Rayburn, "The Basque legacy on Canada's East Coast," Canadian Geographic CXIV: 4 (July/August 1994): 74-75, and Selma Huxley Barkham, "Between Cartier and Cook: The Contribution of Fishermen to the Early Toponymy of Western Newfoundland," in Olaf Janzen (ed.), Northern Seas 1999: Yearbook of the Association for the History of the Northern Seas (St. Johns: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2001), 23-31.
As with so many other Europeans who eventually fished for cod in Newfoundland waters, the British cod fishery is best understood with an awareness of the early history of the British long-distance fishing industry. An excellent starting point for this are the several essays which focus on the fisheries of medieval and early modern Britain and are included in David J. Starkey, Chris Reid, Neil Ashcroft (eds). England’s Sea Fisheries: The Commercial Sea Fisheries of England and Wales since 1300 (London: Chatham Publishing, 2000): Robb Robinson, “The Common North Atlantic Pool,” pp. 9-17; Wendy R. Childs, “Fishing and Fisheries in the Middle Ages: The Eastern Fisheries,” pp. 19-23; Maryanne Kowaleski, “Fishing and Fisheries in the Middle Ages: The Western Fisheries,” pp. 23-28; Maryanne Kowaleski, “The Internal and International Fish Trades of Medieval England and Wales: The Internal Fish Trade,” pp. 29-32; and Wendy R. Childs, “The Internal and International Fish Trades of Medieval England and Wales: Control, Conflict and International Trade,” pp. 32-35. Those reading the second of Kowaleski’s essays in the Starkey-Reid-Ashcroft collection should also seek out another of her papers which usefully supplements and updates the earlier one, “The Commercialization of the Sea Fisheries in Medieval England and Wales,” International Journal of Maritime History XV: 2 (December 2003), pp. 177-231. Most of these papers are primarily surveys based on the secondary literature, yet every one of the authors is a specialist in his or her own right with a solid grasp of the literature. Their essays will provide students with a solid appreciation of the European fisheries, fish trades, and consumer demands both before and after the Newfoundland fisheries were discovered and developed.
Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the fact that John Cabot sailed under the
sponsorship of merchants of Bristol, an English presence in the Newfoundland
fishery became substantial only during the final quarter of the 1500s, long
after other Europeans made Newfoundland an annual destination. Moreover, Bristol appears
never to have played a prominent role in the early English fishery. Why is this?
An excellent overview of the question, with possible answers, is provided by
Peter E. Pope in a special issue of Avalon Chronicles devoted to “The English in
America 1497-1696”; see “The English at Newfoundland in the Century after
Cabot,” Avalon Chronicles VIII (2003), 7-26. One
answer has already been suggested: the centre of England's cod-fishing industry
previous to the development of the Newfoundland fishery was Hull
and other North Sea ports, which exploited the Icelandic fishing grounds well
into the seventeenth century; the ports of southwestern England needed time and opportunity
to develop a distant-water cod fishery of their own in coastal Newfoundland. As for Bristol’s low profile
in the fishing industry (notwithstanding the role Bristol played in the
discovery of Newfoundland), the answer may well rest with the fact that
Bristol’s specialty was trade, not fishing. Evan Jones suggests that expanding
commercial opportunities in Iberia late in the fifteenth century made continued
investment in oceanic commerce more attractive than investing in the riskier
proposition of supporting a trans-oceanic fishery; see his paper, "Bristol and
Newfoundland 1490-1570," in Iona Bulgin (ed.), Cabot and His World Symposium
June 1997: Papers and Presentations (St. John’s: Newfoundland Historical
Society, 1999), 73-81.
It is a point driven forcefully home by the available evidence. Consider, for
instance, the conclusions suggested by sixteenth-century exchequer customs
accounts for the port of Bristol. According to those records, the slightly fewer
than two dozen ships and vessels that arrived in Bristol from Newfoundland in 1594/95 and
1600/01 carried not fish but "oil and train;" see Susan Flavin and Evan Jones
(eds.), Bristol's trade with Ireland and the Continent, 1503-1601: The
evidence of the Exchequer customs accounts (Dublin: Four Courts Press for
the Bristol Record Society, 2009). In other words, England might import cod oil
through Bristol, but an English cod fishery at Newfoundland was overshadowed
before 1570 by an East Anglia-based fishery in Iceland; see the article, previously mentioned, by Wendy Childs
on "England’s Icelandic Trade in the Fifteenth Century: The Role of the Port of
The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Fishery and Trade
Yet an English fishery at Newfoundland did expand,
rather dramatically, in the final quarter of the sixteenth century. Why? Before
attempting to answer this question, it is necessary first to understand the
nature and organization of the English fishery at Newfoundland during the
several decades after 1570. A very thorough study of the organization and
prosecution of the early English fishing industry remains Gillian Cell, English
Enterprise in Newfoundland 1577-1660 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969).
Although it is now somewhat dated, it is still quite useful – Kenneth Andrews
bases his own succinct and perceptive survey of the way in which the
Newfoundland fishery generated expansion and buoyancy in the West Country
maritime economy generally, and in West Country shipping in particular, between
1580 and 1629; see Kenneth R. Andrews, Ships, Money and Politics: Seafaring
and Naval Enterprise in the Reign of Charles I (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1991). Moreover, Cell subsequently modified her interpretation
somewhat of the competition between seasonal
fishermen and early seventeenth century colonists. "The Sea Fisheries of the British
Isles, 1376-1976" by Robb Robinson and David J. Starkey, in Poul Holm, David J.
Starkey and Jón Th. Thór (eds.), The North Atlantic Fisheries, 1100-1976
(Esbjerg: Fiskeri- og Søfartsmuseets, 1996), 121-143, is another useful source
for the way in which it inserts the fishery at Newfoundland into the context of a general history of the British
fishery. Students should note however that Robinson and Starkey perpetuate the myth of a
"consistently hostile" West Country opposition to settlement. Todd Gray attempts
to link growing English consumer demand for fish in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries with English overseas exploration and expansion in "Fishing and the English
Need for Exploration," in Iona Bulgin (ed.), Cabot and His World Symposium June
1997: Papers and Presentations (St. John's: Newfoundland Historical Society, 1999),
One of the most significant works in recent decades in terms of revising the way in which we understand the history of the fishery and trade in Newfoundland has been the late Keith Matthews doctoral dissertation, A History of the West of England - Newfoundland Fisheries (PhD thesis, Oxford University, 1968). Matthews re-cast the way in which we viewed the merchants who invested in the fishery and trade, the effect they had on the settlement history of Newfoundland, and the relationship that emerged between merchants and the British government with respect to policy, defence, and trade as these related to Newfoundland before 1815. Sadly, Matthews published very little of academic quality before he died, though his legacy has been a lasting one through the influence he had on his colleagues and his students. Another recent doctoral dissertation covering virtually the same time-frame was England and Newfoundland: Policy and Trade 1660-1783 (PhD thesis, University of Southampton, 1980) by Glanville Davies. This manuscript adopts a much more traditional approach to its topic, and lacks the influential revisionism of the Matthews thesis.
For those seeking a briefer but accurate survey of the Newfoundland fishery and trade during this period, the second chapter of Kenneth Norrie, Douglas Owram, and J.C. Herbert Emery, A History of the Canadian Economy (4th ed.; Toronto: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 2008) on "The Atlantic Colonies to 1763" can be recommended. For those fortunate to have access to it, the essay by Keith Matthews on the "Fisheries: 1500-1800" which appears in The Encyclopedia of Newfoundland, vol. II: 132-44 is succinct and extremely instructive. Another highly recommended overview is provided in the opening chapters of C. Grant Head, Eighteenth Century Newfound land: A Geographer's Perspective (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1976). Plate 23, "The 17th Century Fishery," Plate 21, "The Migratory Fisheries," Plate 25, "The Newfoundland Fishery, 18th Century," and Plate 28, "The Fishery in Atlantic Commerce" of R.C. Harris & G. Matthews, the HAC, vol. I are invaluable aids to the literature. More recently, Stephen Hornsby’s historical geography of the British Atlantic offers comprehensive – and accurate – coverage of the Newfoundland fishery, trade, and settlement; see Stephen P. Hornsby, British Atlantic, American Frontier: Spaces of Power in Early Modern British America (Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2005). In the final analysis, however, there is no substitute for more specialized sources such as the Matthews dissertation or Peter Pope’s monograph, Fish Into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), in seeking to understand the tremendous complexity and diversity of the fishery and its trade.
One interesting recent development in the study of the early modern fisheries, possibly influenced in part by the collapse of the cod stocks in the 1990s, is the attempt to determine the degree to which prosperity and success within the Newfoundland fisheries were affected by environmental factors. At least three papers touch on this theme in Daniel Vickers (ed.), Marine Resources and Human Societies in the North Atlantic Since 1500: Papers Presented at the conference entitled "Marine Resources and Human Societies in the North Atlantic Since 1500," October 20-22, 1995 (ISER Conference Paper Number 5; St. John's, NF: The Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1997): Peter Pope's "Early Estimates: Assessments of Catches in the Newfoundland Cod Fishery, 1660-1690," pp. 7-40; Jeffrey A. Hutchings' "Spatial and Temporal Variation in the Exploitation of Northern Cod, Gadus morhua: A Historical Perspective from 1500 to the Present," pp. 41-68; and Laurier Turgeon's "Fluctuations in Cod and Whale Stocks in the North Atlantic During the Eighteenth Century," pp. 87-120. Additional papers presenting an environmental historical approach to the Newfoundland fishery appear in Poul Holm, Tim D. Smith, David J. Starkey (eds.), The Exploited Seas: New Directions for Marine Environmental History (Research in Maritime History, No. 21; St. John’s, NF: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2002): in "The Newfoundland Fisheries, c. 1500-1900: A British Perspective," pp. 1-11, David J. Starkey and Michael Haines analyse the nature and reliability of quantitative data preserved in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British records; in "Nineteenth-Century Expansion of the Newfoundland Fishery for Atlantic Cod: An Exploration of Underlying Causes," pp. 31-65, Sean Cadigan and Jeffrey A. Hutchings link the development of the Labrador cod fishery to problems that developed in the nineteenth-century Newfoundland inshore cod fishery.
Of course, given the meagerness and imprecision of the available evidence, definitive conclusions about the relationship between environmental factors and the health of the early modern fishery cannot be made. Changes caused by economic, political, and social factors are, in contrast, easier to measure and to study. Within the fish trade, the diversity of participating nations persisted into the seventeenth century but would not last. Dutch involvement in the trade during the first part of this century is discussed in Dicky Glerum-Laurentius, A History of Dutch Activity in the Newfoundland Fish Trade From About 1590 Till 1680 (MA thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1960) as well as in Jan Kupp, "Le développement de l'intérêt hollandais dans la pêcherie de la morue de Terre-Neuve; l'influence hollandaise sur les pêcheries de Terre-Neuve au dix-septième siècle," Revue d'histoire de l'amérique française XXVII: 4 (mars 1974): 565-69. The most recent and detailed examination of Dutch involvement in the Newfoundland fish trade has been by a young Dutch scholar Maarten Heerlien, using the available secondary literature supported by Dutch notarial records. Heerlien’s Master’s dissertation, Van Holland naar Cupidos Koe: Hollandse Newfoundlandhandel in de context van de internationale kabeljauwvisserij bij Newfoundland in de zestiende en de zeventiende eeuw (MA thesis, University of Groningen, 2005), may be very difficult to track down, but an article based on that dissertation, "Stokvishandel tussen de Republiek, Newfoundland en het Middellandse-Zeegebied (1590-1670),” Tijdschrift voor Zeegeschiedenis XXV: 2 (October 2006): 123-137, should be easier to trace. Though inaccessible to most Newfoundland specialists because it is written in Dutch, there is an English summary on p. 178 which suggests that an abundance of additional research awaits scholars who can master the language and the intricacies of the largely uncatalogued Dutch notarial records. The Dutch confined their involvement to trade – there is little evidence of the Dutch fishing at Newfoundland, though some intriguing remarks are dropped by the authors in Jan Kupp and Simon Hart, “The Dutch in the Strait of Davis and Labrador During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” Man in the Northeast XI (1976): 1-20. In any case, Dutch participation in the trade to and from Newfoundland would fade after mid-century, and by the 1670s it had ended. As a result, few historians have bothered to acknowledge the participation or the importance of the Dutch in the Newfoundland trade; Harold Innis gives the Dutch some attention in The Cod Fisheries: The History of an International Economy (rev. ed.; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1954), though students would be better served by consulting Peter Pope’s Fish Into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004). By then, the Spanish Basque fishery at Newfoundland had also faded; Spain’s role was increasingly limited to that of a market for the fishermen of other countries. Only two nations two nations – France and England – were therefore significant players in the Newfoundland fishery and trade by the time the seventeenth century came to a close.
The French fishery was dominated by crews from fishing ports stretching from the English Channel south to the Basque ports of southwestern France, but those ports were shrinking steadily in number, so that the French fishing industry was itself increasingly dominated by just a few key ports. In England, the regional concentration of the Newfoundland fishing industry in the ports of England’s West Country was already well established by the early seventeenth century and would continue to intensify. Similarly, in Newfoundland, the English had begun to concentrate their efforts on the so-called "English Shore" stretching from Trepassey in the south to Bonavista in the north, while the French fishery extended west of Trepassey into Placentia Bay as far west as the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon and even into Fortune and Hermitage Bay, the West Coast of Newfoundland, and north of Bonavista to the top of the Northern Peninsula or the "Petit Nord" as it was known. Why should this be? Using the archaeological record of pottery remains left by early fishermen, Peter Pope traces a succession of occupations resulting from competition for shore space. He concludes that proximity to Newfoundland played a decisive role in determining the zones that would subsequently be dominated by English and French fishermen – it was therefore logical that English West Country ports rather than French ports would dominate the coast between Trepassey and Bonavista, because they were that much closer to Newfoundland. See Peter Pope, "The European Occupation of Southeast Newfoundland: Archaeological Perspectives on Competition for Fishing Rooms, 1530-1680," in Christian Roy, Jean Bélisle, Marc-André Bernier, and Brad Loewen (eds.), ArchéoLogiques; Collection Hors-Série 1. Mer et Monde: Questions d’archéologie maritime (Québec: Association des archéologiques du Québec, 2003), 122-133.
Despite controlling the fishing grounds closest to Europe, the English were not the dominant force in the fishery during the 1600s. Instead, without question the French dominated the Newfoundland fishery in the seventeenth century in every aspect: in quantities of men, ships, production, and in the area of exploitation. Unfortunately, there are few studies in English on the French fishery and trade. Apart from Innis' The Cod Fisheries, the most useful survey in English is the essay by Michael Bell within the entry for "France" in the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador [hereafter cited as ENL], II: 374-381. Most of the recent research on this topic has been in French. Again, the start point for any investigation of the French fishery must be Charles de la Morandière, Histoire de la Pêche Française de la Morue dans l'Amérique Septentrionale des Origines à 1789 (3 vols.; Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 1962-1967). Less accessible to North American readers but an invaluable overview of the French fishery is Laurier Turgeon, "Le temps des pêches lointaines: permanences et transformations (vers 1500-vers 1850)," in Michel Mollat (directeur), Histoire des Pêches Maritimes en France (Toulouse: Privat, 1987), 133-181.
One point must be made before anything further is said. For the French, “Terre-Neuve” was a much more ambiguous destination than “Newfoundland” was for the English. French ships and vessels heading to “Terre-Neuve” could in fact be heading for destinations within the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Labrador Straits, Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula, the South Coast of Newfoundland, and so on. In fact, anywhere in the Northwest Atlantic might be identified in the records as “Terre-Neuve.” Students who wish to investigate the French fishery during the Early Modern period must therefore open their minds to a more expansive geographical definition of “Newfoundland.” In other words, one should not ignore such collections of essays as Mickaël Augeron, Jacques Péret, Thierry Sauzeau (eds.), Le golfe du Saint-Laurent et le Centre-Ouest français: histoire d'une relation singulière (XVIIe-XIXe siècle) (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2010), which by way of example includes a fascinating essay by Mario Mimeault on “L’industrie canadienne de la pêche à la morue (1663-1758): Naissance d’une industrie au savoir emprunté” (pp. 17-36). Mimeault carries this theme further in two additional articles: "Exemples d’un savoir transmis, renouvelé puis adapté dans l’industrie de la pêche dans le golfe Saint-Laurent,” in Nicolas Landry, Jacques Péret, Thierry Sauzeau (eds.), Développement comparé des littoraux du golfe Saint-Laurent et du Centre-Ouest français d’hier à aujourd’hui (Moncton: Université de Moncton, 2012), 141-162; and “Du golfe Saint-Laurent aux côtes de Bretagne et de Normandie (1713-1760): l’Atlantique, un monde d’interactions et de solidarités,” Revue d’histoire de l'Amérique française, LXVII: 1 (été, 2013), 5-31, an essay which is worth examining for many reasons, not the least of which are the abundance of dissertations produced in France on topics relating to the French fisheries and which are virtually unknown by English-language scholars.
General overviews of the French fisheries are extremely useful, but to truly understand the French fishery it is also necessary to look at more regional and local studies, for the “French fishery” was not centred on any particular part of France, but instead involved a veritable host of ports, big and small, stretching from the Channel ports in the north to the Basque ports of southwestern France. For instance, French Basques displaced Spanish Basques in the industry, as Michael Barkham explains in "French Basque `New Found Land' Entrepreneurs and the Import of Codfish and Whale Oil to Northern Spain, c.1580 to c.1620: The Case of Adam de Chibau, Burgess of Saint-Jean-de-Luz and `Sieur de St. Julien'," Newfoundland Studies X: 1 (Spring 1994): 1-43. Barkham's article is also invaluable for its insight into the financing, outfitting, victualling and insuring of early seventeenth-century Basque fishing vessels, and for its mention (primarily in the reference notes) of how and where the fish was distributed and marketed in northern Spain once it was landed in Basque ports. Other local studies include: the previously mentioned article by J. Froger, "Les Sables d'Olonne, grand port morutier sous l'Ancien Régime, XVIe-XVIIIe siècles," Olona #80(1976): 1-10; Bernard Michon, “Les Nantais et l’Amérique septentrionale aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles: Réflexions sur l’importance de la pêche dans l’essor de la place nantaise,” in Scott Jamieson, Anne Pelta, Anne Thareau (eds.), Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, Occasional Papers No. 3: The French Presence in Newfoundland and Labrador: Past, Present, and Future (St. John’s: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2015), pp. 49-71;Joachim Darsel, "Les armements du port de Dieppe en 1664," Annales de Normandie XII: 3(octobre 1962): 190-97; Robert Richard, "Comptes et profits de navires terre-neuviers du Havre au XVIIe siècle (aspects économiques et sociaux)," Revue d'histoire économique et sociale LIV: 4(1976): 476-524, together with another article by Richard, "Apogée et déclin de la pêche morutière au Havre au XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles: réflexions et problèmes," in Patrick Villiers and Christian Pfister-Langanay (eds.), La pêche en Manche et mer du Nord 18e - 20e siècles. Actes du Colloque tenu à Boulogne-sur-Mer 18-21 mai 1995 (Paris: Commission française d'histoire maritime, 1998), 15-22; Jean Delumeau, "Method mechanographique et trafic maritime: les terre-neuviers malouins à la fin du XVIIe siècle," Annales Economies, societés, civilizations XVI (juillet-août 1961): 665-85; Robert Richard, "Pour une histoire collective de l'économie maritime (à propos de la flotte de commerce et de pêche des ports basques aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles)," Bulletin du Société des Sciences Lettres & Arts de Bayonne, nouvelle série #139 (1983), 63-73. Collectively, these focus attention not only on the inner dynamics of the fishing industry but also on the extremely decentralized character of the French industry. They also underscore the degree to which the choice of fishery was governed by market preferences, though there were determined efforts by an increasingly mercantilist French government to encourage the fishery and trade. These are discussed in Laurier Turgeon, "Colbert et la pêche française à Terre-Neuve," in Roland Mousnier (directeur), Un Nouveau Colbert: Actes du Colloque pour le tricentenaire de la mort de Colbert (Paris: Editions Sedes, 1985), 255-268.
While the French fishery and trade in Newfoundland differed from its English counterparts in several respects, reference to Colbert should remind us that one very important difference was the degree to which French activities were regulated by the state. This is a reflection in part of the development in the seventeenth century of the absolutist state, a development which intensified in the eighteenth century. The result was a regulatory approach which differed considerably from that of the English. Étienne Bernet has traced the history of French participation in the fishery through the measures and laws passed to regulate that activity from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries; see "La présence française sur les côtes de Terre-Neuve à travers la législation française," in Éric Barré (dir.), Troisièmes Journées d’Histoire de la Grande Pêche (Granville, 18-19 Mars 2005) (Saint-Lô: Société d’Archéologie et d’Histoire de La Manche, 2007), 201-213. Another essay by Eric Barré focuses on the evolution of regulations for the Granville cod fisheries during the eighteenth century; see "Les règlements pour la pêche à Terre-Neuve à Granville du début du XVIIIe siècle au début du XIXe siècle," in Éric Barré (dir.), Premières Journées d’Histoire de la Grande Pêche (Granville, 24-25 septembre 1999) (Saint-Lô: Société d’Archéologie et d’Histoire de La Manche, 2003), 93-99.
Other characteristics which distinguished the English fishery from the French fishery during this same period included the way in which its investment, recruiting, and operational base very quickly became highly concentrated within a single region – the so-called West Country of England. In contrast, the French fishery did not display this kind of regional concentration until later in the eighteenth century. Moreover – and again in contrast to the French, who serviced both a vigorous domestic market as well as foreign buyers – the English fishery tended to service foreign markets – particularly Spain, Portugal, and eventually a number of Italian ports, which demanded a dry, lightly salted cure. The demand of these markets for "saltfish" was the dominant reason why the English specialized in this cure, though even this generalization may have to be qualified. While dried cod was never in much demand in England, the expansion of British trade with its colonies and other trading partners throughout the Atlantic World and beyond made saltfish an important element not only as a trading commodity but also in the victualling of British ships engaged in Atlantic trade. This meant that a substantial amount of Newfoundland cod did not go directly to the traditional Iberian markets but ended up being delivered to London. See Nuala Zahedieh, The Capital and the Colonies: London and the Atlantic Economy 1660-1700 (London and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), esp. pp. 190-193 but also 62-65.
For years, the standard works on the English fishery have been Innis' The Cod Fisheries, Ralph Lounsbury, The British Fishery at Newfoundland 1634-1763 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1934; reprinted New York: Archon, 1969), and Charles Judah, The North American Fisheries and British Policy to 1713 (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 1933). While still useful in some ways (Innis' command of the sources remains impressive), most of these older interpretations should be treated with great caution, as Keith Matthews explains in his essay, "Historical Fence-building: a critique of the historiography of Newfoundland," Newfoundland Quarterly LXXIV (Spring 1978): 21-30. Note that this essay has been reprinted with annotations and corrections in Newfoundland Studies XVII: 2 (Fall 2001): 143-165. A very good recent example of the way older interpretations of state policy towards the Newfoundland fishery and in particular, the developing population of residential fishermen, is an essay by Joshua Tavenor, “Weighing the Evidence: Restoration Policymaking and the 1675 Order to Evict Newfoundland’s English Residents,” Acadiensis XLVII: 1 (Winter/Spring 2018), pp. 41-61. Tavenor challenges the view that the decision in 1675 by the Committee for Trade and Plantations to evict Newfoundland’s residential population was driven by hostility to permanency but was based instead on the best evidence available to the committee.
Indeed, many of the early pioneering works have long been displaced by subsequent studies. Gillian Cell's English Enterprise at Newfoundland 1577-1660 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969) played a seminal role in re-shaping our perception of the early English at Newfoundland, while the D.Phil. dissertation by Keith Matthews on A History of the West of England - Newfoundland Fisheries (PhD thesis, Oxford University, 1968) has had a profound effect on our understanding of the period in which the English fishery rose to a position of dominance in Newfoundland. Unfortunately, many of Matthew’s footnotes are unreliable, and since his dissertation was never published, it meant that until it became available online, the dissertation was virtually inaccessible except for those fortunate enough to engage in research in those few libraries or archives in England or Canada where copies can be found. Another dissertation, England and Newfoundland: Policy and Trade 1660-1783 (PhD thesis, University of Southampton, 1980) by Glanville Davies, is more recent than Matthews but is more traditional and dated in its assessment of such issues as the relationship between resident and English migratory fishermen. Of particular use for the context it provides the British fishery at Newfoundland is the aforementioned essay by Robb Robinson and David J. Starkey, "The Sea Fisheries of the British Isles, 1376-1976," in Poul Holm, David J. Starkey and Jón Th. Thór (eds.), The North Atlantic Fisheries, 1100-1976 (Esbjerg: Fiskeri- og Søfartsmuseets, 1996), 121-143. More recently, an essay that Peter Pope contributed to a forum on fishing history reveals to us just how much more sophisticated our understanding of the seventeenth-century fishery at Newfoundland has become. Pope suggests that the Newfoundland fishery experienced considerable technical evolution before 1620, but that this evolution paused for about a century thereafter, at least with respect to the actual means of production. Instead, significant change within the seventeenth-century fishery occurred primarily in its social organization – its mode of production. See “Modernization on Hold: The Traditional Character of the Newfoundland Cod Fishery in the Seventeenth Century,” International Journal of Maritime History XV: 2 (December 2003): 233-264. Keith Mercer has examined one sub-set of the migratory fishery, the inshore boat fishermen known as “bye-boatmen,” in “The Rise of the Newfoundland Bye-Boat Fishery, 1660-1684” (MA thesis paper, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2002). He subsequently drew from a pamphlet by a seventeenth-century visitor to Newfoundland to discuss the bye-boat fishery in “Document: Some Considerations Touching ... By-boats: James Yonge on the Fisheries Controversy of the 1660s,” Newfoundland Studies XIX: 1 (Spring 2003; Special Issue on “The New Early Modern Newfoundland: to 1730”): 207-232.
Nuala Zahedieh’s book on London and the Atlantic economy suggests that the role of London merchants in the Newfoundland fish trade needs to be revisited; see The Capital and the Colonies: London and the Atlantic Economy 1660-1700 (London and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Earlier in that same century, a merchant of Ipswich – William Blois – figured prominently in the re-export of English saltfish, caught and cured in Newfoundland, to Marseilles, as Colin Heywood explains in “Beyond Braudel’s ‘Northern Invasion’? Aspects of the North Atlantic and Mediterranean Fish Trade in the Early Seventeenth Century,” International Journal of Maritime History XXVI, No. 2 (May 2014), pp. 193-209. This seems surprising, given the strength of the association between the North Sea ports and the Icelandic cod fishery, and Heywood’s essay, like Zahedieh’s, drives home the fact that the traditional perception of the Newfoundland fishery and trade as activities dominated, even controlled completely by, the merchants of the English West Country needs to be reconsidered. The attention Heywood gives to the substantial quantity of saltfish produced by the English fishery at Newfoundland and delivered to the French Mediterranean port of Marseilles – a point first raised by Gillian Cell in her study of English Enterprise at Newfoundland 1577-1660 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969) – is also a reminder that the traditional perception of the English saltfish trade in the early 1600s (like the perception of the English fishery itself) as an activity dedicated solely to Iberian markets must also be reconsidered.
Yet most of the analyses of the British
fishing industry and trade have focussed on local centres in the West of
W.B. Stephens, "The West-Country
Ports and the Struggle for the Newfoundland Fisheries in the Seventeenth Century," in
Report & Transactions of the Devonshire Association (1956): 90-101, and
Glanville Davies, "Dorset in the Newfoundland Trade," Dorset Natural History
& Archaeological Society Proceedings CI (1979): 1-5, are both dependent on the
pioneering but dated interpretations of the fishing industry mentioned
previously. The origins
and early involvement in the Newfoundland fishery and trade of Devonshire ports are one of
several topics examined in two essays that appear in Todd Gray (with Margery Rowe and
Audrey Erskine, eds.), Tudor and Stuart Devon: The Common Estate and Government: Essays
Presented to Joyce Youings (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1992). The
first essay, "Breaking the mould: North Devon maritime enterprise 1560-1640" by
Alison Grant, 119-140 (especially pp. 122-124) looks at Barnstaple, Bideford and
Appledore in North Devonshire; the second essay, "Fishing and the commercial world of early Stuart Devon" by Todd Gray,173-199, examines Dartmouth in South Devonshire. Both essays provide insight on why the
surviving manuscript record can prove so frustrating in tracing fishing voyages to
Newfoundland in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. They also provide
strong and useful reminders that these Westcountry ports were intimately involved with a
broad range of overseas trades and investments. For example. Iberian wines –
sherry, port, as well as madeira – were key components of the Westcountry fish
trade, for they provided English ships delivering saltfish to Iberian markets
with return cargoes (along with other commodities such as fruit, cork, nuts)
that were in great demand in Great Britain. For the relationship between the
wine and fish trades, see H.E.S. Fisher, “The South-West and the Atlantic
Trades, 1660-1770” in H.E. Stephen Fisher, The South-West and the Sea
(Exeter: University of Exeter, 1968), as well as Fisher’s essay on
“Anglo-Portuguese Trade, 1700-1770,” Economic History Review XVI
(1963), pp. 219-233. A doctoral dissertation by Joshua
John Henry Large, Empires of Commerce: British Trade in Newfoundland Cod and
Port Wine, 1780–1850 (PhD thesis, University of Chicago, 2012) takes a
close look at this aspect of the fish trade, and while its focus is on the
period after 1780, the opening chapters provide an excellent overview of the
early development of this trade. David Hancock also touches upon the way in
which one particular wine trade could intersect with the fish trade in his book
Oceans of Wine: Madeira and the Organization of the Atlantic World,
1640-1815 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009).
Thus, the Newfoundland fish trade can only be understood as one facet of a complex pattern of investments and activity, and the decisions of Westcountry merchants to become involved in the fishing industry and fish trade must be placed within that broader Atlantic context. This point is affirmed in two papers which appear in David J. Starkey, Chris Reid, Neil Ashcroft (eds.), England’s Sea Fisheries: The Commercial Sea Fisheries of England and Wales since 1300 (London: Chatham Publishing, 2000): Todd Gray, “The Distant-Water Fisheries of South West England in the Early Modern Period: Fisheries to the East and to the West,” pp. 96-100; and David J. Starkey, “The Distant-Water Fisheries of South West England in the Early Modern Period: The Newfoundland Trade,” pp. 100-104. The point is driven forcefully home in another paper by Alison Grant which looks at the career of a single North Devon merchant; the paper, "John Delbridge, Barnstaple Merchant, 1564-1639," appears in Stephen Fisher (ed.), Innovation in Fishing and Trade (Exeter Maritime Studies #6; Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1989), 91-109, and might usefully be compared with "John Rashleigh of Fowey and the Newfoundland Cod Fishery, 1608-20" Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, new series, VIII: Part 1 (1978): 61-71, in which John Scantlebury explains one merchant's decision to shift his capital into the Newfoundland fishery.
Broad overviews of Devons "Newfoundland" history appear in Neville C. Oswald, "Devon and the Cod Fishery of Newfoundland," Reports and Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature & Art, CXV: 5 (December 1983), 19-36 and, more recently, David Starkey, "Devonians and the Newfoundland Trade," in Michael Duffy et al, The New Maritime History of Devon, Volume I: From Early Times to the Late Eighteenth Century (London: Conway Maritime Press, in association with the University of Exeter, 1993), 163-171. Starkey's discussion is still derivative and makes some erroneous generalizations concerning the importance of the English in the seventeenth-century Newfoundland fishery, yet it is perceptive in its explanation of the fisherys importance to Devon and vice versa. However, the most thorough examination of Devons role in the development of trans-Atlantic fisheries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries remains Todd Gray, Devons Coastal and Overseas Fisheries and New England Migration, 1597-1642 (PhD thesis, University of Exeter, 1988). Unfortunately, like the dissertations by Matthews and Davies, very few libraries have a copy of this dissertation, so that most students will have difficulty securing access to a copy unless they have ready access to a superior interlibrary loan system and a great deal of time and patience.
The participation of the Channel Islands in the Newfoundland fishery and trade has also been long and vigorous. John C. Appleby provides a careful and succinct study of the early period in “The Channel Islands and the Newfoundland Fishery During the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” La Société Guernesiaise Report & Transactions XXI: 4 (1984): 472-484, but it is Rosemary Ommer who has published most frequently on the topic. She provides a useful overview of the Channel Island connection with the fisheries in “The Cod Trade in the New World,” in Alan Jamieson (ed.), A People of the Sea: The Maritime History of the Channel Islands (London: Methuen, 1987), 245-268, while another essay, providing a narrower focus on shipping in the later period, is Ommer’s “Nouvelles de Mer: The Rise of Jersey Shipping, 1830-1840,” in Lewis R. Fischer and Eric Sager (eds.), Enterprising Canadians: Entrepreneurs and Economic Development in Eastern Canada, 1820-1914 (St. John’s: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1979) pp. 149-82. Ommer’s research derives from her doctoral dissertation, From Outpost to Outport: The Jersey Merchant Triangle in the Nineteenth Century (PhD thesis, McGill University, 1978), which was subsequently revised and published as From Outpost to Outport: A Structural Analysis of the Jersey - Gaspé Cod Fishery, 1767-1886 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991). Though not specifically about the Newfoundland fishery, a student would be foolish to ignore this work, for Dr. Ommer provides superb discussions of the fishing industry, the trans-Atlantic fish trade, role of credit, fisher society, and so on which carry much insight for Newfoundland specialists.
Recent research into both the English and French trade in cod has provided us with a much better understanding of the intricacies of that commerce as well as the risks and severe time constraints under which it functioned. In his study of The English Atlantic 1675-1740 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), Ian Steele spends several pages discussing the voyage patterns within the English fishery and trade, paying particular attention to the factors (such as wind and ocean currents, fishing practices and marketing strategies) that determined the duration of those voyages; see especially pp. 78-85. In The Capital and the Colonies: London and the Atlantic Economy 1660-1700 (London and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), Nuala Zahedieh reminds us of the intricate patterns of trade that extended throughout the Atlantic world and which made Newfoundland cod just one of many commodities that engaged the energies and the capital of British merchants. In “The English Mercantile Community in Seventeenth-Century Porto: A Case Study of the Early Newfoundland Trade,” Newfoundland Studies XIX: 1 (Spring 2003; Special Issue on “The New Early Modern Newfoundland: to 1730"): 132-152, Darlene Abreu-Ferreira provides a rare examination of the marketing end of the English cod trade to Iberia. In "Sack Ships in the Seventeenth-Century Newfoundland Trade," in Olaf Janzen (ed.), Northern Seas 1999: Yearbook of the Association for the History of the Northern Seas (St. Johns: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2001), 33-46, Peter Pope provides an excellent overview of the nature and character of the shipping that was so essential to efficient and profitable participation in the fish trades. In another article entitled "Adventures in the Sack Trade: London Merchants in the Canada and Newfoundland Trades, 1627-1648," The Northern Mariner/Le Marin du nord VI: 1 (January 1996): 1-19, Pope sets out to clarify how London merchants first entered the Newfoundland sack trade on a significant scale in the 1630s and 1640s, a time when most ships engaged in the fish trade with Europe were French or Dutch. In the course of his analysis, Pope also reiterates patterns of investment within the fish trade, together with the risks and obstacles encountered during the seventeenth century. Pope re-affirms and elaborates substantially on his analysis of the seventeenth-century Newfoundland fish trade in his Fish Into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004). Analyses like those of Pope and Steele are enhanced when read in conjunction with Plate 28, "The Fishery in Atlantic Commerce" and Plate 48, "Canadian North Atlantic Trade" in R.C. Harris & G. Matthews, HAC, I. And what about the commodities that were actually transported to Newfoundland? Joshua Tavenor has written a brief research paper on "Imports to Newfoundland in the Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries" which appeared in Newfoundland and Labrador Studies XXVI: 1 (Spring 2011): 75-85.
A key element in these voyages was the ship’s captain or "master," and the changing conditions in which trans-oceanic voyaging took place over time were reflected in the instructions which guided his actions. At least two sets of instructions to sack ship masters have been published, one for the early seventeenth century and another for the eighteenth, thereby providing an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast the degree to which instructions reflected changes in the trade over time; see "A Memorandum for Master Thomas Breadcake of the Ship called the Faith"  in Ralph Davis, The Rise of the English Shipping Industry in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1962), 235-238 and Ian K. Steele, "Instructing the Master of a Newfoundland Sack Ship," Mariner's Mirror LXIII: 2(May 1977): 191-193. A third set of sack ship instructions, found in a collection of documents in the Scottish Record Office, was used by Olaf Janzen to analyse an unsuccessful attempt by a partnership of Scottish merchants to break into the sack ship trade in 1726-27. Janzen's findings were published in "A Scottish Venture in the Newfoundland Fish Trade, 1726-1727," in Olaf U. Janzen (ed.), Merchant Organization and Maritime Trade in the North Atlantic, 1660-1815 ("Research in Maritime History," No. 15; St. John's: International Maritime Economic History Association, 1998), 133-153; and "A Scottish Sack Ship in the Newfoundland Trade, 1726-27," Scottish Economic and Social History XVIII, Part 1 (1998): 1-18; reprinted in Olaf U. Janzen, War and Trade in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland (“Research in Maritime History,” No. 52; St. John’s, NL: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2013), pp. 49-68. Jean-François Brière provides a superb discussion not only of the French side of this trade in the eighteenth century but also of the complexity of its triangular nature; see "Le trafic morutier français entre Terre-Neuve et Marseille au XVIIIe siècle," in Klaus Friedland (ed.), Maritime Food Transport (Köln: Böhlau Verlag, 1994), 273- 290. In "Le commerce triangulaire entre les ports terre-neuviers français, les pêcheries d'Amérique du nord et Marseille au 18e siècle: nouvelles perspectives," Revue d'histoire de l'Amérique française XL: 2 (automne 1986): 193-214, Brière emphasizes the hectic schedule of a fishing and trading expedition. This last essay could usefully be compared with Steele's aforementioned "Instructing the Master of a Newfoundland Sack Ship" and with the fourth chapter, "The Merchant Triangle in Action," of Rosemary Ommer, From Outpost to Outport: A Structural Analysis of the Jersey - Gaspé Cod Fishery, 1767-1886 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991). Finally, Nicolas Landry reinforces the role of trust, family, luck and skill in the commercial success of some of the French merchants engaged in the Newfoundland trade at Plaisance; see "‘Qu’il sera fait droit à qui il appartiendra’: la société de Lasson-Daccarrette à Plaisance 1700-1715," Newfoundland Studies XVII: 2 (Fall 2001): 220-256. These qualities served lesser merchants as well as the substantial ones, as Landry also makes clear in two biographical studies: “Une famille de petits notables dans l’Atlantique français: les Morin de Plaisance à Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, 1705-1785,” Acadiensis XLV: 1 (Winter/Spring 2016), pp. 102-125, and "Un négociant-fonctionnaire dans l'Atlantique français: Jean-Baptiste Dipleix Silvain, 1721-v.1814," Acadiensis XLVII: 1 (Winter/Spring 2018), pp. 62-85; to survive in a volatile century, they all had to rely on their wiles, their connections, and luck.
The hazards of a fishing voyage were as abundant as they were real. A collection of vivid contemporary accounts of shipwrecks in Newfoundland waters, not only by fishermen but also by sailors and passengers voyaging by Newfoundland and Labrador, is presented in Outrageous Seas: Shipwreck and Survival in the Waters off Newfoundland, 1583-1893, edited by Rainer K. Baehre (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999), though students should note that most of the voyages discussed in Baehre’s book date to the nineteenth century and, for the most part, are British or English-speaking. Nicolas Landry examines the general hazards of French sea voyages across the North Atlantic in “Les dangers de la navigation et de la pêche dans l’Atlantique Français au 18e siècle,” The Northern Mariner / Le Marin du nord XXV: 1 & 2 (January-April): 43-64, while Gilles Proulx also touched upon the theme of navigational hazards and difficulties in his book Between France and New France; Life Aboard the Tall Sailing Ships (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1984). The particular hazards of the fishing voyageare examined in Laurier Turgeon, "Naufrages de terre-neuviers bayonnais et luziens (1689-1759)," Bulletin du Société des Sciences Lettres & Arts de Bayonne, nouvelle série #134 (1978), 115-123. Turgeon concludes that the danger of shipwreck was greatest as vessels cleared or approached European ports. Jean-François Brière arrives at similar conclusions in "The Safety of Navigation in the French Codfishing Industry at Newfoundland in the 18th Century," Acadiensis 16: 2 (Spring 1987): 85-94, adding that the fishing industry was justifiably perceived as healthier for the men employed in it than were other overseas trades. See also Lucien Marie, "Mourir à Terre-Neuve," Éric Barré (dir.), Troisièmes Journées d’Histoire de la Grande Pêche (Granville, 18-19 Mars 2005) (Saint-Lô: Société d’Archéologie et d’Histoire de La Manche, 2007), pp. 168-200; though the focus here is more on the nineteenth century, some of the material is also relevant to the eighteenth century.
The hazards of navigation and the uncertainties of commercial
investments were not the only threats faced by those who ventured into the Newfoundland
fishery and trade. Direct attacks on the shipping and shore stations by hostile warships
and privateers in war-time, and by pirates in peace-time, were not uncommon throughout the
sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Two works which deal with the broad
question of what measures a state could take to defend maritime commerce generally are
Sari Hornstein, The Restoration Navy and English Foreign Trade 1674-1688
(Aldershot: Scolar, 1991) and Patrick Crowhurst, The Defence of British Trade 1689-1815
(Folkestone: Dawson, 1977). While neither deals expressly with the Newfoundland fishery
and trade, both refer numerous times to the fish trade when supporting their analysis with
historical examples. See also Alan Pearsall, “The Royal Navy and the Protection
of Trade in the Eighteenth Century,” in Service Historique de la Marine,
Guerres et Paix 1660-1815, Journées Franco-Anglaises D̓Histoire de la Marine
Organisées par le Service Historique de la Marine a la Corderie Royale de
Rochfort les 20,21, et 22 Mars 1986 (Vincennes: Service Historique de la
Marine, 1987), 149-162
Privateering and piracy are two terms that too often are used interchangeably. Yet the difference between the two is substantial. At the risk of over-simplifying, “privateering” is a legal activity by shipowners during a time of war; because maritime commerce is at heightened risk in wartime, shipowners may decide to turn their shipping to more profitable use as privateers by securing the permission of their government (a “letter of marque”) to attack enemy trade. “Piracy” is an entirely illegal activity by maritime outlaws, usually in peacetime (though war, too, can create conditions that attract piratical behaviour). Pirates generally acted without government permission. There are of course exceptions – Elizabethan privateers engaged in activities that Spain condemned as piracy, and the North African “Barbary corsairs” were perceived by European victims of their attacks as pirates. Generally, however, privateering is wartime and state-sanctioned, piracy is peacetime and sanctioned by no one.
A small but growing literature on both privateering in Newfoundland waters has begun to accumulate, but students should probably first try to understand what privateering and “commerce raiding” is by looking at some general titles that do not focus specifically on Newfoundland. Two good starting points include J.S. (John Selwyn) Bromley, Corsairs and Navies 1660-1760 (London: Hambledon Press, 1987) and N.A.M. Rodger, “The Law and Language of Private Naval Warfare,” The Mariner’s Mirror C: 1 (February 2014): 5-16. Two additional books provide excellent analyses of the business character of privateering: David J. Starkey, British Privateering Enterprise in the Eighteenth Century (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1990); and Carl Swanson, Predators and Prizes: American Privateering and Imperial Warfare, 1739-1748 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991).
Privateering occurred in Newfoundland waters during most if not all of the wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. For a somewhat dated yet still insightful treatment of threats to Newfoundland maritime commerce (including privateers) and the counter-measures taken to protect trade, the works of Gerald S. Graham remain worthwhile reading. See his Empire of the North Atlantic; The Maritime Struggle for North America (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1950) as well as his two articles, “Britain’s Defence of Newfoundland,” Canadian Historical Review XXIII: 3 (September 1942): 260-279 and “Newfoundland in British Strategy from Cabot to Napoleon,” in R.A. MacKay (ed.), Newfoundland: Economic, Diplomatic, and Strategic Studies (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1946), pp. 245-264.
Privateers – both British and French – were active in Newfoundland waters during the War of 1689-1697. Some prizes taken by English privateers and letters of marque and sent into Newfoundland, had to be referred to London for processing because Admiralty jurisdiction was slow to develop in Newfoundland; see W.R. Meyer, “English Privateering in the War of 1688 to 1697,” The Mariner's Mirror, LXVII: 3 (August, 1981): 259-272. The French colony of Plaisance developed quite a reputation as a centre of French privateering during that war; see Grace Tomkinson, “That Wasp’s Nest, Placentia,” Dalhousie Review XIX (1939): 204-214, Frederick J. Thorpe, “The Francis / Pelican: An Anglo-French Trading Venture in War, 1690,” The Northern Mariner / le Marin du Nord XVII: 1 (January 2007): 31-52, and James Pritchard, “‘Le Profit et La Gloire’: The French Navy’s Alliance With Private Enterprise in the Defense of Newfoundland, 1691-1697,” Newfoundland Studies XV: 2 (Fall 1999): 161-175. It should also be noted that during this war and the next, the distinction between privateering and piracy was not always observed; see Philippe Hrodej, “Les prédations pirates à Terre-Neuve de 1688 à 1725,” in Scott Jamieson, Anne Pelta, Anne Thareau (eds.), Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, Occasional Papers No. 3: The French Presence in Newfoundland and Labrador: Past, Present, and Future (St. John’s: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2015), pp. 200-224.
The privateering connection with Plaisance persisted into the next war, the War of the Spanish Succession; see James Pritchard, “Canada and the Defence of Newfoundland During The War of the Spanish Succession, 1702-1713,” in Yves Tremblay (ed.), Canadian Military History Since the Seventeenth Century; Proceedings of the Canadian Military History Conference, Ottawa, 5-9 May 2000 (Ottawa: Directorate of History and Heritage, National Defence, 2001), pp. 49-57, as well as two essays by Nicolas Landry, “Portrait des activités de course à Plaisance, Terre-Neuve, 1700-1715,” Les Cahiers de la Société historique acadienne XXXIII (1 et 2): 68-87 and “Les activités de course dans un port colonial français: Plaisance, Terre-Neuve, durant la guerre de Succession d’Espagne, 1702-1713,” Acadiensis XXXIV: 1 (Autumn 2004): 56-79.
During the War for American Independence, American shipping took advantage of its familiarity with these waters and the adjacent trade lanes to threaten British shipping passing Newfoundland; fishing vessels often fell victim as targets of opportunity while the rebel privateers awaited more lucrative victims, according to Olaf Uwe Janzen in his doctoral dissertation, Newfoundland and British Maritime Strategy During the American Revolution (PhD thesis, Queen’s University, 1983). Janzen subsequently published two articles out of that thesis, both of which focussed particularly on privateering: Olaf Uwe Janzen, “The Royal Navy and the Defence of Newfoundland During the American Revolution,” Acadiensis XIV: 1 (Autumn 1984): 28-48; reprinted in Olaf U. Janzen, War and Trade in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland (“Research in Maritime History,” No. 52; St. John’s, NL: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2013), pp. 193-214; and Olaf Uwe Janzen, "The American Threat to the Newfoundland Fisheries, 1776-1777," The American Neptune XLVIII: 3(Summer 1988): 154-164; also reprinted in Olaf U. Janzen, War and Trade in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland (“Research in Maritime History,” No. 52; St. John’s, NL: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2013), pp. 215-233. Even Labrador was not immune from attack, probably because Royal Navy warships rarely patrolled the Labrador coast; see C.R. Fay, “Capture at Sea – An Episode of 1778-79; an extract from the Moravian Mission Records in the Labrador,” Newfoundland Quarterly LIII: 4 (December 1954): 45-46 and Samuel W. Bryant, “Details of the Late Yankee Victory off Labrador – 1782,” The American Neptune XXIX (1969): 211-223. Yet as Janzen explains in his writings, the most serious threat to Newfoundland was posed in European waters – that was where market-bound cargoes of saltfish were attractive as targets, in part because shipping intercepted there could be taken into nearby friendly ports and sold. This point is illustrated particularly well by Michael Crawford in his article Michael J. Crawford, “The Hawke and the Dove, a Cautionary Tale: Neutral Ports and Prizes of War During the American Revolution, The Northern Mariner / le marin du nord XVIII: 3-4 (July-October 2008): 49-66. Dove was a British vessel with a cargo of saltfish out of St. John’s when captured by an American privateer just off the Spanish port of Santander and subsequently condemned in a Spanish court as a legitimate prize of war. The article includes reference to other examples of Newfoundland trade suffering at the hands of American privateers in European waters.
Privateering continued to be a common activity between 1793 to 1815, during the wars associated with the French Revolution and Napoleon. One facet of those wars, the War of 1812, saw a revival of both British and American privateering. See Glenn John Keough, Economic Factors and Privateering at Newfoundland During the War of 1812 (MA thesis, University of New Brunswick, 1995).
The other frequent threat to Newfoundland by maritime marauders were pirates. Unfortunately, piracy is one of those topics which generates an even greater volume of poor (if not outrightly bad) history than does privateering. Too much of the literature is driven by sensational and fanciful, even outrageously erroneous, works that pander to readers whose understanding of piracy is governed by works of entertainment. This is as true for piracy in Newfoundland waters as it is for piracy in the Caribbean and elsewhere. It is also quite unnecessary, since scholars have given considerable attention to the complex nature and activities of pirates. Some of this academic output can, however, be difficult to track down. For example, in 1975, the International Commission for Maritime History sponsored sessions at the International Congress of Historical Sciences in San Francisco on the theme “Privateering and Piracy” which resulted in several excellent papers. These were susbequently published in Michel Mollat du Jourdin, comp. (and Paul Adam) Course et Piraterie, Études Présentés à la Commission Internationale d’Histoire Maritime à l̓Occasion de son XVe Colloque International San Francisco, Août 1975 (3 vols.; Paris: CNRS 1975). Regrettably, only a few academic libraries will have a copy of these proceedings. Three of the papers were directly related to the surge in privateering and piracy which threatened North Atlantic maritime commerce, including trade destined for Newfoundland, at the beginning of the seventeenth century: David Quinn, “Privateering: The North American Dimension (to 1625)”; Kenneth R. Andrews, “The Expansion of English Privateering and Piracy in the Atlantic, c. 1540-1625”; and Clive Senior, “The Confederation of Deep-Sea Pirates: English Pirates in the Atlantic 1603-25.” More accessible essays may not appear to be directly relevant to piracy in Newfoundland, but they will make clear that, as with privateering, the greatest risk to the Newfoundland fishery and trade by pirates was concentrated in European waters, where fishing fleets assembled before setting out across the Atlantic and where fishing ships converged on seaports to bring their precious cargoes of saltfish to market; see C. L'Estrange Ewen, “Organized Piracy Round England in the Sixteenth Century,” Mariner's Mirror XXXV (1949): 29-42, Todd Gray, "Turkish Piracy and Early Stuart Devon," Reports & Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art CXXI (December 1989), 159-171, the fine chapter on the depredations of the Sallee Rovers on West Country shipping and coastal ports in Kenneth R. Andrews, Ships, Money and Politics: Seafaring and Naval Enterprise in the Reign of Charles I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), and John C. Appleby, “A Nursery of Pirates: The English Pirate Community in Ireland in the Early Seventeenth Century," International Journal of Maritime History II: 1 (June 1990): 1-27.
One of the most recent additions to the
literature is also one of the most intriguing. Pirate Nests and the Rise of
the British Empire, 1570-1740 by Mark G. Hanna (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 2015) departs from previous understandings of piracy by
examining the full scope of the relationship between piratical activities and
the communities on land with which they interacted. His first chapter, “The
Elizabethan West Country: Nursery for English Seaman ... and Pirates,
1570-1603,” introduces the provocative argument that piracy became less
attractive to West Country sailors, not because of the implementation of crown
authority, “but because the Newfoundland fisheries and colonization efforts
provided better long-term prospects” (p. 57).
Yet piracy did occur in Newfoundland waters as well, as early as the sixteenth century. David Quinn makes this clear in an essay, “The Newfoundland Trades: Cod-fishing and Whaling, 1514-1613,” which introduces a number of primary documents on that theme in the fourth volume of New American World. In the seventeenth century piracy in Newfoundland was most serious during the 1610s, the era of Peter Easton and Henry Mainwaring, two notorious pirates who operated there for a few years. Both are given brief but careful treatment in separate essays by E. Hunt which appear in the first volume of the DCB; Easton’s post-piratical life in Piedmont is also discussed in a “Notes and Comments” appearing in Newfoundland Studies XIX: 1 (Spring 2003; Special Issue on “The New Early Modern Newfoundland: to 1730”): 233-234. See also Philippe Hrodej, “Les prédations pirates à Terre-Neuve de 1688 à 1725,” in Scott Jamieson, Anne Pelta, Anne Thareau (eds.), Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, Occasional Papers No. 3: The French Presence in Newfoundland and Labrador: Past, Present, and Future (St. John’s: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2015), pp. 200-224.
A short but significant revival of Atlantic piracy occurred during the ten or fifteen years following the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713; the most important recent studies of this revival include Marcus Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American World, 1700-1750 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987) and Robert C. Ritchie, Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986). This revival of piracy impinged directly on the Newfoundland fishery and, as Arne Bialischewski explains, pirates relied on access to markets in order to survive in an increasingly hostile political environment. So long as merchants and colonists in various parts of the Atlantic World profited from their connections to marauders, piracy would persist. It was only possible to successfully suppress piracy in the 1720s when the colonial authorities managed to close their ports to pirates; see "Pirates, markets and imperial authority: economic aspects of maritime depredations in the Atlantic World, 1716-1726" in the e-journal Global Crime, IX: 1 (2008): 52-65. This is probably a more useful essay for students of Newfoundland history than another essay by Bialuschewski entitled "Between Newfoundland and the Malacca Straits: A Survey of the Golden Age of Piracy, 1695-1725" which appeared in The Mariner’s Mirror 90, No. 2 (May 2004), 167-186; notwithstanding the reference to Newfoundland in its title, the article has little to say about piracy in Newfoundland waters. Instead, researchers are referred to Olaf U. Janzen, "The Problem of Piracy in the Newfoundland fishery in the aftermath of the War of the Spanish Succession," in Poul Holm, Olaf Janzen (eds.), Northern Seas: Yearbook 1997, Association for the History of the Northern Seas (Fiskeri- og Søfartsmuseets studieserie, nr.10; Esbjerg, Denmark: Fiskeri- og Søfartsmuseet, 1998), 57-75; reprinted in Olaf U. Janzen, War and Trade in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland (“Research in Maritime History,” No. 52; St. John’s, NL: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2013), pp. 31-48. Janzen places the destructive assault of Bartholomew Roberts on the Newfoundland fishery within the context of Atlantic piracy established by Rediker and Ritchie. For a French view of Early Modern piracy in Newfoundland, see Philippe Hrodej, “Les prédations pirates à Terre-Neuve de 1688 à 1725,” in Scott Jamieson, Anne Pelta, Anne Thareau (eds.), Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, Occasional Papers No. 3: The French Presence in Newfoundland and Labrador: Past, Present, and Future (St. John’s: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2015), pp. 200-224.
The damage caused in peacetime by pirates was serious, but it did not threaten the survival of the fishery or the trade. The damage caused in time of war was much more serious, and has accordingly generated a larger literature. Wars were frequent, widespread, and long-lasting in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and were therefore among the most dangerous disruptions to the fisheries and trade. This did not completely preclude the continuation of business once war broke out, as Frederick J. Thorpe reveals in "The Francis / Pelican: An Anglo-French Trading Venture in War, 1690," The Northern Mariner / Le Marin du Nord XVII: 1 (January 2007): 31-52, and as Olaf Janzen reveals in "The Illicit Trade in English Cod into Spain, 1739-1748," International Journal of Maritime History VIII: 1 (June 1996), 1-22, reprinted in Olaf U. Janzen, War and Trade in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland (“Research in Maritime History,” No. 52; St. John’s, NL: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2013), pp. 99-118.
War was one of the factors responsible for the reversal of fortunes in the French and English fisheries during the eighteenth century, though there were others. Michel Aumont provides us with an intriguing discussion of the impact which eighteenth-century wars had on the French fisheries of Granville and St. Malo ; see "Entre paix et guerre: la stratégie des armateurs terre-neuviers granvillais et malouins au XVIIIe siècle," in Éric Barré (dir.), Troisièmes Journées d’Histoire de la Grande Pêche (Granville, 18-19 Mars 2005) (Saint-Lô: Société d’Archéologie et d’Histoire de La Manche, 2007), 245-262. Of particular interest is a graph (p. 247) which describes how outfitting collapsed during those wars. In another paper, Aumont also suggests that, when the outbreak of war forced a suspension in fishing activities, outfitters would shift their capital into war-time pursuits. Ships used in the fisheries and trade would now be fitted out for privateering; see Michel Aumont, "Terre-neuviers et corsaires granvillais à l’époque de Louis XV," in Éric Barré (dir.), Deuxièmes Journées d’Histoire de la Grande Pêche (Fécamp, 11-12 octobre 2003) (Paris: Société Française d’Histoire Maritime, 2003), 81-91. However, only some of the vessels appear to have been converted to this kind of use, and Aumont emphasizes that few privateers made more than one voyage, because attrition among privateers to enemy capture was severe.
While the French endured the wars which marked the transition from the seventeenth to the eighteenth centuries better than did the English, a number of factors in the marketing, production, and metropolitan apexes of the North Atlantic triangle which was so characteristic of the fishing industry and trade eventually enabled the English to surpass the French as the eighteenth century wore on. One scholar who has written prolifically to analyse this reversal of fortunes has been Jean-François Brière. His essay, "Géographie historique de la pêche terre-neuvière française dans la première moitié du XVIIIe siècle," in Philip P. Boucher (ed.), Proceedings of the Tenth Meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society, April 12-14, 1984 (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1986), 95-112 is convenient in its succinctness but has since been supplanted by his La pêche française en Amérique du Nord au XVIIIe siècle (Saint-Laurent, PQ: Editions Fides, 1990); this superb analysis began as a dissertation, L'armement français pour la pêche à terre-neuve au XVIIIe siècle (PhD thesis, York University, 1980). For students unable to read French, Brière provides a more accessible, albeit briefer, survey in his essay, "The French Fishery in the 18th Century," which appears in James E. Candow and Carol Corbin (eds.), How Deep Is The Ocean? Historical Essays on Canada's Atlantic Fishery (Sydney, NS: University College of Cape Breton Press, 1997), 47-64. For those who would like to learn what it was actually like to engage in the French fisheries at Newfoundland during this turbulent period, there is a superb first-person narrative by a fishing captain of Granville, Eustache Le Pelley Fonteny (1745-1820). His memoirs offer a detailed record of his activities in peace and in war during the 1760s, 1770s, and 1780s, and have been edited by Monique Le Pelley Fonteny and Gilles Désiré dit Gosset with an introduction by André Zysberg as Mémoires d’un Terre-Neuvas: Eustache Le Pelley Fonteny (1745-1820). These memoirs were first published in 2001 in Saint Lô by the Archives départementales de la Manche, and more recently in an expanded, handsomely illustrated edition (Cully, France: OREP Éditions, 2011).
concentrated most of his attention on St. Malo and Granville which, by the late
eighteenth century, had engrossed about eighty percent of the French fishing
industry and trade. But what then of the other twenty percent?
A small but significant literature has developed which
focuses on the roles played by some of the other ports of France. See, for instance, "La flotte de pêche dans l'activité de Boulogne à la veille de la révolution" by
Patrick Villiers, in Patrick Villiers and Christian Pfister-Langanay (eds.), La pêche
en Manche et mer du Nord 18e - 20e siècles. Actes du Colloque tenu à Boulogne-sur-Mer
18-21 mai 1995 (Paris: Commission française d'histoire maritime, 1998), 57-78. This
is a useful article because of the way in which it places local outfitting for
Newfoundland within the context of other fisheries active through the same port.
paper by Thierry Sauzeau looks at the complex dynamics in the outfitting and
recruitment for the inshore and bank fisheries based in the Biscay coastal
provinces of Aunis, centred on La Rochelle, and Saintonge, just to the south,
during those decades when those fisheries entered into decline; see "Les
derniers armements morutiers d’Aunis et Saintonge (1763-1793)," in Éric Barré
(dir.), Premières Journées d’Histoire de la Grande Pêche (Granville, 24-25
septembre 1999) (Saint-Lô: Société d’Archéologie
et d’Histoire de La Manche, 2003), 63-81.
Claude Forrer provides an examination of some of the smaller "forgotten" ports
in the French fishery, from the eighteenth century to 1904, in "Les oubliés de
Terre-Neuve, armateurs et bâtiments de la baie de Saint-Brieuc au French Shore,"
Éric Barré (dir.), Troisièmes Journées d’Histoire de la Grande Pêche
(Granville, 18-19 Mars 2005) (Saint-Lô: Société d’Archéologie
et d’Histoire de La Manche, 2007), 107-136. Still another article
by Robert Richard touches upon seventeenth- and eighteenth-century outfitting for
Newfoundland in the port of Le Havre: see "Apogée et déclin de la pêche morutière
au Havre au XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles: réflexions et problèmes," also in the
and Pfister-Langanay collection of papers, La pêche en Manche et mer du Nord 18e - 20e
The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815) would have a profoundly disruptive effect on the French fisheries and trade in Newfoundland. Indeed, the fisheries were almost completely suspended during that period. Robert Sinsoilliez provides us with an overview in "La pêche de la morue avant la Révolution française," in Éric Barré (dir.), Premières Journées d’Histoire de la Grande Pêche (Granville, 24-25 septembre 1999) (Saint-Lô: Société d’Archéologie et d’Histoire de La Manche, 2003), 152-161. However, his is largely a descriptive paper. A more analytical approach requires an appreciation of the degree to which the French industry was already in a state of deepening crisis by the late 1780s, caused in large measure by market conditions; see Jean-François Brière, "The French Codfishing Industry in North America and the Crisis of the Pre-Revolutionary Years 1783-1792," in Patricia Galloway and Philip Boucher (eds.), Proceedings of the Fifteenth Meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society Martinique and Guadeloupe, May 1989 (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1992), 201-210. This left it all the more vulnerable to the severe disruption of the wars that followed. Geneviève Beauchesne looked at how one French port struggled to reactivate out-fitting for the Newfoundland fishery during the period from 1815 to 1821; see "Redon, port d'armement pour Terre-Neuve," Mémoires de la société d'histoire et d'archéologie de Bretagne LIV (1977), 169-188. Gérard Bignot does much the same for the port of Dieppe during this period in "Le prompt retour des Dieppois sur les lieux de pêche canadiens après l’effrondrement du Premier Empire (1814-1825)" in Éric Barré (dir.), Troisièmes Journées d’Histoire de la Grande Pêche (Granville, 18-19 Mars 2005) (Saint-Lô: Société d’Archéologie et d’Histoire de La Manche, 2007), 214-233.
One other aspect of the French migratory fishery concerns the role played by the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon (the sedentary French fishery that developed at Plaisance during the seventeenth century is treated below under "Colonization"). These islands were returned to France under the terms of the Peace of Paris in 1763. Olivier Guyotjeannin has written a survey history of Saint- Pierre et Miquelon (Paris: Editions L'Harmattan, 1986), but his treatment is superficial. Frederick J. Thorpe focuses his attention on the first few critical years after French control over the islands was re-established in 1764; see "The Debating Talents of the First Governor of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, François-Gabriel d’Angeac, 1764-1769," Newfoundland Studies XVIII: 1 (Spring 2002), 61-83. An extremely well-researched essay by Jean-Yves Ribault on "La pêche et le commerce de la morue aux Îles Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon de 1763 à 1793," appeared in Congrès National des Sociétés Savantes, Actes du 91e congrès à Rennes 1966 (Paris, 1969), Tome I: 251-92; this gives a better sense of the islands' role as a service centre for the French metropolitan fishery and as a base for its own developing residential fishery. See also Jean-Yves Ribault, "La population des Îles Saint-Pierre et Miquelon de 1763 à 1793," Revue française d'histoire d'outre-mer LIII (1966), 5-66, as well as Nicolas Landry, “Démographie de l’île de Miquelon 1816-1850,” Newfoundland and Labrador Studies XXXI: 2 (Fall 2016): 286-315. However, probably the most comprehensive and useful source on the history and culture of St. Pierre and Miquelon is a website which has been maintained by Marc Cormier since 1992; go to http://grandcolombier.com/.
Until recently, little research had been published on the close economic or social interaction between these French islands and the adjacent South and Southwestern coasts of Newfoundland, though it is clear that the relationship was an important one for both parties. That is now beginning to change. Frederick Thorpe’s article, cited above, touches upon this theme, while Olaf Janzen also explores it in his analysis of Royal Navy efforts to block Mi’kmaq contact with both the South Coast of Newfoundland and St. Pierre; see “The Royal Navy and the Interdiction of Aboriginal Migration to Newfoundland, 1763-1766,” International Journal of Naval History VII: 2 (August 2008) [e-journal: http://www.ijnhonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Janzen.pdf]; Janzen’s essay has since been reprinted in Olaf U. Janzen, War and Trade in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland (“Research in Maritime History,” No. 52; St. John’s, NL: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2013, pp. 173-192. Neither Thorpe nor Janzen believe that the French encouraged the Mi’kmaq to establish a connection with them at St. Pierre. Brandon Morris disagrees, claiming that the French, Mi’kmaq and Acadians maintained considerable continuity in their social, economic, and cultural relationships with one another following the return of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon to France in 1763 – specifically, that they remained connected through kinship, religion, and commerce; see “those two insignificant Islands”: Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and Social and Cultural Continuity in Northeastern North America, 1763-1793 (MA thesis, University of Saskatchewan, 2012).
As vexing to the British as the contact between Mi’kmaq and the French islands
may have been from time to time, a more disturbing concern for British
authorities – probably less so for French authorities – was the economic
relationship that developed between the residents of St. Pierre and Miquelon on
the one hand, and the Newfoundland residents of the Burin Peninsula as well as
more remote locales such as Hermitage Bay and Bay d’Espoir and points further
west. That trade was expressly forbidden by the British, as William Whiteley
discussed in “Governor Hugh Palliser and the Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery,
1764-1768,” Canadian Historical Review L: 2 (June 1969), pp. 141-163.
Yet its persistence into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries revealed not
only the degree to which policies and administrative measures were so difficult
to enforce, but also how desirable that trade was for the people of St. Pierre
and the adjacent Newfoundland coasts alike. The diplomacy, the tensions, and the
accommodations generated by Anglo-French activities in the fishing grounds
shared by local French and British fishermen on the South Coast and, later, on
the West Coast of Newfoundland during the nineteenth century are the focus of
two articles by Nicolas Landry: “Tensions, diplomatie et accommodements dans un
espace partagé entre Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon et Terre-Neuve, 1816-1842” in
The Northern Mariner / Le Marin du nord XXVII: 2 (April 2017), pp. 143-162,
and “Tensions, diplomatie et accommodements dans un espace partagé: la France et
l’Angleterre sur la côte ouest de Terre-Neuve II (1842-1870),” The Northern
Mariner / Le marin du nord XXVIII: 4 (Autumn 2018): 347-363.
Some insight into the efforts and frustrations of the officers of the Royal Navy sent to patrol the region and discourage trade between French and British residents may be gleaned from the journal of Lt. Charles Cockayne Austen, who served in HMS Crocodile under Capt. James Polkinghorne and visited St. Pierre, the West Coast, and the Labrador Straits in 1838; see James M. Whalen, “Crocodile Chronicle: Atlantic Provinces, 1838-39,” The Northern Mariner / Le Marin du nord XV: 1 (January 2005), pp. 75-80. See also The Milne Papers: The Papers of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Alexander Milne, Bt., K.C.B. (1806-1896). Volume I: 1820-1859 (Aldershot, Hants. and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing for the Navy Records Society, 2004) and The Milne Papers: The Papers of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Alexander Milne, Bt., K.C.B. (1806-1896). Volume II: The Royal Navy and the Outbreak of the American Civil War, 1860-1862 (Aldershot, Hants. and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing for the Navy Records Society, 2015), both edited by John Beeler. Like many naval officers, Milne served some of his junior years in Newfoundland and in that capacity, commented in his correspondence on the illicit activities between St. Pierre and the residents of nearby Newfoundland. Finally, Kurt Korneski made Franco-Newfoundland trade on the South Coast his focus in “‘A Great Want of Loyalty to Themselves’: The Franco-Newfoundland Trade, Informal Empire, and Settler Colonialism in the Nineteenth Century,” Journal of World History, XXIX: 2 (June 2018), pp. 145-183. Korneski explores the informal, mainly commercial, linkages between South Coast communities and the people of St. Pierre and Miquelon as well as the multiplicity of rival metropoles (France, the USA, the British merchants controlling St. John’s and the fish trade with Europe and the West Indies), all vying for access to spaces and resources in the “Age of Empire.”
While the focus of this bibliography is primarily on Newfoundland and Labrador, a few words also need to be said about the adjacent French colony of Île Royale (today’s Cape Breton Island) and the fishery there. That colony was established soon after France withdrew from Plaisance in 1714, following the Treaty of Utrecht. Many of the fishermen who had been resident at or near Plaisance ended up in the new colony, and the eighteenth-century French trade in saltfish relied heavily on the residential fishery. There was also an almost immediate inter-action between fishermen and merchants active at Île Royale and nearby western and southwestern Newfoundland, even though strictly speaking, the French were not supposed to be in that part of Newfoundland. Students examining the French presence in Newfoundland therefore need to give some attention to the brief (for the colony fell permanently into English hands in 1758) yet complex history of Île Royale generally, and the fisher society and economy which flourished there.
An excellent starting point would be the essay by Christopher Moore on "Cape Breton and the North Atlantic World in the Eighteenth Century," in Ken Donovan (ed., The Island; New Perspectives on Cape Breton History 1713-1975 (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 1990), 30-48. Then turn to the more detailed study by B.A. Balcom of The Cod Fishery of Isle Royale, 1713-58 (Ottawa: Parks Canada, National Historic Parks and Sites Branch, 1984), together with Plate 24, "Île Royale," in HAC, Vol. I. More difficult to track down but worth the effort is Laurier Turgeon, Les échanges franco-canadiens: Bayonne, les ports basques, et Louisbourg, Ile Royale (1713-1758) (mémoire de maîtrise, Université de Pau, 1977) and the paper which he drew out of that dissertation, "La crise de l’armement morutier Basco-Bayonnais dans la première moitié du XVIIIe siècle," Bulletin du Société des Sciences Lettres & Arts de Bayonne, nouvelle série #139 (1983), 75-91. A.J.B. Johnston contributed an essay on "The Fishermen of Eighteenth-Century Cape Breton: Numbers and Origins" to the Nova Scotia Historical Review IX: 1 (June 1989), 62-72 , while the late Jean-Pierre Chrestien provided an analysis of "La colonie granvillaise de l’île Scatarie. Capitaines et habitants pêcheurs concessionaires (1714-1758)," Éric Barré (dir.), Troisièmes Journées d’Histoire de la Grande Pêche (Granville, 18-19 Mars 2005) (Saint-Lô: Société d’Archéologie et d’Histoire de La Manche, 2007), 29-56. See also Jean Pierre Chrestien, "First Contact With the Fishing Proprietors of Scaterie Island, 1714-1754," The Nashwaak Review, XX/XXI: No. 1 (Spring/Summer, 2008), 195-226, published posthumously. John F. Bosher looked at the commercial and business world which linked Île Royale and France in "A Fishing Company of Louisbourg, Les Sables d’Olonne, and Paris: La Société du Baron d’Huart, 1750-1775," French Historical Studies IX: 2 (Fall 1975), 263-277.
Excellent work has been done by researchers on the subject of the French trade in cod. An extremely useful survey of the trade during the eighteenth century is provided by Christopher Moore, "Cape Breton and the North Atlantic World in the Eighteenth Century," in Ken Donovan (ed.), The Island; New Perspectives on Cape Breton History 1713-1990 (Fredericton, NB and Sydney, NS: Acadiensis Press and the University College of Cape Breton Press, 1990), 30-48; despite its title, Moore's analysis has great bearing on the state of the French fishing economy in Newfoundland. Government regulation within both the production and marketing of cod is examined in Jean-François Brière, "L'état et le commerce de la morue de Terre-Neuve en France au XVIIIe siècle," Revue d'histoire de l'Amérique française XXXVI: 3(décembre 1982): 323-338; Brière shows that the cost of fish to consumers was determined more by charges added after its arrival in France than by the cost of production. The high cost of fish meant that it was less a dietary mainstay than a supplement, a point affirmed by Laurier Turgeon's investigation into market demands, "Pour une histoire de la pêche: le marché de la morue à Marseille au XVIIIe siècle," Histoire sociale/Social History XIV: 28(November 1981): 295-322. A correction of Table 3 on p. 307 appears in Histoire sociale/Social History XV: 29(May 1982): 296. A more recent paper by Turgeon examines the market forces of eighteenth-century France that governed cod as a commodity, from its production to its consumption; see "De la production à la consommation: les structures du marché de la morue en France au XVIIIe siècle," in Klaus Friedland (ed.), Maritime Food Transport (Köln: Böhlau Verlag, 1994), 291-312. Finally, the profound contrasts between the cost of shipping Newfoundland cod across the Atlantic with the cost of moving it from the French coast to markets in the interior might be usefully compared with the findings of Regina Grafe on transportation costs for cod shipped to Spain; see esp. Table 1 (p. 258) in "Turning Maritime History into Global History: Some Conclusions from the Impact of Globalization in Early Modern Spain," in Maria Fusaro and Amélia Polónia (eds.), Maritime History as Global History ("Research in Maritime History," No. 43; St. John's, NL: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2010), 249-266.
The participation of particular French ports in the eighteenth-century Newfoundland fishery attracts as much attention from scholars as in the seventeenth century industry. In part, this is because the industry became increasingly concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer ports. By the end of the century, St. Malo and Granville controlled the lion's share of French outfitting and trade. Their gain was the French Basque ports' loss; the eighteenth century witnessed the decline and elimination of those ports from the Newfoundland fishery, a process which is examined and explained in Laurier Turgeon, "La crise de l'armement morutier Basco-Bayonnais dans la première moitié du XVIIIe siècle," Bulletin du Société des Sciences Lettres & Arts de Bayonne, nouvelle série #139 (1983), 75-91. Why St. Malo and Granville should thrive while others failed has been carefully examined in several articles by Jean-François Brière, including "Saint-Malo and the Newfoundland Fisheries in the 18th Century," Acadiensis XVII: 2(Spring 1988): 131-8, "The Ports of St. Malo and Granville and the North American Fisheries in the 18th Century," in Clark G. Reynolds (ed.), Global Crossroads and the American Seas, (Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1988), 9-18, and "The Port of Granville and the North American Fisheries in the Eighteenth Century," Acadiensis XIV: 2(Spring 1985): 93-107. See also Raymonde Litalien, "Granville et la pêche à la morue dans le golfe du Saint-Laurent au XVIIIe siècle d'après les registres de l'Inscription maritime," Études canadiennes/Canadian Studies #13(1982): 25-31; this article is as useful for its discussion of methodology as it is for its analysis of the Granvillais fishing industry. Olaf Janzen also looks at St. Malo in the eighteenth century in "`Bretons ... sans scrupule': The Family Chenu of St. Malo and the Illicit Trade in Cod During the Middle of the 18th Century," in Patricia Galloway and Philip Boucher (eds.), Proceedings of the Fifteenth Meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society Martinique and Guadeloupe, May 1989 (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1992), 189-200. Janzen places St. Malo within the larger context of the seeming decline of the French fishery during the eighteenth century compared with that of the seventeenth century, and looks specifically at the way in which smuggling and other illicit behaviour functioned as an adaptive strategy by which middle-rank merchants were able to survive and even thrive within the North Atlantic fish trade. A revised version of Janzen's paper appeared in the International Journal of Maritime History VIII: 1 (June 1996): 1-22 under the title "The Illicit Trade in English Cod into Spain, 1739-1748." The fishery and trade also figure prominently in Histoire de Saint-Malo et du pays malouin (Toulouse: Editions Privat, 1984), a survey history of St. Malo prepared under the editorial direction of André Lespagnol. The book not only includes considerable material on how that port became involved in the Newfoundland fisheries but develops the argument that the fisheries generated the experience and the capital necessary to permit a significant number of its merchants to prosper to the point where they could diversify into other trades or withdraw from commerce altogether.
Similar conclusions were reached, though more implicitly, concerning the way in which the fishery was as much a "nursery for merchants" as it was a "nursery for seamen" (to use the catch-phrase of the era) in Derek Beamish, John Hillier, and H.F.V. Johnstone, Mansions & Merchants of Poole & Dorset, Volume I (Poole: Poole Historical Trust, 1976). See also the essay on Lester by Derek Beamish in the DCB (V: 490-492). A paper by Jerry Bannister entitled "Citizen of the Atlantic: Benjamin Lester’s Social World in England, 1768-69," in The Newfoundland Quarterly XCVI: 3 (Fall 2003), 32-37, not only describes the process by which Benjamin Lester and his kin used their connections in both Newfoundland and England to establish themselves as one of the premier West Country merchant families of the eighteenth century, but also shows how the Lesters moved comfortably back and forth from the world of the fishery in Newfoundland to the social, political and cultural environment of England in which they protected, represented and nurtured their interests. However, it is John Mannion whose research into the Irish-Newfoundland merchant community best reveals the degree to which investment in and profits from the fishing economy flowed back to Europe where they supported a diversity of opportunities; see, for instance, his "Irish Merchants Abroad: The Newfoundland Experience, 1750-1850," Newfoundland Studies II: 2 (Fall 1986): 127-90, "A Transatlantic Merchant Fishery: Richard Welsh of New Ross and the Sweetmans of Newbawn in Newfoundland 1734-1862," in Kevin Whelan and William Nolan (eds.), Wexford: History and Society. Interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish County (Dublin: Geography Publications, 1987), 373-421, 543-5, "Vessels, Masters and Seafaring: Patterns of Voyages in Waterford Commerce, 1766-1771," in William Nolan and Thomas P. Power (eds.), Waterford: History & Society. Interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish Country (Dublin: Geography Publications, 1992), 373-402, "Patrick Morris and Newfoundland Irish Immigration," in Cyril Byrne and Margaret Harry (eds.), Talamh an Eisc; Canadian and Irish Essays (Halifax: Nimbus, 1986), 180-202, and "Migration and Upward Mobility; the Meagher Family in Ireland and Newfoundland, 1730-1830," Irish Economic and Social History XV(1988): 54-70. In "Waterford and the South of England: Spatial Patterns in Shipping Commerce, 1766-1777," International Journal of Maritime History VI: 2 (December 1994): 115-153, Mannion also reveals how Waterford commerce with West Country ports in other commodities both opened the door to the Newfoundland trade and reinforced that trade once it was established; see especially pp. 125-131, "South Devon, Waterford and Newfoundland" and pp. 131-140, "Poole and the Dorset Trade."
If there were similarities between the French and English experiences at Newfoundland, there were also profound differences. One of the more intriguing ones is the way in which the French developed an offshore bank fishery but the English did not – at least, not for the first couple of centuries. The French had developed the necessary skills at curing fish caught on the banks well before the end of the sixteenth century, for they had a strong domestic market for green cod. The English had no such market, always concentrating instead on producing the best quality saltcod of the kind desired by Spanish, Portuguese and Italian markets. This invariably meant fish caught and cured on shore. Yet the British did eventually develop a bank fishery as well, particularly after 1713, when the inshore fishery experienced a near-disastrous collapse for which we still do not have a satisfactory explanation – possibly environmental.
It was then that some fishing merchants began to take a second look at the bank fishery, as Keith Matthews explained in his dissertation, A History of the West of England - Newfoundland Fisheries. They may have been inspired by their New England rivals, who had begun to fish the off-shore banks as early as the 1680s; see Daniel Vickers, Farmers & Fishermen: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630-1850 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994). True, the quality of the fish produced in the bank fishery was inferior. Yet Vickers maintains that the New Englanders had no problem selling such fish in the West Indies, where the emerging Caribbean sugar economy began generating a demand for cheap food imports. Christopher Paul Magra also touches upon the willingness of New England fishermen to market inferior grades of fish in the West Indies in his essay "Beyond the Banks: The Integrated Wooden Working World of Eighteenth-Century Massachusetts’ Cod Fisheries," The Northern Mariner / Le Marin du Nord XVII: 1 (January 2007), 1-16.
A key factor in the development of the trade in cheaper grades of fish with the Caribbean must have been the explosive growth of slavery in the Caribbean sugar Islands in response to the so-called "sugar revolution" after the middle of the seventeenth century. It seems like such an obvious conclusion that the demand for cheap slave food would open the door to the Caribbean for fish “refused” by the European markets (hence “refuse” grade or “refuse” fish), yet surprisingly little has been written which links the Newfoundland cod fishery with the need to feed slaves. Myriam Alamkan discusses it to an extent in “Une brise tropicale des Îles de Guadeloupe sur le commerce de la morue avec Terre Neuve et Saint-Pierre et Miquelon 1635-1946,” in Scott Jamieson, Anne Pelta, Anne Thareau (eds.), Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, Occasional Papers No. 3: The French Presence in Newfoundland and Labrador: Past, Present, and Future (St. John’s: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2015), pp. 240-247. James Candow has also explored this relationship in his essay "Salt Fish and Slavery in the British Caribbean," in David J. Starkey and James E. Candow (eds.), The North Atlantic Fisheries: Supply, Marketing and Consumption, 1560-1990 (Studia Atlantica 8; Hull: North Atlantic Fisheries History Association, Maritime Historical Studies Centre, University of Hull, 2006), 165-194. Since the New Englanders by then were beginning to appear at Newfoundland to trade North American provisions and forest products in exchange for fish (see below), it is entirely possible that this contact with New England traders exposed the merchants and residents of Newfoundland to the possibilities of the bank fishery and its market potentials and contributed to its appearance at Newfoundland after 1713.
This contact with the Caribbean market evolved into a two-way exchange: refuse cod south, molasses and salt back to Newfoundland. While not specifically about the trade in salt with Newfoundland, an article by Neil Kennedy, which examines the Bermudian role in the development and exploitation of salt-harvesting in the Turks and Caicos Islands, does shed light on the production of an essential commodity that was used in Newfoundland as well as in other parts of North America in the eighteenth century; see “Impermanence and Empire: Salt Raking in the Turks and Caicos Islands,” in Peter E. Pope (ed.), with Shannon Lewis-Simpson, Exploring Atlantic Transitions: Archaeologies of Transience and Permanence in New Found Lands (Woodbridge, Suffolk and Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2013), pp. 80-90. Another article by Cynthia M. Kennedy, “The Other White Gold: Salt, Slaves, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and British Colonialism,” The Historian LXIX: 2 (Summer 2007), 215-230, does identify Newfoundland as one destination for Caribbean salt during the seventeenth century, while Margot Maddison-MacFadyen focuses quite specifically on the salt trade with Newfoundland in her article, "Turks Islands’ Salt, Enslavement and the Newfoundland-West Indian Trade," Newfoundland Quarterly CV: 1 (Summer 2012), 40-44.
The birth of the English bank fishery was therefore a response in more than one way to new opportunities that linked Newfoundland with the West. This new fishery also had other consequences that proved advantageous to eighteenth-century Newfoundland, consequences which Keith Matthews also explains in his dissertation. For instance, banking vessels (or simply "bankers") were more productive per man. They required smaller crews and were relatively cheap to build. Such cost advantages more than compensated for the lower price which the banker’s catch commanded. It also made it easier for Newfoundland planters to invest in the fishery. The bank fishery was rapidly based in Newfoundland itself, a trend that represents one of the fishery’s first major commitments of capital in Newfoundland, and would therefore have profound implications for the growth of permanent inhabitancy there.
Before turning our attention more fully on the importance that the relationship with New England had to Newfoundland social, economic, and cultural history, there is one other point of comparison between the English and French fisheries in the eighteenth century which should be mentioned. The English fishery, like the French, fell increasingly into fewer hands as a number of ports in the West Country withdrew, either because they could not compete or because new or less risky opportunities appeared. The closing decades of the seventeenth century and the opening ones of the eighteenth century had been extremely difficult ones for the English fishery, as they had been for the French. Basil Greenhill touches upon this theme and suggests some of the reasons in a brief article about "The Account Book of the Sally and the Albion," two eighteenth-century merchant brigs of Bideford in North Devon; the article appears in The Mariners Mirror LIV (1968), 95-99. Yet the English fishery survived these decades of adversity and entered into a period of unparalleled growth and prosperity. In part, this was because Ireland and the American colonies gave English outfitters a diversity of sources from which to draw labour and supplies; in part this was because the growth of a resident population and fishery made the British fishery less vulnerable to the disruptions caused by the wars of that era. These developments were examined in Innis' The Cod Fisheries and Lounsbury's The British Fishery at Newfoundland 1634-1763; Lounsbury also published two essays that expressly examined New England trade with Newfoundland; see “Yankee Trade at Newfoundland,” New England Quarterly (October 1930): 607-626 and “Yankee Trade in Newfoundland,” in J.R. Smallwood (ed.), Book of Newfoundland (St. John’s: Newfoundland Book Publishers, 1937-1975), I: 271-275. A more recent and reliable overview is that provided in C. Grant Head, Eighteenth Century Newfoundland: A Geographer's Perspective (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1976).
New England linkages with Newfoundland could be complicated, and were certainly not limited to trade with British merchants and fishermen there; trade linkages also developed between New England and the French at Plaisance, and could involve not only native New Englanders but others from within the region who settled there and became engaged in a variety of activities. See, for instance, M.C. Rosenfeld’s biography of David Basset in DCB, Vol. 2 (pp. 46-47). Basset appears to have been an Acadian-born Huguenot who eventually settled in Boston but engaged in trade with Plaisance until he had a run-in with Governor Parat. Generally, however, Anglo-American trade with Newfoundland trade has attracted considerable attention not only because of the way in which that trade nurtured the emerging society and economy of eighteenth-century Newfoundland but also because of the way in which this contributed to the ability of some American colonies, especially those of New England, to balance their trade deficit with England. In Chapter 5 of their examination of The Economy of British America, 1607-1789 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1985), John J. McCusker and Russell R. Menard summarize not only the degree to which Newfoundland played an important role in the New England economy but insist as well that Newfoundland's transformation from a seasonal fishery into a colony of settled communities might not have been possible without the economic linkages with America. McCusker and Menard also provide as thorough and useful an explanation of the concepts of "staple trades" and "mercantilism" as one can hope to find. In Farmers & Fishermen: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630-1850 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), Daniel Vickers includes discussion of the way in which the variable fortunes of the Newfoundland fishery and trade influenced the New England fishery. Vickers has also attempted to define the value of cod as a trading commodity; see his "`A Knowen and Staple Commoditie': Codfish Prices in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1640-1775," Essex Institute, Historical Collections CXXIV (1988), 186-203, as well as the more recent research note, "The Price of Fish: A Price Index for Cod, 1505-1892," Acadiensis XXV: 2 (Spring 1996), 62-81. In the course of revealing how essential the fish trade was for the colonial New England economy, James Lydon also provided considerable detail on how the trade in fish actually worked; see "Fish and Flour for Gold: Southern Europe and the Colonial American Balance of Payments," Business History Review XXXIX (Summer 1965): 171-183 as well as "Fish for Gold – the Massachusetts Fish Trade with Iberia, 1700-1773," New England Quarterly LIV: 4 (December 1981), 539-582. Lydon subsequently revised and expanded on this work in an e-publication of the Program in Early American Economy and Society; see James Lydon, Fish and Flour for Gold, 1600-1800: Southern Europe in the Colonial Balance of Payments (Philadelphia: Library Company of Philadelphia, 2008; available at: <http://www.librarycompany.org/Economics/PDF%20Files/lydon_web.pdf>). Luca Codignola has also delved into the importance of the cod trade with Italy, commenting not only on the American dimension of that trade, but also Newfoundland-based British trade, in the late eighteenth century; see Luca Codignola, "Relations between North America and the Italian peninsula, 1763-1799: Tuscany, Genoa and Naples," in Silvia Marzagalli, James R. Sofka and John J. McCusker (eds.), Rough Waters: American Involvement with the Mediterranean in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries ("Research in Maritime History," No. 44; St. John’s, NL: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2010),25-42. Codignola discusses the volume of trade (for which he concedes there is a dearth of data for some ports, though an abundance for others), the rhythm of the trade with the Italian ports, and the way in which that trade helped foster important commercial contacts and networks between Italy, Great Britain, the United States, and elsewhere.
Irish involvement in the Newfoundland fishery can be traced back to the sixteenth century; see for instance John Appleby, "The Fishing Ventures of Nicholas Weston of Dublin: A Note on Commercial Contact between Ireland and Newfoundland in the Sixteenth Century," Dublin Historical Record XXXIX: 4 (1986), 150-155. But Irish involvement in trade with Newfoundland really did not develop until well into the seventeenth century, when English fishing ships began stopping at ports in southeastern Ireland for provisions and labour before proceeding to Newfoundland. The vigorous Irish commercial relationship with Newfoundland that subsequently emerged ultimately developed into an intricate social and cultural network of great significance to the emerging colonial society in Newfoundland. However, before they venture too far into the particulars of the Irish connection with Newfoundland, students would be well advised to consult some sources that focus just on the social and economic history of Early Modern Ireland, especially souther and south-eastern Ireland. One place to start is David Dickson’s Old World Colony: Cork and South Munster, 1630-1830 (Cork: Cork University Press, 2005); another is Nicholas Canny, Kingdom and Colony: Ireland in the Atlantic World, 1560-1800 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988). Once students are ready to turn to Ireland’s relationship with Newfoundland, they will discover that this subject has been the special preserve of John Mannion, who has written extensively on the Irish-Newfoundland commercial connection. Mannion examines the formative phase of the Irish-Newfoundland provisions trade in "Victualling a Fishery: Newfoundland Diet and the Origins of the Irish Provisions Trade, 1675-1700," International Journal of Maritime History XII: 1 (June 2000): 1-60. Several others of Mannions essays, "Irish Merchants Abroad: The Newfoundland Experience, 1750-1850," Newfoundland Studies II: 2(Fall 1986): 127-90, "The Waterford Merchants and the Irish-Newfoundland Provisions Trade 1770-1820," in Donald Akenson (ed.), Canadian Papers in Rural History, Vol. III (Gananoque: Langdale Press, 1982), 178-203, and "Vessels, Masters and Seafaring: Patterns of Voyages in Waterford Commerce, 1766-1771," in William Nolan & Thomas P. Power (eds.), Waterford: History & Society. Interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish County (Dublin: Geography Publications, 1992), 373-402, focus more on the late eighteenth century, when the Irish-Newfoundland provisioning connection had developed to include a growing community of Irish merchants who by then had in planted themselves in Newfoundland. Three essays which focus less on the commerce than on the activities and careers of particular merchants, all by John Mannion, are "A Transatlantic Merchant Fishery: Richard Welsh of New Ross and the Sweetmans of Newbawn in Newfoundland 1734-1862," in Kevin Whelan and William Nolan (eds.), Wexford: History and Society. Interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish County (Dublin: Geography Publications, 1987), 373-421, 543-5, "Patrick Morris and Newfoundland Irish Immigration," in Cyril Byrne and Margaret Harry (eds.), Talamh an Eisc; Canadian and Irish Essays (Halifax: Nimbus, 1986), 180-202, and "Migration and Upward Mobility; the Meagher Family in Ireland and Newfoundland, 1730-1830," Irish Economic and Social History XV(1988): 54-70. Mannion also contributed an essay on Patrick Morris to the DCB, as well as essays on other Irish merchants such as Archibald Nevins (V: 623-625) and Pierce Sweetman (VII: 840-842). Cyril Byrne has also written on the Irish-Newfoundland commercial link in "The Waterford Colony in Newfoundland 1700-1850," in William Nolan & Thomas P. Power (eds.), Waterford: History & Society. Interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish County (Dublin: Geography Publications, 1992). Collectively, all of these publications provide useful points of comparisons within the Irish-Newfoundland commercial community, as well as with English merchants.
To an extent, it is also possible to draw comparisons with the Scottish experience; in “The ‘New Men’ in Action: Scottish Mercantile and Shipping Operations in the North American Colonies, 1760-1825,” D. Macmillan (ed.), Canadian Business History: Selected Studies, 1497-1971 (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1972), 44-103, David Macmillan shows that the Scots also responded to the economic opportunities within the late eighteenth century British fishery. Jeffrey A. Orr has found evidence of Scots in Newfoundland as early as 1704, though he maintains that their presence was not significant until the final quarter of the eighteenth century; see “Scottish Merchants in St. John’s, 1780-1835,” in Alan G. Macpherson (ed.), Four Centuries and the City: Perspectives on the Historical Geography of St. John’s (St. John’s: Department of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2005), 37-52, a paper derived from his Master’s dissertation, Scottish Merchants in the Newfoundland Trade, 1800-1835: A Colonial Community in Transition (MA thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1987). Yet Olaf Janzen came across a residential Scottish commercial presence in the 1720s in his research into an early Scottish attempt to venture into the cod trade. See his three papers about the voyage of the Christian of Leith in 1726-27: “A Scottish Venture in the Newfoundland Fish Trade, 1726-1727,” in Olaf U. Janzen (ed.), Merchant Organization and Maritime Trade in the North Atlantic, 1660-1815 (“Research in Maritime History,” No. 15; St. John’s: International Maritime Economic History Association, 1998), 133-153; “A Scottish Sack Ship in the Newfoundland Trade, 1726-27,” Scottish Economic and Social History XVIII, Part 1 (1998): 1-18, reprinted in Olaf U. Janzen, War and Trade in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland (“Research in Maritime History,” No. 52; St. John’s, NL: International Maritime Economic History Association, 2013), pp. 49-68; and “‘They are not such great Rogues as some of their Neighbours’: A Scottish Supercargo in the Newfoundland Fish Trade, 1726,” Newfoundland Studies XVII: 2 (Fall 2001): 294-309.
Despite the growing presence and importance of American, Irish, and even Scottish linkages, the British commercial presence in Newfoundland remained dominated by merchants of the ports of southwestern England. Bristol was the preeminent port in the region and played a key role in the discovery of Newfoundland, so much so that Newfoundland historians have tended to attribute a significant role to Bristol in the development of the Newfoundland fishery. Yet both E.M. Carus-Wilson, in her essay "The Overseas Trade of Bristol in the Fifteenth Century," in Medieval Merchant Venturers: Collected Studies (London: Methuen Press, 1954), 1-97, and David Sacks, in his magisterial study The Widening Gate: Bristol and the Atlantic Economy, 1450-1700 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), give the Newfoundland fishery and trade only passing mention. Nevertheless, Kenneth Morgan does maintain that Bristol remained an important player in the fish trade; the conclusions that he first presented in articles like "Shipping Patterns and the Atlantic Trade of Bristol, 1749-1770", William & Mary Quarterly XLVI: 3 (July 1989): 506-38 and "Bristol and the Atlantic Trade in the Eighteenth Century," English Historical Review CVII: 424(July 1992): 626-650 have recently been presented in convincing fashion, with frequent references to Newfoundland, in Bristol & the Atlantic Trade in the Eighteenth Century (NY: Cambridge, 1993). The way in which the port and environs of Bristol plugged into commercial opportunities generated by the Newfoundland fishery may, in the end, be much more complex and subtle than we have surmised. For instance, in an article about a schooner built in Newfoundland in 1783 for John Clements, a merchant of Bristol, Alan D. Cass provides both a useful reminder of that ports continuing commercial presence in the Newfoundland trade as well as a glimpse of the way British merchants encouraged shipbuilding in Newfoundland; see "The Schooner Jenny," The Mariner's Mirror LXXXII: 3 (August 1996): 325-335. Another recent study, Coastal and River Trade in Pre-Industrial England: Bristol and Its Region 1680-1730 by David Hussey (Exeter: University of Exeter Press and Ithaca, NY: Regatta Press, 2000) draws attention to the degree to which merchants engaged in the coastal trade in the Bristol region thrived on the movement of goods such as salt, provisions, and gear needed not only by the Newfoundland trade but other oceanic trades as well. In effect, the fishery nurtured considerable maritime activity in England even when merchants did not invest directly in the fishery or fish trade itself.
Those who did invest directly in the fishery and trade tended to be the merchants of the so-called "West Country" shires of Dorset, Devonshire, and to a much lesser extent the neighbouring shires of Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Cornwall. And since they dominated the fishery and trade at Newfoundland, they have accordingly received the most attention from those wishing to understand that fishery and trade better. Several studies provide detailed examination of West Country merchants who engaged in the Newfoundland trade, both as communities and as individuals. Undoubtedly the most thorough and noteworthy published studies of the West of England commercial connection with Newfoundland are those of W. Gordon Handcock (see below). Giving particular attention to the merchants of Poole, Handcock has revealed how the diversification permitted by the success of the eighteenth-century British fishery, together with the growth of a residential population, allowed the West Country merchants to reduce their emphasis on the fishing industry itself and instead shift increasingly into the business of supplying and trading the residential population. Nor should it be forgotten that those who worked or invested in the fishing industry were also exposed to a variety of significant risks. One risk faced by merchants in all overseas trades was the risk of finding reliable people to represent and protect their interests overseas. Using a brief letter from the St. John’s agents for John Slade and Sons, the principal merchant house in Notre Dame Bay at the end of the eighteenth century, Allan Dwyer shows us how agents were critical to the success of the commercial activities of merchants involved in the Newfoundland fishery and trade; see "Research Note: Fogo Island and the French in Italy: A Letter from the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World," Newfoundland and Labrador Studies XXI: 2 (Fall 2006), 309-318. He also shows that those activities can best be understood not simply within a Newfoundland context or even within the context of a Newfoundland-West Country axis, but rather within the context of an Atlantic world that extended well into the Mediterranean. Another essay that explores the relationship between merchant and agent within the Newfoundland trade is "‘I Had Better Be Without Him...’ Rivalry, Deception and Social Status within the Poole-Newfoundland Trade," Newfoundland Studies XVI: 2 (Fall 2000), 135-150 by Terry McDonald. Both essays make clear the degree to which war presented the trade with a recurring risk, and indeed, the disruptive effect of war is a constant theme in many studies of eighteenth-century Newfoundland. See, for instance, another essay by Terry McDonald, "The One in Newfoundland, the Other in England: Ledgard, Gosse and Chancey, or Gosse, Chancey and Ledgard?," Newfoundland and Labrador Studies XX: 2 (Fall 2005): 209-231, in which he reveals the trials and tribulations of a merchant partnership that traded between Poole and Carbonear, Conception Bay at the beginning of the 1800s.
The even greater dangers of the natural elements are
mentioned less frequently, possibly because they are taken so much for granted.
Yet climate was an unavoidable and influential part of life for those who lived
and worked in early modern Newfoundland. Sometimes the impact of climate could
be catastrophic, as with the great hurricane which struck Placentia Bay in September 1775 and which
has attracted some scholarly attention. See for instance Michael Staveley and A. Stephens,
"The Great Newfoundland Storm of 12 September 1775," Bulletin of the
Seismological Society of America LXXXI: 4 (August 1991): 1398-1402 as well as A.
Stevens, "Reply to Comments on `The Great Newfoundland Storm of 12 September
1775'," Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America LXXXV: 2 (April
1995): 650-652. The most recent study of that storm is also the most ambitious; in
"The Multidisciplinary Rediscovery and Tracking of `The Great Newfoundland and
Saint-Pierre et Miquelon Hurricane of September 1775'," The Northern Mariner/Le
Marin du nord VI: 3 (July 1996): 11-23, Alan Ruffman attempts to track that storm as
it made its way north along the North American seaboard. But apart from such
exceptional events, little attention has been given to the role played by
climate in Newfoundland history. One promising sign that this might be changing
is the essay by Teresa Devor, “The Explanatory Power of Climate History for the
19th-Century Maritime and Newfoundland,” Acadiensis XLIII: 2
(Summer/Autumn 2014): 57-78. Devor attempts to reconstruct the
nineteenth-century climate of St. John’s and other urban centres in Maritime
Canada to show how climate influenced agriculture, fisheries, and
Whether climate influenced commercial strategies or decisions is, at this point in time, more difficult to say. What we do know is that British merchants gradually reduced their level of direct investment in the fishing industry itself in faour of a shift into more secure activities such as the supply trade. This trend was first explored by Keith Matthews in his dissertation, A History of the West of England - Newfoundland Fisheries (PhD thesis, Oxford University, 1968) and was subsequently analysed by others. Indeed, students can investigate the trend themselves through a reading of the many essays in the DCB which profile Westcountry merchants who invested in the Newfoundland fishery and trade from the beginning of the eighteenth century to well into the nineteenth century: Arthur Holdsworth (II: 290-291), John Slade (vol. IV: 711-714), Benjamin Lester (V: 490-492), Thomas Slade (V: 764-5), Charles Garland (V: 337-338), George Garland (VI: 273-275), Thomas Street (V: 783-785), Peter Ougier (V: 640-642), Andrew Pinson (V: 674-676), Samuel Bulley (V: 119-120), Jeremiah Coghlan (IV: 158-159), John Waldron (V: 837-839), and Robert Newman (V: 625-627), to name but a few. More in-depth treatment of Benjamin Lester is provided by Gordon Handcock in a series of publications which included a paper on "The Poole Mercantile Community and the Growth of Trinity 1700-1839," The Newfoundland Quarterly LXXX: 3(Winter 1985): 19-30. Allan Dwyer examines the rivalries and activities of Benjamin Lester and John Slade in eighteenth-century Notre Dame Bay in An economic profile of Fogo Island planters and the Slade merchant company, 1785-1805 (MA thesis, McGill University, 1989), and, more recently, Atlantic Borderland: Natives, Fishers, Planters and Merchants in Notre Dame Bay, 1713-1802 (PhD thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2012). Dwyer gives particular attention to the importance of credit to the success of merchants in their Newfoundland businesses, both for the viability of their overseas commercial networks and for maintaining the resident fishery on which their commercial success increasingly depended. Two papers drawn from Dwyer’s doctoral dissertation (both accessible on-line at the searchable SSRN eLibrary) focus on the way Lester and Slade used different approaches in their competition with each other: see “Enterprise Forms and Accounting Conventions in Two 18th-Century Newfoundland Mercantile Concerns” (2012); and “Business Rivalry in the Colonial Atlantic: A Five Forces Analysis” (2013). Finally, Robert Newman has been given particular attention by Margaret Chang in Newfoundland in Transition: the Newfoundland Trade and Robert Newman and Company, 1780-1805 (MA thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1975).
The theme of merchant diversification also permeates Handcock's Soe longe as there comes noe women: Origins of English Settlement in Newfoundland (St. John's: Breakwater Press, 1989). This diversification meant that the abrupt disappearance of the West Country merchants from the fishing industry during the era of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars did not signify the termination of an activity under the stress of war (as was the case with the French) so much as its transformation. Shannon Ryan examines this process in "Fishery to Colony: A Newfound land Watershed, 1793-1815," Acadiensis XII: 2 (Spring 1983): 34-52; reprinted in all three editions of Acadiensis Reader: Volume One, Atlantic Canada Before Confederation (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 1985, 1990, 1998), edited by P.A. Buckner, David Frank, and (the third edition) Gail G. Campbell (pp. 130-148, 138-156 and 177-195 respectively). He shows how the economic strains of wartime accelerated the process by which the British fishing industry became resident in Newfoundland, with British merchants now concentrating almost exclusively on supplying the fishery and residents of Newfoundland with provisions, gear, and other necessities. The commitment to the supply trade and the absence from direct involvement in the fishing industry at Newfoundland after 1815 is made clear in a handful of useful articles, including H.J. Trump, "Newfoundland trade from the Port of Teignmouth in the 19th century," Transport History IX (Winter 1978): 260-268, Peter Perry, "The Newfoundland Trade The Decline and Demise of the Port of Poole, 1815-1894" American Neptune XXVIII: 4 (Fall 1968): 275-283, and Terry McDonald, “1849 – The Decisive Year for the Slade Family of Poole and their Role in the Newfoundland Trade,” in Derek Pollard and Ged Martin, Canada 1849: A selection of papers given at the University of Edinburgh Centre for Canadian Studies Annual Conference May 1999 (Edinburgh: Centre for Canadian Studies, University of Edinburgh, 2001), 151-163.
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