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The first Europeans known to have reached the North American coast were Vikings, mainly from Norway. In 982, Erik the Red discovered Greenland and the Vikings established several settlements there. From there, a few years later, they reached the coast of North America. One of the settlements founded was L'Anse aux Meadows on present-day Newfoundland.

These settlements were of rather short duration and until the voyages of discovery of Christopher Columbus, the knowledge in Europe about the New World had disappeared, or was only known in a few legends. In 1497 John Cabot probably rediscovered Newfoundland. By order of King Henry VII he sailed west on the Matthew with eighteen men to find a sailing route to Asia. In Newfoundland he found traces of people, but he did not meet any Indians. England was unable to colonise the area at the time, while the Spanish and Portuguese were concentrating on more southerly regions. It would be another 75 years before Europeans settled permanently,[2] and it would be late in the eighteenth century before significant settlements arose in what is now Newfoundland and Labrador. Shortly after Cabot's discovery, however, fishermen began to exploit the fish-rich waters off Newfoundland. Meanwhile, the area and the waters around it were explored by explorers such as Giovanni da Verrazano and Jacques Cartier.

After the French defeat in the French and Indian War in 1763, the area was slowly but surely explored more and more by the British. From the 1830s the Labrador hinterland was explored and mapped. Newfoundland was not first explored on foot until 1822 and was not fully mapped until the second half of the 19th.

For a long time after Canada was formed in 1867, Newfoundland remained an English colony. In 1854, the area gained internal self-government. In 1869, the population rejected union with Canada in a referendum. In 1907, the colony became a dominion of the British Empire and in 1934, Newfoundland voluntarily gave up self-government and came under direct control of London again. After two referendums in 1948, a very small majority of Newfoundlanders agreed to unify and Newfoundland joined the Confederacy as the tenth province on 31 March 1949, under the name "Newfoundland". In 2001, the name of the province was officially changed to "Newfoundland and Labrador".

See also the history of Canada.


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Last updated May 2024
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