|Winslow Homer, |
Three Boys in a Dory with Lobster Pots (1875)
The matter of French claims in Newfoundland probably caused more acrimony and outcry among the professionals and businessmen who dominated the Newfoundland legislature in the later nineteenth century than any other single issue. Most historians of the ‘French Shore problem’ have followed Fred Thompson's lead in analysing the history of the French shore by focusing on high-ranking diplomats and the colonial elite. They have also tended to view the conflict as involving primarily three groups: the French and British diplomatic corps and the Newfoundland mercantile and political elite. Using a well-known late nineteenth-century dispute over the lobster fishery as a case study, this paper reconsiders the history of the French Shore by drawing on reports about conditions on the Treaty Shore and on methodological and theoretical insights that have emerged since Thompson published his pioneering work in 1961. It argues that a wider array of groups exerted significant influence in how the controversy over lobster on Newfoundland's west coast in the late nineteenth century played out. Viewing the controversy from the perspective of these groups reveals the extent to which those outside of formal policy circles influenced the shape and viability of official agreements.