Discovery of Rare Document Related to Newfoundland History

27 08 2009

Today’s National Post contains a story about the curious case of a document dating from 1499 that relates to an early English voyage to Newfoundland.  (See also the Daily Mail and the BBC). The document is noteworthy because it is the oldest extant document containing the phrase “new found land” to describe the territory discovered a few years earlier by Columbus.

I don’t think that this document will revolutionize our understanding of early English exploration and settlement in Newfoundland, but it’s an interesting find. Kudos to Dr Evan Jones of the University of Bristol. The document was discovered in an archive in the 1970s but has not come to light until now for complicated reasons described in the NP story.Perhaps the most interesting twist to this story relates to the researchers themselves. At the time of her death in 2005, Dr Alwyn Ruddock (see here and here) was writing a book that promised to change our understanding of John Cabot. For reasons that are unclear, Dr Ruddock ordered the executor of her estate to destroy the book and her research notes. It seems that Evan Jones had been able to use third-party sources to recontruct some of the evidence that Dr Ruddock was planning to use.

Jones’s research on this topic was original published in 2007. I’m left wondering why the media has latched onto it right now.  Slow news day, perhaps? Still, I’m glad that historical research is attracting the attention of the public.



2 responses

17 09 2009

This just shows that there are so many possibilities on the theory of who discovered our land. Maybe all we know about is what was documented, but maybe there was undocumented landings that took place. Who knows, but this “New….found…” could have really been a title for any land that was NEW to any explorer from Europe. Nevertheless, it is still interesting that in today’s society, we can still debate about; and find new evidence, of explorers coming here 600 years ago. This is the fascinating thing about History. I love it!


17 09 2009

Good point about the possibility of “New….found…” denoting any newly discovered territory.

Glad you like history!

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