John Guy of Bristol and Newfoundland: His Life, Times and Legacy

By Martin, Ged | British Journal of Canadian Studies, July 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

John Guy of Bristol and Newfoundland: His Life, Times and Legacy


Martin, Ged, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Alan F. Williams (edited by W. Gordon Handcock and Chesley W. Sanger), John Guy of Bristol and Newfoundland: His Life, Times and Legacy (St John's Newfoundland: Flanker Press Ltd, 2010), 394 pp. Colour and b&w photos and illustrations. Paper. $24. ISBN 978- 1-897317-94-5.

President of BACS from 1988 to 1990, Alan Williams exuded impish bonhomie, unshakeable calm and a West Country accent. Bristol-born and educated, he seemed somehow destined to become a young geography professor at Memorial in 1962. Although he left after three years for the University of Birmingham, where he ultimately became Reader in American and Canadian Studies, Alan maintained his links with Newfoundland through research focused on its early Bristol connections. As a historical geographer, he was above all a practical scholar. Cabot's landfall in 1497 and John Guy's encounter with the Beothuk in 1612 were not mythic episodes, but real events that happened at actual places. With maps in his hands and boots on his feet, he set out to pinpoint those locations and recreate what happened. John Guy was a prominent Bristol merchant who speculated in Somerset real estate. Probably inspired by the founding of Virginia, in 1608 he sailed to Newfoundland to seek a site for a settlement, which took shape two years later at Cupers Cove (Cupids). Guy returned in 1612 to explore Conception Bay, where he over-wintered and nearly perished. In later years he was a spokesman for Newfoundland interests in England, and was even elected to one of James I's futile parliaments. Years of painstaking research enabled Alan Williams to argue with authority that Guy's career was essentially transatlantic in character, indeed an early example of globalisation, if less well known than the dramatic story of Walter Raleigh. …

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