Exploring Atlantic Transitions: Archaeologies of Transience and Permanence in New Found Lands.
In the preface to Exploring Atlantic Transitions: Archaeologies of Transience and Permanence in New Found Lands, Peter Pope observes that post-medieval archaeologists are no longer wedded to interpreting artifacts of European origin found in North American sites as indicative of "embryonic colonies." This reconceptualization of Europeans' objectives overseas engenders new ways of understanding archeological artifacts in time and place. Sarah Newstead, for example, shows that Portuguese redware constituted 13-24% of all pottery sherds found at sites of English occupation in Newfoundland, with higher percentages at sites of seasonal occupation and lower at sites of colonial settlement. The length of residence in Newfoundland influenced transatlantic connections and consumption patterns. This rich collection of thirty-one essays originated with the 2010 meeting of the Society of Post-Medieval Archaeology held at Memorial University to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Cupid's Cove, Newfoundland, the first permanent English settlement in what became Canada. Although topics range from late tenth-century Russia settlement north of Novgorod to the environmental impact of forest clearance in nineteenth-century British Columbia, two-thirds of all the articles are about areas of eastern Canada, and all are conceptually relevant to understanding the movement of people and goods in the early modem Atlantic world and how Europeans projected power.
This collection is particularly important for the way it highlights the diversity of economic enterprises and ethnic groups across the entire North Atlantic world and offers new perspectives on relations among trade, resource extraction, and colonization. The earliest era covered is the late Middle Ages, when Europeans pushed northward within Europe. The essays by Mark Brisbane, David Gaimster, and Natascha Mehler and Mark
Gardiner challenge us to consider the social and political impulses driving commercial and settlement expansion to remote places, the agents behind expansion, and its relevance for how Europeans projected control into the Americas. In a provocative essay, Peter Pope asks why in the early seventeenth century there was an efflorescence of settlement activity in the northern parts of North America. He suggests that a consumer revolution among the English and Dutch made utilitarian household items affordable for people of middling means, a "suite of innovations" that included metal and ceramic utensils and containers, and knitted woolen clothing. These commodities, Pope argues, made overwintering in North America more viable. In an evocative essay on the commodities exported from Portugal to Newfoundland in the seventeenth century, Tania Manuel Casimiro provides evidence of foods, such as olives, chestnuts and almonds, raisins and prunes, oranges and lemons that would have provided critical nutritional supplements to the diets of both seasonal labourers and overwinterers. Indeed, those food items probably helped to check the scurvy that Steven Pendery and Hannah Koon describe as such a scourge on early attempts at colonization.
The combination of essays results in a repeated contextualization of early settlements in Newfoundland with activities elsewhere in the Atlantic world. Four essays address the Calverts and their legacies in Newfoundland, Maryland, and Ireland. In an important qualification regarding the argument that English settlement in Ireland was a precursor to English settlement in North America, James Lyttleton notes that the development of the Calverts' estate in Ireland postdated their settlements in Newfoundland and Maryland, and that Ireland was a less traumatizing environment. James Tuck, in a delightful essay on "Ferryland's First Settlers (and a Dog Story)," analyzes the considerable investments the Calverts made at Ferryland and their path-breaking commitment to religious toleration in North America. Significantly their difficult relations with migratory fishermen may have contributed as much to their decision to abandon Ferryland and relocate to the Chesapeake as did the harsh winters. Among the beneficiaries of the Calverts' Ferryland investments was the Kirke family. Through an archaeological analysis of the reorientation of buildings and the construction of new ones, Barry Gaulton shows that the Kirkes transformed Ferryland into a commercial entrepot, which it remained until it was destroyed by the French from Canada in 1696. Further north on the Avalon Peninsula, Cupids' destruction in 1697 disrupted nearly a century of continuous settlement. William Gilbert notes that this challenges the notion of the failure of early seventeenth-century settlements. When the English resettled Cupids beginning in 1698, the site was closer to the water, one better suited to a reliance on fishing.
The last group of five essays is on the "Inuit and Europeans in Labrador," a valuable part of this volume. The first essay provides a useful overview of scholarship on the settlement of Thule in the eastern Arctic that now places their arrival in the thirteenth century, after the Norse had settled Greenland. Indeed, knowledge of the availability of iron from the Greenland Norse may help to explain the eastward migration of the Thule that started in Alaska. Archaeological evidence places the Thule arrival in northern Labrador in the late fifteenth century and then over the next two centuries they moved down the coast. Peter Ramsden and Lisa Rankin conclude that "while the Europeans came to Labrador in search of new resources, the Inuit came in search of new Europeans" (p. 307). Violence between the Inuit of Labrador and Europeans was episodic between the early sixteenth century and the late 1760s, when Governor Hugh Palliser negotiated a treaty of friendship with the Inuit which contributed to its abatement, as detailed in an essay by Greg Mitchell. Essays, by Lisa Rankin and Eliza Brandy analyze Inuit settlements at Sandwich Bay and Snooks Cove, respectively, while another essay by Amelia Fay, reconstructs details of the life of Mikak, an Inuit woman who traded and negotiated with the British in the late eighteenth century, and was instrumental in the Moravians establishing their first mission at Nain.
The diversity of topics about the North Atlantic makes this volume one that all historians of early Canada or the Atlantic world should consult. Were it available in paperback, it would be suitable for course adoption for upper level and graduate courses. It is among the most useful and evocative books for conveying the complexity of activities in the North Atlantic, for seeing how cisatlantic activities in the late Middle Ages became transatlantic ties in the early modern era, and for linking developments in the North Atlantic with those in the North Pacific as Thule moved eastward.
Elizabeth Mancke, University of New Brunswick
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|Publication:||Canadian Journal of History|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2015|
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