Fish into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century

Fish into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century

Fish into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century

Fish into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century


Combining innovative archaeological analysis with historical research, Peter E. Pope examines the way of life that developed in seventeenth-century Newfoundland, where settlement was sustained by seasonal migration to North America's oldest industry, the cod fishery.

The unregulated English settlements that grew up around the exchange of fish for wine served the fishery by catering to nascent consumer demand. The English Shore became a hub of transatlantic trade, linking Newfoundland with the Chesapeake, New and old England, southern Europe, and the Atlantic islands. Pope gives special attention to Ferryland, the proprietary colony founded by Sir George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, in 1621, but later taken over by the London merchant Sir David Kirke and his remarkable family. The saga of the Kirkes provides a narrative line connecting social and economic developments on the English Shore with metropolitan merchants, proprietary rivalries, and international competition.

Employing a rich variety of evidence to place the fisheries in the context of transatlantic commerce, Pope makes Newfoundland a fresh point of view for understanding the demographic, economic, and cultural history of the expanding North Atlantic world.


It is tempting to write several forewords. American readers certainly deserve one to whet their demonstrated appetite for alternative colonial histories: a meal of northern cod to complement the banquet already set by researchers over the last few decades along the eastern seaboard and beyond. the prudent Newfoundlander will write a more diffident foreword for Canadians, reminding them (again) that the history of northern settlement before the British conquest of 1763 is more than the history of New France. That claim will resonate more clearly in Acadia or Quebec than in Upper Canada, for Newfoundland’s past is intricately interconnected with the history of its neighbors, whereas central Canadians have an impressive capacity to acknowledge the existence of Atlantic Canada without paying it much sustained attention. in mythic terms, Canada for them is the result of a historic engagement between Britain and France in the mid-eighteenth century, and the existence of earlier English settlements on the Atlantic fringe often seems no more than an inconsistent detail. the colorful story of the Newfoundland fishery will be familiar to British readers, or at least to those with an interest in the West Country or Ireland. Given that a presumed conflict of economic interests between fisher and settler remains the default assumption when English historians turn to the subject of early Newfoundland, they are likely to take the present volume as a piece of revisionism. Newfoundlanders themselves may well read it as a parti pris in a continuing debate over our foundation myth: the supposed illegality of settlement. This is a key feature of our traditional historiography, popularized a century ago by the accomplished regional historian Judge Prowse, in which powerful West Country commercial interests supposedly impeded settlement. This mythology remains influential, although scholars have begun to agree that paper regulation has been overinterpreted as a practical attempt to eliminate settlement. European readers and others familiar with the long and complex history of the Breton, Norman, and Basque transatlantic fisheries will know how much is left as background in this study in order to focus attention on one aspect of North Atlantic history. in the end, I can

1. For alternative colonial histories, see Daniel Vickers, ed., A Companion to Colonial America (Malden, Mass., 2003); and Margaret R. Conrad and James K. Hiller, Atlantic Canada: a Region in the Making (Don Mills, Ont., 2001). For a tra-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.