"Down North": A Historiographical Overview of Newfoundland Labrador


Melvin Baker and Robert H. Cuff

Originally published in the Newfoundland Quarterly, vol. LXXXVIII, no. 2 (Summer/Fall 1993), pp. 2-12

In a 1980 article surveying the writing of Newfoundland history, Peter Neary noted that "Newfoundland history is a very old subject". (1) The same might be said for Labrador, especially within the context of general histories of Newfoundland. In his 1980 history of Newfoundland and Labrador, Frederick W. Rowe followed a well-established convention in the division of his text into chapters. Thus, out of 26 chapters, Chapter 24 is entitled "Labrador". Rowe took this approach, he wrote, for "almost without exception, every Newfoundland historian, trying to do a general history of Newfoundland, eventually arrived at a point where a special chapter or section had to be devoted to Labrador, no matter how hard he had tried to avoid this division by integrating the story of Labrador with that of the Island." (2) The Labrador chapter in most general histories of Newfoundland concentrates on the Labrador fishery and its importance to the Island of Newfoundland, with tangential treatment of aboriginal peoples (most especially the Inuit) and European settlement. (3) Judge Daniel W. Prowse devotes a chapter to Labrador in his A History of Newfoundland (1895) and provides one of the first surveys detailing the region's European "discoverers" (in as much as they were known in 1895), indigenous peoples, Moravian missions, the Newfoundland fishery, the Newfoundland Labrador fishery, and Wilfred Grenfell. Prowse's bibliography also provides a useful list of Labrador-related literature to 1895. The only general history of Labrador to date is St. John's businessman W. G. Gosling's Labrador published in 1910 (to be discussed below).

It was only after 1949 that most Newfoundlanders became aware of Labrador resources other than its fisheries. When the first two volumes of The Book of Newfoundland were published in 1937, editor Joseph R. Smallwood included little detailed information on Labrador. But, when he produced volumes three and four for publication in 1967, Labrador had achieved greater representation among the subjects covered, reflecting the emphasis on what Smallwood once called the "industrial colonization" of Labrador, since Confederation in 1949. Thus, the volumes contain articles on the Eskimos (Inuit), Moravian missionaries, Sir Wilfred Grenfell, and the Labrador Boundary Dispute - all of which had been subjects of some interest in the 1930s when the Books of Newfoundland were originally conceived but were ignored in the 1937 volumes - as well as articles on Labrador's potential for hydro-electric and mineral development. Volumes five and six, published in 1975, continued Smallwood's emphasis on Labrador development; they included reminiscences on the "Labrador Revolution" in mining, reprinted articles about Grenfell as well as, for instance, excerpts from the diary of Henry Gordon, an Anglican minister stationed at Cartwright between 1915 and 1925. (4)

Residents of the Island of Newfoundland have regarded travel to Labrador as "going down north to Labrador" (or, more precisely, "the Labrador") rather than the usual geographical convention of regarding north as being "up". To Newfoundlanders the north has almost always been perceived as the Labrador portion of the province. Down north has been regarded alternately as a land of backwardness and poverty and as the Newfoundland "frontier", described by Smallwood in The New Newfoundland (1931) as "Newfoundland's high auxiliary" because of its resource potential. (5)

In 1927 Newfoundlanders' sense of pride in and ownership of Labrador had been greatly enhanced when the British Privy Council defined Newfoundland's territorial jurisdiction over the "Coast of Labrador", which had been a longstanding (if not particularly pressing) dispute with Canada. The Labrador Boundary Dispute highlights the two Newfoundland attitudes towards Labrador. The first was the determination of Newfoundland to retain control of Labrador coastal waters, as an abundant harvest for the annual voyages of fishermen from the Island. The second was the mystique and promise the interior of Labrador held because of its resource potential. For non-Newfoundlanders, however, since the mid-19th century perceptions of Labrador had been drawn from visions largely of adventure and mystery - a virgin territory for explorers as well as religious and medical missionaries.

By and large the history of Labrador has not been explicitly approached by professional historians to 1993. The same can not be said for social scientists, many of whom have been associated with Memorial University of Newfoundland. Much of the work to date is the product of field work by anthropologists, archaeologists, sociologists and geographers in the past 30 years. The scholarly literature to date emphasizes indigenous peoples (the Inuit and the Innu), and how they have related with each other and with external political, economic, social, and cultural forces. Indeed, what anthropologist Evelyn Plaice has noted in her 1990 study of Central Labrador is also true of Labrador history in general - the subject is "complex and extensive, being influenced by events and changes taking place much further afield than Central Labrador, and it has not been exhaustively studied in itself or as part of a more encompassing project." (6) Labradorians see themselves as distinct from residents on the island of Newfoundland and proudly defend this perception.

Physically, the "Newfoundland" part of the Labrador Peninsula is about 154,000 square km in area and extends "due north from Blanc Sablon in Quebec to the 52nd parallel of North latitude and then to extend due west until it takes a meandering course" along the crest of the watershed of the rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean to Cape Chidley. (7) Labrador consists of four regional divisions which roughly correspond to the four provincial electoral districts. The coast of Labrador is bisected by Groswater Bay and Lake Melville (also known as Hamilton Inlet). Central Labrador - the district of Naskaupi - may be taken as comprising the shores of Hamilton Inlet and its drainage basin, historically the hunting and trapping territory of the Innu and the metis "settlers". To the north lies mountainous terrain, the coast deeply indented by a myriad of bays and fiords. The district of Torngat Mountains is inhabited predominantly by Inuit - with an enclave of Innu at Davis Inlet and a fairly substantial settler modulation as well. South of Hamilton Inlet to the Quebec border, the district of Eagle River was the focus (along with Groswater Bay) of the migratory fishery out of Newfoundland home ports and is inhabited chiefly by descendants of fishing families from the British Isles and Newfoundland. The western interior, or Menihek, is largely uninhabited, except for the iron ore mining towns of Labrador City and Wabush and the hydro-electric complex at Churchill Falls. All three communities were established in the 1960s as company towns.

Because of its variety of indigenous peoples, isolation, and the preservative qualities of the northern climate, Labrador has proved fruitful ground for archaeological research. Although much important work was in progress or remained to be undertaken in 1993 archaeologists have made major strides in outlining the rough parameters of Labrador prehistory. Over 5,000 years Labrador has been home to a variety of peoples, including the Palaeo-Indians, the Palaeo-Eskimos, and the Dorset Eskimos, who lived there as late as 2,700 to 1,000 Before Present. By 1400 A.D., when regular European contact was initiated, coastal Labrador was inhabited by the people usually known as Thule Eskimo, whose Inuit descendants are still the main occupants of the coast north of Hamilton Inlet. A good introduction to Labrador prehistory can be found in James Tuck's Newfoundland and Labrador Prehistory (1976). Tuck and Robert McGee have also published articles on the prehistory of the southern Labrador coast in the National Museum of Civilization Mercury Series. Important work on the northern coast has been done by the Smithsonian Institute's William Fitzhugh (see the annual Archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador a publication of the Newfoundland Museum.) Fitzhugh's 1972 study provides a good overview of archaeological work in Labrador from the 1870s.

The Innu - an eastern subgroup of the Cree people formerly known as the Naskapi-Montagnais - have used the land on a migratory basis for over 4,500 years. Studies of the Innu that offer significant Labrador historical background include Georg Henriksen's Hunters in the Barrens (1973), Peter Armitage's The Innu (The Naskapi-Montagnais) (1991), and Marie Wadden's Nitassinan (1991). The Innu have become something of a "hot button" issue in the 1980s and into the 1990s for their prolonged protest to low-level military overflights over their traditional hunting territory. Wadden's recent book looks specifically at the background and events of the Innu protest and land claims. Inuit land use and occupancy has been detailed in Our Footprints are Everywhere (1977), edited by Carol Brice-Bennett and prepared with the help of several anthropologists and historian James Hiller for the Labrador Inuit Association as research for its land claims negotiations.

The first known European contact with Labrador came with Norsemen from Greenland who visited the area about 1000 A.D. to cut wood, but presumably did not establish settlements or regular "stations" (to borrow the Newfoundland usage for seasonally occupied sites). In the late 15th century Basque and Breton fishermen came to Labrador to catch cod and whales. At Red Bay a major whaling station was established, whose existence was rediscovered in the 1970s by Selma Barkham. The Red Bay site was extensively explored in the 1980s by Memorial University archaeologist James Tuck, with federal assistance, and was still being developed in 1993 - a major archaeological and tourist site of recognized international significance. In the 1530s French explorer Jacques Cartier visited the barren southern coast, which he labelled "the land God allotted to Caine" - an epithet that has endured to colour many perceptions of the "Big Land".

Thus began over two centuries of French interest in Labrador for both its fishing and furring potential. Following the end of the Seven Years' war between France and England in 1763, under the Treaty of Paris England received possession of Labrador (and New France) and put the administration of coastal Labrador under the naval governor for Newfoundland. In 1774 England bowed to the demands of Quebec mercantile interests and allowed Quebec to administer Labrador. Because of the problems associated with Americans fishing illegally off the Labrador coast, in 1807 England returned administrative control of Labrador to the Newfoundland naval governors (who since 1774 had been in practice exercising jurisdiction in the area in any case).

British policy towards Labrador in the late 18th century has been explored by professional historians as well as any aspect of Labrador history. In 1934 Gordon Rothney prepared a history masters' thesis for the University of London on Newfoundland and Labrador in the period 1754-1783; he later expanded this research for a doctoral dissertation also completed at London in 1939 on British policy in the North American fisheries from 1775 to 1819. (8) The question of jurisdiction over the Labrador fishery received considerable attention in Harold A. Innis' The Cod Fisheries - the History of an International Economy (1938; revised 1954), which remains indispensable reading on the migratory fishery in Labrador. Historian William Whiteley has written several important articles on early mercantile activities in Labrador. His well-documented work has appeared in the Canadian Historical Review, the Newfoundland Quarterly, Acadiensis, and in a monograph, Duckworth's Newfoundland (1985). These publications examine the changing Imperial policy towards the administration of Labrador between 1763 and 1809. His "Newfoundland, Quebec and the Labrador Merchants" (Newfoundland Quarterly, Dec. 1977) is as good an introduction to the beginnings of the relationship between Newfoundland and Labrador as is available. (9)

To bring Christianity to the Inuit of northern Labrador, in 1771 German Moravians extended their missionary work from Greenland to Labrador establishing stations at Nain, Okak, and Hopedale. During the 19th century five more missions were established along the northern coast with the southernmost Moravian station, Makkovik, being established to serve Moravian settlers in 1896. Their work in time brought the Inuit to live in close proximity of the missions and radically altered their traditional nomadic lifestyle, as well as helping to protect them from extermination in further armed conflict with the Innu and the French. As a consequence it has been observed that the Inuit of Labrador became "unlike other Inuit in Canada or Alaska", becoming, as described by Memorial University anthropologist Robert Paine, "Moravian Eskimos" combining features of German culture with aspects of Inuit traditional beliefs and folkways. (10)

Accounts of the living and social conditions of the Inuit can be found in several publications of the Moravians which detailed their work among the Inuit in Labrador and Greenland. Some studies have appeared only in German and are indispensable guides to any understanding of the German Moravian experience in Labrador.

There is a large body of scholarly literature written about the Moravian experience in northern Labrador, which makes use of a wealth of material. Notable work has been done by anthropologists, whose main concerns have been to understand Inuit culture before the arrival of the German Moravians and how the traditional way of life was impacted by the Moravian missionaries. There are different emphases in Moravian studies - those which concentrate on the Inuit and those which concentrate on the Moravians themselves. As a result study of the Moravians in Labrador is one of the few aspects of Labrador history to have more-or-less developed distinct schools of thought. The "old school" emphasized the Christian achievements of the missions and relied on Moravian and other contemporary accounts; the "new school" grew out of anthropological field work and was largely critical of the Moravians' "disregard" for "heathen" Inuit culture, which had been an intricate and valid response to northern conditions. Other work has drawn on mission records as unique and detailed accounts and has credited the Moravians with substantial achievements, and perhaps with saving the Labrador Inuit from extinction.

The Moravians have left a rich source of information in the form of parish records and station diaries. A recent study of the Moravians notes that "all missionaries were required to report regularly to their superiors and each superintendent of a mission, to the Mission Board in Herrnhut. A great deal of correspondence flowed between the Labrador missions, Herrnhut and London. A monthly journal, Periodical Accounts, with contributions and statistics from all over the Moravian mission field kept missionaries in touch with each other. During its years of publication (1790-1970), it was one of the most widely read missionary journals in the English language... The Mission Board published a similar German-language periodical." (11) Among the major repositories of records dealing with the Labrador Moravians are the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa, Memorial University, the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador at St. John's, and with the Mission Board in Herrnhut, Germany. There is also a considerable library of Moravian publications deposited at McGill University following the closure of several missions along the Labrador coast. Davena Davis has recently written a useful bibliographic article on the McGill collection and its importance to scholars interested in northern Labrador. (12)

Besides looking after the spiritual and medical needs of the Inuit, some Moravians carried out scientific research as Memorial University geographer Alan Macpherson points out in a collection of essays on early scientific developments in Newfoundland and Labrador.(13) As Memorial University historian Gerhard Bassler has noted in a recent publication, the Moravians in the 19th century "collected information about the geography, climate, flora, fauna, and other natural phenomena, thereby enabling scholars in Germany to conduct further scientific studies. With the missionaries help, the renowned entomologist Heinrich Benno Moschler was able to publish from 1848 to 1870 what was the first and today still is one of the most comprehensive classifications of Labrador butterflies. The meterological field work that Prof. K.R. Koch carried out on a visit to the Nain mission station in 1882 constituted Germany's contribution to the international polar year of 1882-83." (14) In the twentieth century English Moravians have added to our general knowledge of Labrador. The Reverend Walter W. Perrett added a great deal to the study of northern natural history and was the subject of a biography by another English Moravian, Samuel King Hutton, (A Shepherd in the Snow (1936)). Other twentieth century recollections of Moravian missionary life include a memoir and several other publications by Hutton, who was a medical missionary in the early years of the twentieth century and by English Moravian F. William Peacock, superintendent of the Labrador mission from 1941 to 1971, especially his memoir, Reflections From a Snowhouse (1986).

From the early 1800s the Labrador fishery became predominantly Newfoundland-based as Newfoundland fishermen from Conception Bay went annually to Labrador to fish because of catch shortages in their own home areas and the pressures of expanding settlement on the Island. An interesting feature of this new fishery was that the merchants of St. John's (in the absence of English mercantile interests, largely occupied by the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars) developed a migratory Labrador fishery that in some respects parallels the earlier West of England/Newfoundland fishery. Developments in the 19th century fishery of Labrador have been explored by Memorial University economic historian Shannon Ryan. Ryan's work examines the Newfoundland economy in general during the 19th century, but his writings do discuss the origins of the Labrador fishery and its overall importance to the Newfoundland economy. Ryan has also contributed to the Canada's Visual History Series, published by the National Museum of Man, with a booklet (and slides) on the "Seal and Labrador Cod Fisheries" of Newfoundland and Labrador. The relationships between one Conception Bay community, Brigus, and the Labrador fishery are explored in a 1988 Memorial University master's thesis by Robert Lewis. In doctoral studies completed at Memorial in 1991, Sean Cadigan has examined the social and economic relationships between 1785 and 1855 between the owners of ships and the fishermen or servants who worked on the ships sent to the Labrador fishery.

Recent scholarly research on Labrador history to 1900 can be found in related entries in the several volumes of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Of particular interest is Volume IV (published in 1979) which contains articles on some of the founders of the Moravian mission in Labrador, early converts among the Inuit and some of the earliest English traders on the Labrador coast (contributions by historians J.K. Hiller and W.H. Whiteley). Volumes of the DCB which have been published subsequently include the geographic index, with Labrador entries listed as a sub-division under Newfoundland. Short biographical articles on historical and contemporary figures can also be found in the Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador Biography (1990), which includes a geographical index by region and by community.

Twentieth century descriptions of daily life at the Labrador fishery can be found in a number of the popular histories and memoirs that are a major component of Newfoundland publishing - although the earliest and best account, Nicholas Smith's Fifty-two Years at the Labrador Fishery (1936), has long been out of print. The history of 20th century whaling activities by Newfoundland merchants in Labrador is discussed in several articles by Anthony Dickinson and Chesley Sanger of Memorial University, a biologist and geographer respectively.

While patterns of settlement have long been a focus of the Geography Department at Memorial, work on Labrador has usually been a sideline to more general studies of historical geography relating to the fishery. Scholarly studies of settlement in Labrador include a 1979 doctoral dissertation and several published articles by Patricia Thornton dealing with settlement in the Strait of Belle Isle area. Several anthropological works, including Zimmerly (1975)15, Kennedy (1981) and Plaice (1990) contain considerable historical information on settlement as background to their analyses of Innu-settler-Inuit relationships. Both Plaice's introductory chapter and Kennedy's "Northern Labrador: an Ethnohistorical Account", (in Paine ed., 1985) are highly readable capsule treatments of the history of settlement in Hamilton Inlet and on the north coast respectively.

In the 1830s a new influence on settlement patterns in Labrador emerged when the Hudson Bay Company established a post at North West River to buy furs from the Innu and settlers. The life of one employee of the company has been chronicled in John McLean's Notes of a Twenty-five Years' Service in the Hudson's Bay Company (1849), one of the earliest publications detailing the Labrador interior. McLean's book, Patrick O'Flaherty, as noted in The Rock Observed: Studies in the Literature of Newfoundland (1979), was a "landmark in the history of exploration and one cause of the aroused scientific curiosity about Labrador" (16) McLean was the first white man to see the Grand (Churchill) Falls, waterfalls Joseph Smallwood described nearly a century later as "one of the wonders of the world" dwarfing Niagara Falls which had about only half the height of the Grand Fall. (17) The life of Donald Smith (later Lord Strathacona and governor of the Hudson Bay Company), who worked for the company from 1848 to 1868 at Rigolet and North West River and greatly expanded the Company's involvement in Labrador, is detailed in a biography by Beckles Willson, The Life of Lord Strathacona and Mount Royal (1915). Most histories of the Hudson's Bay Company do not deal explicitly with the Company's operations in Labrador, although the leading role played by Smith in Hamilton Inlet and later in the direction of the Company has ensured that they have not been totally ignored.

Another major external influence on Labrador was the English medical missionary Dr. Wilfred Grenfell who first arrived on the coast in 1892. Grenfell subsequently established medical stations along the southern coast, at Hamilton Inlet and on the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland to minister to both to local ("livyers") and to fishermen who annually prosecuted the Labrador fishery from schooners and shore stations (known respectively as "floaters" and "stationers"). The literature on Grenfell will be discussed below.

Research carried out by the Newfoundland Government for the Labrador Boundary Dispute provides a rich source of material for those researching Labrador studies in general, not just the boundary dispute itself, as Them Days magazine issues and several anthropological studies (Zimmerly and Plaice are but two examples) illustrate. (18) Newfoundland politician and journalist Patrick T. McGrath devoted several years of his "retirement" to assisting in the preparation of Newfoundland's case for the judicial reference of the dispute to the British Privy Council and was dogged in tracking down a wealth of material that has since been a boon to scholars. This record group is listed as the P.T. McGrath Collection of private papers at the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador, and includes McGrath's extensive correspondence, excerpts from the diaries of Hudson Bay Company posts in Labrador, judicial proceedings from Labrador, Colonial Office and Admiralty records, Moravian settlement and missionary work, extracts of "Grenfell's Log" that appeared periodically in the St. John's press, and affidavits concerning settlement by Newfoundlanders and livyers in Labrador. Some of the materials compiled is available in a published form, as McGrath oversaw its preparation consisting of both printed documents and atlases for the Privy Council hearings.

Newfoundland governing institutions and political representation in the colonial legislature were late incoming to Labrador. (19) With the election in 1946 of a National Convention to select delegates to determine Newfoundland's constitutional future, Labrador was represented for the first time in an elected body. An account of the life of the Labrador delegate, Reverend Lester Burry, is provided in Hector Swain's Lester Leeward Burry. Labrador Pastor & Father of Confederation (1983). Following Newfoundland's confederation with Canada in 1949, Labrador had its own representation in the House of Assembly although the successful candidates until the 1960s were primarily residents from the Island part of the new province, a matter that many Labradorians still feel strongly about. The experiences of the Labrador representative from 1951 to 1956 are described in a chapter of Frederick Rowe's memoir Into the Breach (1988). The political history of Labrador has yet to be fully explored, in part because it is so recent, with a possibly fruitful focus of future studies being the question of Labrador's political alienation from Newfoundland and the New Labrador Party of the early 1970s. The history of aboriginal-government relations in Labrador has been explored in a recent paper by Albert Jones, a Newfoundland government historian whose speciality is the study of provincial native land claims. (20)

Since 1949 Labrador has been subject to an accelerated pace of modernization, dating from the establishment of a major American air base at the head of Hamilton Inlet in 1941. The early days of the Goose Bay base have been chronicled in a compilation of recollections, 'On the Goose' (1987). A brief history of Happy Valley, the civilian community that sprang up next to the base, has been written by a pioneer resident, Alice Perrault. Diplomatic negotiations between Canada, Great Britain and Newfoundland leading to the establishment of the base are detailed in David MacKenzie's Inside the Atlantic Triangle (1986) and Peter Neary's Newfoundland in the North Atlantic World, 1929-1949 (1988). More popular accounts of social relations between the military base personnel and the local civilian population can be found in John Cardoulis' A Friendly Invasion: The American Military in Newfoundland, 1940-1990 (1990) and A Friendly Invasion Il: A Personal Touch (1993).

In the early 1960s two new towns were created in the western interior of Labrador when large iron ore deposits were developed as massive open pit mines. In the late 1960s hydro development finally started at Churchill Falls (previously known as Hamilton Falls and, even earlier, as the Grand Falls). Industrial development led to substantial migration of residents from both Quebec and Newfoundland to work and live in the western interior. The story of the mining town of Labrador City has been told in a corporate history by Richard Geren and Blake McCullogh Cain's Legacy: The Building of Iron Ore Company of Canada (1990). Social and industrial relations in Labrador City have also been subject to a more objective analysis in a 1984 University of Connecticut doctoral thesis by Jacqueline Driscoll. The origins of the town of Churchill Falls are dealt with in Philip Smith's Brinco: The Story of Churchill Falls (1975), a corporate history which provides some insight into the heady days when the industrialization of Labrador was the keystone to a sweeping plan for the economic resurrection of the Province.

One of the inherent dangers in studying Labrador is that the region was subject to so many missionary endeavours and "grand plans" that those who actually lived in Labrador year-round can be easily lost. One of the earliest accounts of life in Labrador is the published journal of George Cartwright, a former English army officer who from 1770 to 1786 traded fish and furs from a base at the mouth of Sandwich Bay (present-day Cartwright). Published in three volumes in 1792, Cartwright's Journal of Transactions and Events, during a Residence of Sixteen years on the Coast of Labrador has been described as the "most famous of all the books written about Labrador". (21) The Journal provides invaluable insights into social customs and work relationships in the early days before English settlement was permanently established in the area.

Descriptions of life in Labrador during the 19th century can found in the annual reports British naval officers wrote for the Newfoundland Government, some of which can be found in the appendices to the Newfoundland Journal of the House of Assembly. Other naval officers wrote of their experiences for a wider public audience. In 1867 British naval officer, William Chimmo, for instance, published an account of his surveying operations along the Labrador coast. In 1989 Memorial University English Professor William Kirwin republished Chimmo's journal and added an index of names and places. The journal describes Chimmo's encounters with the Inuit, missionaries, and other residents of the coast as well as a physical description of the coast. In the town of Hopedale, Chimmo wrote that "since its foundations [Hopedale] approaches to near three generations, comprising not only baptized heathens but these born baptized members grown up in Christian instruction, which they apply specially for and enjoy in winter for in summer they must venture on the gains by which to live." (22)

The best-known account of the daily lives of the settlers is Lydia Campbell's memoir first published in the St. John's Evening Herald newspaper in 1894 and 1895 and reprinted by Them Days magazine as Sketches of Labrador Life in 1980. (23) Campbell was the daughter of a marriage between an Inuk (singular of Inuit) and one of the first European settlers at Hamilton Inlet. Campbell's all-to-brief reminiscences have been frequently anthologized and the subject of a fair degree of attention from both residents and academics in a variety of disciplines. While few memoirs have been written by Labradorians, Campbell's early effort has been a contributing factor in encouraging several settler women to set down reminiscences. Campbell's daughter, Margaret Baikie, has had a brief memoir published by Them Days; Elizabeth Goudie's Woman of Labrador (1973), published at the instigation of anthropologist David Zimmerly, has inspired another generation of Labrador women and yet another Campbell descendent, Grenfell nurse Millicent Blake Loder, had her Daughter of Labrador published in 1989. In addition Doris Saunders, editor of Them Days magazine since 1975, has been active in gathering oral history and genealogical information from settler women. (24) There has also been a book-length biography of one Labrador woman, the Innu elder Peenamin McKenzie (or Penamee), Marcel Mongeau's Mishta Pinamen: Philomene, la Formidable (1981). Women's history in Labrador would appear a rewarding area for further study in the near future.

Contemporary accounts of social and economic conditions in early 20th century Labrador were often undertaken by visitors from Newfoundland and concentrate on the areas of the coast frequented by fishermen from Newfoundland. Wider in scope are the detailed reports written by Newfoundland Governor William MacGregor after visits to Labrador in 1905 and in 1908. (Both were published in the appendices of the Newfoundland Journal of the House of Assembly.) The Newfoundland Government and local churches also sent medical missionaries to Labrador to look after both the spiritual and physical needs of Newfoundland fishermen. One such missionary was Patrick W. Browne, who later taught history at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Browne wrote of his Labrador experiences in a book entitled Where the Fishers Go (1909). He did not "claim for it the title of history; it is merely a little literary fabric woven from facts and experiences, during the leisure moments of a busy ministerial life." (25) Browne provides some useful analysis of social and economic relations between merchant and fishermen as background to understanding the fishermen - and their dependents who risked their lives in travelling to and from Labrador. He also recorded considerable detail on the social and economic conditions of various Labrador coastal communities, the fisheries, the trading activities of the Hudson Bay Company, the Innu and Inuit, Newfoundland missionaries on the coast, Moravian missionaries, and Dr. Wilfred Grenfell.

Both MacGregor and Browne, in part, took their interest in Labrador because of the heightened profile caused by the activities of Dr. Grenfell. (Although both were also attracted by Labrador for personal reasons - Browne was the son of a Labrador skipper and MacGregor was himself a physician, with a special interest in the treatment of tuberculosis.) The only comprehensive history of Labrador to date was inspired more directly by Grenfell. St. John's merchant William Gilbert Gosling had long been interested in Newfoundland history and in the early 1900s, along with Daniel Prowse, had helped to revive the Newfoundland Historical Society. His interest in Labrador was prompted by a personal friendship with Grenfell. Gosling's wife later recalled that "Gilbert had felt a growing interest in Labrador for some time which was stimulated by Dr. Grenfell's splendid missionary work there, and his descriptions of his adventures along that bleak and barren coast." (26) As he wrote in his preface to Labrador (1910), Gosling had commenced his book at the suggestion of his friend and had "long been collecting books relating to the history of Newfoundland, and fondly imagined that I had the few chapters that would contain all that was known about Labrador." Initially, Gosling had only intended to write a chapter on Labrador history for a book that Grenfell was editing for publication. However, his researches took him to the relevant government records in British and Canadian archives, as well as to the Newfoundland Government records. Among the major subjects discussed in his history are the origins of European contacts with Labrador, 18th century French interests in Labrador, the Moravian missions, George Cartwright's trading activities, American fishing interests, the Newfoundland Labrador fishery, the Newfoundland-Labrador boundary dispute, and (of course) Dr. Wilfred Grenfell. Gosling's research later played an important role in helping Newfoundland formulate its arguments in the preparation of its case in the dispute with Canada over the ownership of Labrador. His wife later wrote a book about the work of the International Grenfell Association, but in finding the Grenfell Mission a worthy subject Armine Gosling was far from being alone.

In The Rock Observed Patrick O'Flaherty observed that in the second half of the 19th century "Newfoundland and Labrador became an object of scientific, romantic, and humanitarian interest among foreign writers". (27) Many of these later published their findings and observations - A.S. Packard, The Labrador Coast (1891); University of Toronto Professor of Chemistry and Botany H.Y. Hind, Explorations in the Interior of the Labrador Peninsula 2 vols (1863); W.A. Stearns, Labrador: a Sketch of its Peoples, its Industries and its Natural History (1884); Randle F. Holme, A Journal to the Interior of Labrador; July to October 1887 (1888); Henry G. Bryant, A Journey to the Grand Falls of Labrador (1892) and Canadian geological surveyor A.P. Low's Report on Explorations of the Labrador Peninsula (1896). The Rock Observed is a necessary introduction to these published accounts of Labrador. Another highly readable study of this literature which provides some excerpts on Labrador is Gordon Moyles' 'Complaints is many and various, but the odd Divil likes it'. Nineteenth Century Views of Newfoundland (1975).

Adventurers and scientists had still only roughed out the map of Labrador by the beginning of the twentieth century. Indeed, it was partly over-reliance on Low's map that led explorer Leonidas Hubbard to his death in 1903. Hubbard's companion, Dillon Wallace, later published an account of the expedition, The Lure of the Labrador Wild (1905), which became a best-seller. Hubbard's wife and Wallace later completed the journey overland from Hamilton Inlet to Ungava Bay in separate (but simultaneous) journeys in 1905. Neither Mina Hubbard's, A Women's Way Through Unknown Labrador (1908) nor Wallace's The Long Labrador Trail (1907) mentions the other expedition. (28) J.W. Davidson and John Rugge's, Great Heart (1988) - an account of all three expeditions - employs considerable literary license in combining the three above-named accounts, but is nonetheless laudably accurate.

The public's fascination with Labrador was further encouraged by the medical missionary work of Grenfell, who from the 1890s actively promoted his work and wrote widely on Labrador. In 1909 he edited a book entitled Labrador: the County and the People - which provided the original impetus for Gosling's Labrador. Grenfell lectured extensively throughout North America and Great Britain making the social, economic and medical problems of the Labrador well-known to a sympathetic public. His writings dealt with his exploits and activities in Labrador, all part of his strategy to generate publicity and funds for his medical mission.

Ronald Rompkey of Memorial's English Department, which has a strong tradition in the writing of Newfoundland cultural history, has recently published a thorough and first-rate biographical treatment of Grenfell. His Grenfell of Labrador (1991) draws upon previously unused archival sources in portraying the society and culture to which Grenfell was first drawn in 1892 and which he loyally served for nearly 50 years. There is a rich collection of private manuscripts belonging to Grenfell and his associates available in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. Indeed, Rompkey's bibliography of published and unpublished sources stands as an indispensable guide for anyone interested in studying early 20th century Labrador. It also contains a listing of Grenfell's published books and articles. Extensive records of the International Grenfell Association, set up by Grenfell to administer to the medical needs of local residents, are available at the Provincial Archives in St. John's. (29)

In addition to his own substantial body of writings, Grenfell also had his admirers, who wrote about him and Labrador (usually in that order) in an astounding variety of publications. (30) The previously mentioned book by Patrick W. Browne and Patrick T. McGrath's Newfoundland in 1911 included praiseworthy sections on Grenfell. Canadian journalist and novelist Norman Duncan in the early l900s wrote Doctor Luke of Labrador (1904) and Dr. Grenfell's Parish (1905) as tributes to Grenfell. (31) Another admirer was Elliott Merrick who went to Labrador as a volunteer worker for the Grenfell Association and later wrote several books on Labrador, including True North (1933) and Northern Nurse (1942). The first book is an account of Merrick and his wife's trip to the interior, while the latter is an "autobiography" of his wife, a Grenfell Association nurse. Merrick's short fiction has been published in a 1992 collection, The Long Crossing and other Labrador Tales, with an introduction by Ronald Rompkey. Rompkey is currently editing for publication the journal and photographs of British doctor and archaeologist Eliot Curwen, who accompanied Wilfred Grenfell to Labrador in 1893. Gilbert Gosling's wife, Armine, in 1924 published an account of the International Grenfell Association and the amount of journalism on Dr. Grenfell is quite overwhelming. Beginning in 1903 the International Grenfell Association produced its own magazine Among the Deep Sea Fishers which also contains general articles about Labrador. Patricia O'Brien's The Grenfell Obsession (1992), a recent anthology of previously published articles and photographs, richly documents the history of both Grenfell and the Association in honour of the centenary in 1992 of Grenfell's first visit to Labrador.

Finnish Geographer Vaino Tanner's study of Labrador contains a wealth of information. His Outlines of the Geography, Life and Customs of Newfoundland-Labrador (1944) may have originally been intended to be of primary interest to geographers, but travel in Labrador in the late 1930s was (and remains to some extent) quite an involved process. Like many other social scientists that came after him, Tanner spent so much time in the company of Labrador residents simply getting from point A to point B that his work contains the perhaps unexpected bonus of quite perceptive observations about the people and their daily lives. Tanner collected enough varied information to make his work an indispensable source for understanding Labrador in the 1930s.

The indigenous peoples of Labrador have also been studied by geographers and anthropologists at McGill University in Montreal. (32) In 1965 Diamond Jenness published the third study in a series he had completed for the Canadian Government on Eskimo administration in the North American Arctic, the first two being examinations of Alaska (1962) and the Canadian Arctic (1964). Jenness divided his study into three administrative periods: Moravian rule 1771-1914; 1914-1949 when Moravian influence gave way to that of the Newfoundland Government and the Hudson Bay Company; and the post-1949 period under Confederation with Canada. A good introduction to the history of the region, Jenness' study is a sympathetic examination of the Moravian record and their efforts to protect the Inuit from the excesses of the white man's culture. Another invaluable study of the Inuit appeared in 1966, Helge Klievan's The Eskimos of Northeast Labrador: A History of Eskimo-White Relations.

The Jenness and Klievan studies coincided with Memorial University's growing interest in the indigenous cultures of Labrador. Following the establishment in 1961 of the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at Memorial University, the University became involved in the study of the Inuit. In 1962 one of ISER's first research fellows, Shmuel Ben-Dor lived in Makkovik for a year to examine Inuit-settler relations. In the late 1950s Inuit from Hebron and Nutak, where the Moravians had closed mission stations, were resettled to Makkovik. Ben-Dor found that their "two cultures co-exist with very little interaction except for that caused by an overarching administrative structure." (33)

His conclusion that "there is little doubt that the settler mode will eventually triumph in Northern Labrador although it is impossible to predict how and when," (34) provided the opportunity for ISER research fellow John Kennedy to re-examine Makkovik's ethnic relations a decade later. Kennedy's research showed that the Inuit culture had resisted assimilation by settler culture and was strong enough to remain distinct. (35)

In 1965 British anthropologist Robert Paine came to Memorial and launched ISER on an ambitious study of the Canadian Arctic. ISER Director Paine had previously taught at the University of Bergen, where he studied the Sammi (Lapps) of northern Norway. ISER also sponsored graduate work by historian James Hiller, who completed a 1967 master's thesis on the origins and early years of the Moravian missionaries in Labrador from 1752 to 1805. In 1968 ISER received a major research grant from the Isaak Walton Killam Awards to study the East Arctic. The grant enabled research already in progress to be concluded (for instance, Henriksen's study of the Naskapi) and for new studies to be undertaken on the Northwest Territories and Baffin Island. (36)

Growing disenchantment with the provincial political process in Labrador (and the electoral success of the New Labrador Party) convinced the new Provincial government in October 1972 to appoint a Royal Commission of Inquiry to examine the "economic and sociological conditions of life in Labrador" (see William A. Fowler, "The Growth of Political Conscience in Labrador." Newfoundland Quarterly (1976)). The Commission was chaired by Donald Snowden, Director of Extension at Memorial University and previously employed with the federal Department of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources from 1956 to 1964. Snowden's collection of personal notebooks dealing with the work of this Commission are on deposit at the National Archives of Canada (as collection MG 31, D 163). The six-volume report released in 1974 contains much information on the social services, natural resources, government services, and peoples of Labrador.

Along with the work carried out by ISER, in 1979 Memorial University's interest in academic studies on Labrador was further enhanced through the establishment of the Labrador Institute for Northern Studies. Its mandate is to encourage, coordinate and support major University projects or programmes designed to enhance the general knowledge of Labrador and to promote the general well-being of its people.

The flowering of scholarly interest in Labrador in the early 1970s, as well as a growing political consciousness, contributed to a growing interest in preserving accounts of a vanishing way of life in Labrador. In 1973 the Labrador Heritage Society was founded and two years later the Society sponsored a booklet collecting Labrador oral history, edited by Doris Saunders. Them Days has since become a quarterly magazine and nothing less than a Labrador institution. The interviews, genealogical information, reprints and documents published by Them Days have helped to shape the consciousness of Labradorians (the majority of whom by the 1970s were "newcomers" from Newfoundland and elsewhere) and impressed on many the necessity of writing their own history. Particularly well-represented in Them Days have been the settlers, while other groups (perhaps with the notable exception of the Innu) have also contributed a wealth of material to the magazine. Another important collection of "the people's history", backed by the federal government and published by the Labrador Institute of Northern Studies, is Lawrence Jackson ed., Bounty of a Barren Coast (1982). With the growth of local (Newfoundland) publishing and encouraged by the popularity of Them Days - several memoirs by Labradorians have also appeared since the mid-1980s, including Horace Goudie Trails to Remember (1991), Millicent Blake Loder's Daughter of Labrador (1989), Harold Paddon's Green Woods, Blue Waters (1989), W. Anthony Paddon's Labrador Doctor (1989), George Poole's A Lifetime Listening to the Waves (1988), and Benjamin Powell's Labrador by Choice (1984).

The writing of their own history by the "real Labradorians" has also had an impact on a "second wave" of social sciences research, concentrating on relationships between ethnic groups and the impact of modernization, rather than chronicling traditional ways of life. The increasingly touchy subject of ethnic politics and land claims in Labrador, as well as some of the recent trends in Labrador studies, are illuminated by John C. Kennedy's article "The Changing significance of Labrador settler ethnicity" (Canadian Ethnic Studies vol. 20, 1988).

Despite the rich sources available, in terms of a historical survey there is still no substitute for Gosling's Labrador, published nearly a century ago. Despite the number of scholars working in the field (or on its periphery) there is no published comprehensive history of the Moravian missionary experience in Labrador. Nor is there any extensive analysis of the work of the Hudson Bay Company in Labrador. Studies of economic and social relations by professional historians at Memorial University of Labrador history at the community level are just beginning to emerge; in an examination of Battle Harbour sponsored by the Labrador Institute of Northern Studies, Sean Cadigan has examined how the credit system worked between fisherman and merchant and how the decline of that system by the late 1920s led to the rise of government relief after 1929. (37) Historian Gerhard Bassler is exploring the German cultural record among the Inuit in the 19th and early 20th centuries. James Hiller is writing a monograph on the establishment and early years of the Moravian mission in Labrador from 1752 to 1805. Other historical researchers are active in other academic disciplines at the university. Religious Studies professor Hans Rollmann of Memorial University is preparing a biographical dictionary of all Moravian missionaries from 1752 to the present. He is also preparing a monograph on the 1752 voyage of exploration by Moravians to Labrador, which resulted in the death of Johan Christian Erhardt and several of his crew. The monograph will include a translation of Erhardt's diary and other relevant documents dealing with the voyage. Marcella Rollmann (Department of German and Russian Language and Literature) is examining language and communication in the early Moravian missions to Labrador. (38)

Memorial anthropologist John Kennedy, one of the most active scholars in Labrador studies, is also working on a book-length study of southeastern Labrador (Chateau to Sandwich Bay). Individual community histories can also be found in the published volumes of the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador. Much of the latest scholarly research on Labrador has been incorporated in a number of survey articles in volume three of the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador (1991). Major articles on Labrador issues in the volume include "Hudson's Bay Company", "Innu" by Adrian Tanner, "Inuit" by John Kennedy, a historical survey ("Labrador"), "Labrador Boundary Dispute" by Leslie Harris, "Labrador Fishery", and "Moravian Church" by Davena Davis.

There are several useful published bibliographies on Labrador literature. In addition to those already cited in the works of Prowse and Tanner, for instance, there are Alan Cooke and Fabien Caron's two-volume 1968 publication Bibliography of the Quebec-Labrador Peninsula and Agnes O'Dea and Anne Alexander's Bibliography of Newfoundland published in 1986, the latter being the definitive bibliography on Newfoundland and Labrador. Anyone interested in researching Labrador archival sources should begin with Richard Budgel's A Survey of Labrador Material in Newfoundland & Labrador Archives completed in 1985 for the Labrador Institute of Northern Studies. Budgel's guide is organized according to the holdings of the province's major archival repositories, which also have inventories to their general holdings. The archives of Them Days located in Happy Valley contain considerable material on Labrador, including diaries, photographs, private papers, and oral interviews collected in the last 15 years.


1. Peter Neary, "The Writing of Newfoundland History: An Introductory Survey." In James Hiller and Peter Neary, eds. Newfoundland in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: essays in interpretation Toronto 1980, 3.

2. Frederick W. Rowe, A History of Newfoundland and Labrador Toronto 1980, 465.

3. See, for instance, Joseph Hatton and Moses Harvey, Newfoundland London 1883, and Patrick T. McGrath, Newfoundland in 1911. London 1911.

4. Joseph R. Smallwood, ed. The Book of Newfoundland. 6 vols., St. John's 1937-75. In 1972 Gordon's journal of his ministry in Labrador, from 1915 to 1925, was published by the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador. See Henry Gordon. The Labrador Parson. Journal of the Reverend Henry Gordon. Ed. by F. Burnham Gill, St. John's 1972. Gordon's journal includes information on the Spanish influenza epidemic which affected the Labrador coast in 1918; that epidemic is also discussed in Eileen Pettigrew's The Silent Enemy: Canada and the Deadly Flu of 1918 (1983). The March 1986 issue of Them Days magazine is devoted to the town of Okak and the effects of the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918. At Okak only 59 people out of a population of 220 survived the epidemic.

5. Joseph R. Smallwood, The New Newfoundland New York 1931, 126.

6. Evelyn Plaice. The Native Game. Settler Perceptions of Indian/Settler Relations in Central Labrador. St. John's 1990, 11.

7. The historical description that follows is from the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador Vol. 3, St. John's 1991, 203-16.

8. Gordon O. Rothney, "The History of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1754-1783." Unpublished M.A. thesis, University of London, 1934, and 'British Policy in the North American cod-fisheries, with special reference to foreign competition, 1775-1819.' Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1939.

9. Whiteley's uncle, Albert Whiteley, has written of his family's historic business connections on the Quebec Lower Shore and with Labrador and Newfoundland in a book published in 1977 on Bonne Esperance. See Albert S. Whiteley, A Century in Bonne Esperance. The Saga of the Whiteley Family Ottawa 1977. Newfoundland connections to the Lower North Shore are also examined in Frank W. Remiggi, "Ethnic Diversity and Settler Location on the Eastern Lower North Shore of Quebec." In John J. Mannion's The Peopling of Newfoundland. Essays in Historical Geography, St. John's 1977, 184-211.

1O. Sandra Gwyn, "Labrador on the brink of the future. Fresh voices in the land God gave to Cain." Saturday Night vol. 93, no. 10 (December 1978):18.

11. Davena Davis, "Moravian Church." Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, vol. 3, St. John's 1991, 611.

12. Davena Davis, "The Gardens of the Lord: A Description of the Moravian Church in Labrador, and the Lande Collection, entitled `The Moravian Missions to the Eskimos of Labrador'" Fontanus vol II (1989):27-36.

13. Alan Macpherson, "Early Moravian Interest in Northern Labrador Weather and Climate: The Beginning of Instrumental Recording in Newfoundland". In Donald H. Steele, ed. Early Science in Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's 1987, 30-41.

14. Gerhard Bassler, The German Canadian Mosaic Today and Yesterday: Identities, Roots, and Heritage. Ottawa 1991, 145.

15. David W. Zimmerly, Cain's Land Revisited: Cultural Change in Central Labrador, 1775-1972 St. John's 1965.

16. Patrick O'Flaherty, The Rock Observed: Studies in the Literature of Newfoundland. Toronto 1979, 103.

17. Smallwood, The New Newfoundland, 130.

18.The material collected in the 1920s by Patrick T. McGrath for the Newfoundland Government was inventoried by Melvin Baker in 1973 for the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador. An inventory of approximately 200 pages in length is available at the Archives in Manuscript Record Group P4/17.

20. Albert Jones, "Emergence of Aboriginal-government Relations in Newfoundland and Labrador," in John D. Jacobs and William A. Montevecchi, eds., Common Ground: Northern Peoples and the Environment ISER Conference Papers No. 4, St. John's 1993, 57-72.

21. George M. Story, "Old Labrador: George Cartwright, 1738-1819." Newfoundland Quarterly 77 (1981), 25.

22. William Chimmo, William Chimmo's Journal of a Voyage to the N.E. Coast of Labrador during the Year 1867. Ed. by William J. Kirwin. St. John's 1989, 47-8.

23. Roberta Buchanan, "'Country Ways and Fashions': Lydia Campbell's "Sketches of Labrador Life", A Study in Folklore and Literature." In Gerald Thomas and J.D.A. Widdowson, eds. Studies in Newfoundland Folklore: Community and Process St. John's 1991, 290. Campbell had been encouraged to write her memoirs by the Reverend Arthur Waghorne, an Anglican missionary stationed in Labrador from 1891 to 1894. Waghorne was also interested in Labrador folklore and published two articles on Newfoundland and Labrador folklore customs and traditions.

24. Elizabeth Goudie's husband was, in fact, also a descendent of Campbell. One of the pleasures of studying Labrador at the community level is that, historically, the population has been so small (less than 5000 people at the time of Confederation in 1949) that individuals stand out and that the researcher frequently will find that interesting figures are related, or mentioned in each other's writings.

25. Patrick W. Browne, Where the Fishers Go, the Story of Labrador. Halifax 1909, viii.

26. Armine Gosling, William Gilbert Gosling, a Tribute by A.N.G. New York c1935, 49.

27. O'Flaherty, The Rock Observed, 82.

28. Ibid., 102-110 for a detailed examination of these travel writers attracted by the "Lure of the North."

29. Ronald Rompkey, Grenfell of Labrador, A Biography Toronto 1991, 165.

30. Ibid., 110-112, 203.

31. O'Flaherty, The Rock Observed 95-102. See also John Coldwell Adams, ed. Selected Stories of Norman Duncan Ottawa 1988, and Elizabeth Miller, 'Norman Duncan: A Critical Biography.' Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Memorial University, 1987.

32. See, for instance, A. Prince Dyke's "Population Distribution and Movement in Coastal Labrador, 1950-1966", M.A. thesis, McGill University, 1968.

33. Shmuel Ben-Dor, Makkovik: Eskimos and Settlers in a Labrador Community St. John's 1966, 3.

34. Ibid., 192.

35. John C. Kennedy, Holding the Line: Ethnic Boundaries in a Northern Labrador Community. St. John's 1981, 133-134.

36. Institute of Social and Economic Research Report, 1965-1971, 18-23.

37. Sean Cadigan, "Battle Harbour in Transition: Merchants, Fishermen, and the State in the Struggle for Relief in a Labrador Community during the 1930s." Labour/Le Travail 26 (1990):125-50.

38. Memorial University Gazette vol. 26, no. 3 (September 23, 1993) 7.