The island of Newfoundland (originally called Terra Nova, "New Land" in Latin, Portuguese, and Italian) was "discovered" and named by the Italian John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto), working under contract to England on his expedition from Bristol, England in 1497. This discovery is considered by historians as having laid the initial foundation of the British Empire. The province where this island is located was also called "Newfoundland" until 2001, when its name was changed to "Newfoundland and Labrador" (the postal abbreviation was later changed from NF to NL).
L'Anse aux Meadows was a Norse settlement on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland, that has been dated to be approximately 1000 years old, making it the only genuine evidence of Pre-Columbian contact between the Old and New Worlds. It is a likely location of Vinland, although this has been disputed.
The island of Newfoundland is separated from the Labrador Peninsula by the Strait of Belle Isle and from Cape Breton Island by the Cabot Strait. It blocks the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, creating the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the world's largest estuary. Newfoundland's nearest neighbour is the tiny French overseas community of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.
With an area of 108,860 square kilometers (41,700 sq mi), Newfoundland is the world's 16th largest island, and Canada's fourth-largest island. The provincial capital, St. John's, is located on the southeastern coast of the island; Cape Spear, just south of the capital, is arguably North America's easternmost point. As of 2001, the island of Newfoundland had a population of 466,172. It is common to consider all directly neighbouring islands such as New World, Twillingate, Fogo and Bell Island to be 'part of Newfoundland' (as distinct from Labrador), and by that measure, Newfoundland and its associated small islands have a total area of 111,390 square kilometers (43,008 sq mi)., and a population of 479,105 as of 2006.
Newfoundland has a dialect of English known as Newfoundland English and a dialect of French known as Newfoundland French. It once had a dialect of Irish known as Newfoundland Irish, as well as an Amerindian language, Beothuk.
According to 2006 official Census Canada statistics, 57% of responding Newfoundlanders and Labradorians claim British Isles ancestry, with 43.2% claiming at least one English parent, 21.5% at least one Irish parent, and 7% at least one parent of Scots origin. Additionally 6.1% claimed at least one parent of French ancestry.
It is probable that the natives described by the Norsemen as skraelings were Beothuk people of Labrador and Newfoundland. The first conflicts between Europeans and native peoples may have occurred around 1006 at L'Anse aux Meadows when parties of Norsemen attempted to establish permanent settlements along the coast of Newfoundland. According to the Icelandic sagas, the native skraelings responded so ferociously that the newcomers eventually withdrew and apparently gave up their original intentions to settle.
When other Europeans arrived, beginning with John Cabot in 1497, contact with the Beothuks was established. Estimates of the number of Beothuks on the island at this time vary, ranging from 1,000 to 5,000.
As European settlement became year-round and expanded to new areas of the coast the area available to the Beothuks to harvest the marine resources they relied upon was diminished. By the beginning of the nineteenth century there were few Beothuks remaining, many having been killed by settlers or having died as a result of starvation and diseases brought on by the European settlers which their immune systems could not handle. Government attempts to open a dialogue with the native peoples of Newfoundland came too late to save them.
Newfoundland is the site of the only authenticated Norse (mostly Greenlandic Icelanders) settlement in North America, discovered by Norwegian explorer Dr. Helge Ingstad and his wife, archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad, at L'Anse aux Meadows in 1960. The site of multi-year archaeological digs in the 1960s and 1970s, the settlement dating to more than 500 years before John Cabot, contains the earliest known European structures in North America. Named a World Heritage site by UNESCO, it is believed to be the Vinland settlement of explorer Leifr Eiriksson (the Icelandic Skálholt Vinland Map of 1570 refers to the area as "Promontorium Winlandia" and correctly shows it on a 51°N parallel with Bristol, England). The Norse stayed for a relatively short period of time, believed to be between 999 and 1001 AD.
Other speculative discoverers of the island would fall to other nationalities of Europe. The Irish Saint Brendan, who has been popularized in Newfoundland song 'Saint Brendan's Voyage’, is noted among possible discoverers of Newfoundland. Welsh folklore makes note of explorer and Prince Madoc who landed in America in 1170. No detail is given of his route or the lands that was attributed to his discovery. Then there is the Scottish who claim that the Earl of the Orkneys, Prince Henry Sinclair had discovered the New World in the late 1300s. The Portuguese also lay claim to discovering the New World in 1431 when Prince Henry the Navigator discovered the Azores, by virtue of the existence of the Paris Map c. 1490 which depicts a group of three islands southwest of Iceland at roughly the same latitude as Ireland, Newfoundland and possibly some other, nearby islands (such as Cape Breton). These three islands are known as 'Islands of the Seven Cities' and 'The Isle of Brasile' said to be discovered by seven bishops. Documents from the voyages made by Bristol merchants in 1480 speak of a trip in search of the Isle of Brasile, to no avail.
After the departure of the Norse, the island would be left to the aboriginal populations for nearly 500 years until the island was rediscovered by the Italian navigator John Cabot (Zuan/Giovanni Cabotto), in 1497. The exact place where John Cabot landed is unknown, but popularly believed to be Cape Bonavista, along the island's East coast, although other sites along the East coast also have significant claims. Perhaps the site with the best claim is Cape Bauld, at the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula. It is supported by a document found in the Spanish National Archives written by a Bristol merchant which reports that the crew landed west of Dursey Head, Ireland (latitude 51° 35'N) which would put Cabot within sight of Cape Bauld. Also in this document is mention of an island that Cabot sailed past to go ashore on the mainland. This description fits with Cape Bauld theory, Belle Isle being not far offshore.
After Cabot, the first European visitors to Newfoundland were Portuguese, Spanish, French and English migratory fishermen. Late in the 17th century came Irish fishermen, who named the island Talamh an Éisc, meaning "land of the fish", or "the fishing grounds" in Irish Gaelic. This was to foreshadow the centuries of importance of Newfoundland's offshore fishing waters.
In 1583, when Sir Humphrey Gilbert formally claimed Newfoundland as a colony of England, he found numerous English, French and Portuguese vessels in St. John's. However there was no permanent population and Gilbert was lost at sea during his return voyage, thereby ending any plans of settlement.
On July 5, 1610, John Guy set sail from Bristol, England with 39 other colonists for Cuper's Cove. This, and other early attempts at permanent settlement failed to make a profit for the English investors, but some settlers remained anyway, forming the very earliest European population on the island. By 1620, the fishermen of England's West Country had excluded other nations from most of the east coast of Newfoundland, while fishermen from France dominated the island's south coast and Northern Peninsula.
After 1713, with the Treaty of Utrecht, the French ceded control of south and north shores of the island to the British, keeping only the nearby islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon located in the fish-rich Grand Banks off the south coast. Despite some early settlements by the English, permanent, year-round settlement of Newfoundland of migratory fishery workers was discouraged by the British. But with the geographic remoteness of its isolated harbours and convenience of year-round access to the fish stations without having to make the bi-annual voyage across the ocean, permanent settlement increased rapidly by the late 18th century, peaking in the early years of the 19th century.
The French name for the island is Terre Neuve, while the name "Newfoundland"' is one of the oldest European place names in Canada in continuous geographical and cartographical use, dating from a 1502 letter, and clearly stated in the following early poem:
A Skeltonicall continued ryme, in praise of my New-found-Land
The European immigrants who settled in Newfoundland brought their knowledge, beliefs, loyalties and prejudices with them, but the society they built in the New World was unlike the ones they had left, and different from the ones other immigrants would build on the American mainland. As a fish-exporting society, Newfoundland was in contact with many places around the Atlantic rim, but its geographic location and political distinctiveness also isolated it from its closest neighbours in Canada and the United States, so much so that this isolation can be felt even today. Internally, most of its population was spread widely around a rugged coastline in small outport settlements, many of them a long distance from larger centers of population and isolated for long periods by winter ice or bad weather. These conditions had an effect on the culture the immigrants had brought with them and generated new ways of thinking and acting, giving Newfoundland and Labrador a wide variety of distinctive customs, beliefs, stories, songs, and dialects.
The First World War had a powerful and lasting effect on the society. From a population of about a quarter of a million, 5,482 men went overseas. Nearly 1,500 were killed and 2,300 wounded. On July 1, 1916, at Beaumont-Hamel, France, 753 men of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment went over the top of a trench. The casualties were staggering; the next morning, only 68 men answered the roll-call. Newfoundland had lost about one-quarter of its young men in WWI and it has been suggested that this loss of so many men, proportionally speaking, in the prime of their lives contributed to the economic collapse that was to ultimately influence confederation with Canada. Even now, when the rest of Canada celebrates the founding of the country on July 1, many Newfoundlanders take part in solemn ceremonies of remembrance.
World War II also had a lasting impact on Newfoundland. In particular, the war ushered in an American presence at the military bases at Argentia, Gander, Stephenville, Goose Bay and St. John's. Interaction with the bases helped make cash a more widespread economic medium and consolidated a traditional admiration for the United States.
Newfoundland and Labrador is the youngest province in Canada, which existed as a British colony until 1949, self-governing from 1855-1934, holding Dominion status from 1907-1949 (see Dominion of Newfoundland). In late 1948, the population voted 52.3% to 47.7% in favour of joining Canada, with opposition to Canada being concentrated in the capital, St. John's, and on the Avalon Peninsula. Newfoundland joined Canada on March 31, 1949. Union with Canada has done little to reduce Newfoundlanders' self-image as a unique group, with 72% identifying themselves as being primarily Newfoundlanders, secondarily Canadians, in 2003. Separatist sentiment is low, though—12% in the same 2003 study.
The referendum campaign was bitterly fought and interests in both Canada and Britain favoured and supported confederation with Canada. This is exemplified in the role of Jack Pickersgill, a western Canadian native and politician, who worked with the confederation camp during the campaign. Religion played a significant role in the final analysis as well with the Catholic church lobbying for continued independence. Financial incentives played their part, particularly the "baby bonus" which promised Newfoundlanders a cash sum for each child in a family. The Confederates were led by the charismatic Joseph Smallwood, a former radio broadcaster who had developed socialist political inclinations while working for a socialist newspaper in New York. His policies as premier would assume a form closer to liberalism than socialism. Mr. Smallwood led Newfoundland for decades as the elected premier following confederation and achieved a "cult of personality" amongst his many supporters that persisted long after his political defeat. Indeed, some homes actually had pictures of Joey in their living rooms in a place of prominence. It has been suggested that some members of the public regarded financial incentives like the baby bonus as the direct products of Smallwood's benevolence rather than their right as Canadian citizens.
The province's provincial flag, designed by Newfoundland artist Christopher Pratt, was officially adopted by the provincial legislature on May 28, 1980. Labrador has its own unofficial flag, created in 1973 by Mike Martin, former Member of the Legislative Assembly for Labrador South. There is also an unofficial "Pink, White and Green" flag of nineteenth century origins. The flag was flown on sealing vessels well into the 20th century. Its colours represent the symbolic union of Newfoundland's three historically dominant ethnic/religious group: English, Scottish and Irish respectively. Sealers also used the flag as a marker to distinguish cached seal pellets on the ice from the caches of other nations. It is now flown outside many Newfoundland homes, although it is mistaken by many tourists as the Irish flag. This "unofficial" flag has seen a rise in popularity in the St. John's area in recent years, before which it had been relatively forgotten by a majority of Newfoundlanders. "Pink White and Green" emblems now appear on a multitude of items in Newfoundland gift shops, and it has developed into a symbolic gesture of one's ties with one's Newfoundland heritage as well as a trendy fashion statement. A government sponsored poll in 2005 revealed that 75% of Newfoundlanders did not support adoption of the Tricolour flag as the province's official flag.
The pre-Confederation and current Provincial Anthem is the Ode to Newfoundland. Written in the late 19th century, it continues to be heard at public events in Newfoundland.
Being one of the first places in the New World to which Europeans travelled, Newfoundland has a rich history of human settlement. St. John's is considered to be the oldest city in Canada and the oldest continuously settled location in English speaking North America. The St. John's census metropolitan area also includes several suburban communities including the city of Mount Pearl and the towns of Torbay, Portugal Cove, and Conception Bay South. The west coast of the island hosts Corner Brook, the province's third largest city, is situated on the Bay of Islands which was discovered by Captain James Cook.
The island of Newfoundland has extraordinary natural beauty and hosts numerous provincial parks such as Barachois Pond Provincial Park, considered to be a model forest, as well as two national parks.
The island has many eco-tourism opportunities, ranging from sea kayaking, camping, fishing and hunting, to hiking. The International Appalachian Trail (IAT) is being extended along the island's mountainous west coast. On the east coast, the East Coast Trail extends through the Avalon Peninsula for , beginning near Fort Amherst in St. John's and ending in Cappahayden, with an additional of trail under construction.
The Marble Mountain Ski Resort near Corner Brook is a major attraction in the winter for skiers in eastern Canada.
Other major communities include the following towns:
Cultural attractions include the provincial university, Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's and Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook, along with the College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville and other communities.
Bonavista, Placentia and Ferryland are all historic locations for various early European settlement or discovery activities. Tilting Harbour on Fogo Island is a Provincial Heritage District as well as a National Cultural Landscape District of Canada, one of only two national historic sites in Canada so recognized for their Irish heritage.
Entertainment opportunities abound in the island's 3 cities and numerous towns, particularly during summer festivals. For nightlife, George Street, located in downtown St. John's, is closed to traffic twenty hours per day, and is widely understood to have the most pubs per square foot of any street in North America.
In March, the annual seal hunt (of the harp seal) takes place.
Largest Municipalities (2006 population)