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 Research Spotlight: Olaf Janzen

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Research Spotlight 
Name: Olaf Janzen
 
Occupation: Historian
 
Before Grenfell:
B.A. (Hons.), McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario); M.A., Ph.D. Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario)
 
Accomplishment:
My research efforts have received generous support in the form of grants from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) as well as Memorial University of Newfoundland. I have also received grants to support the presentation of my research at scholarly conferences in Canada and Europe, including the organization of a ‘C’ Session at the International Congress of Economic History in Madrid in 1998, where eight academics joined me in preparing papers on maritime trade in the North Atlantic during the eighteenth century. Finally, I am proud of my more than ten years’ service as Book Review Editor for two academic journals (The Northern Mariner from its inception in 1991 until 1999, and the International Journal of Maritime History since 2000).
 
Honours:
Elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
 
 Codroy  Saint Jean
 Codroy Island from Cape Anguille St. Jean de Luz, France 
 
Revealing the history of Western Newfoundland
 
The focus of my research has always been eighteenth-century Newfoundland. Even before I arrived at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in 1980, my dissertation research led me into an examination of the role Newfoundland and its people played in Great Britain’s military and naval response to the American Revolution between 1775 and 1783. My first few publications were largely derived from this research, but not long after arriving in Corner Brook, I became interested in the early history of this part of Newfoundland. I was especially intrigued by how little we knew about French activity here; my thesis research had already revealed to me that Newfoundland historians have largely depended on British archival sources, and that they were much less familiar with French sources or even with the substantial output on Newfoundland’s early history by French historians. I therefore began to investigate the history of settlement in southwestern Newfoundland (at Codroy, Cape Ray and Port aux Basques) in the 1720s, ‘30s and ‘40s. This drew me into studying the wider picture of the French experience in Newfoundland generally and took me to southwestern France during a research leave to study the French Basque fishery based in ports like Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Bayonne, and which came to Western Newfoundland during the eighteenth century to fish. This also drew me into a diversity of other research projects, from Mi’kmaq settlement in Newfoundland to piracy and privateering in eighteenth-century Newfoundland to attempts by Scottish merchants to break into the Newfoundland trade in the 1720s. All of this, together with courses that I had begun to teach by then on Newfoundland history, also necessitated a better understanding of the literature on early Newfoundland history. This led not only to a well-received chapter on "Newfoundland and the International Fishery" in Canadian History: A Reader's Guide. Vol. I: Beginnings to Confederation (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994), ed. M. Brook Taylor but also to the decision to publish an expanded version of that chapter on the Internet. In this way, my personal research interests and efforts have been made accessible (and I hope beneficial) to the public.
 
These research interests have led to more than two dozen papers presented at regional, national and international conferences as well as a similar number of publications. Though my recent appointment as Head of the Division of Arts has forced me to curtail my research activities somewhat, I continue to engage in research when I can.
 
Contact Information:
Olaf U. Janzen
Division of Arts – Historical Studies
Grenfell Campus Memorial University
Corner Brook, NF
A2H 6P9
Tel: 709-637-6282
Email: olaf@grenfell.mun.ca

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