Between History and Tomorrow: Making and Breaking Everyday Life in Rural Newfoundland


344 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55111-517-4
DDC 306'.09718





Reviewed by Melvin Baker

Melvin Baker is an archivist and historian at Memorial University of
Newfoundland, and the co-editor of Dictionary of Newfoundland and
Labrador Biography.


Gerald Sider, a professor of anthropology at the College of Staten
Island and the City University of New York, has done fieldwork in
Newfoundland and Labrador since 1972. His controversial 1986 book,
Culture and Class in Anthropology and History: A Newfoundland
Illustration, argued that control of the state and the economy by local
fish merchants historically kept fishers in a perpetual state of poverty
and servitude. His analyses provoked considerable debate and reaction
among professional scholars, in particular at Memorial University of
Newfoundland. A roundtable discussion on the book, published in the Fall
1987 issue of Memorial’s academic journal Newfoundland Studies,
criticized Sider’s misunderstanding of local history and the use of
historical evidence to support his arguments. Other historians followed
suit with similar criticisms.

Between History and Tomorrow is a reissue of Culture and Class, with a
prologue detailing the social and economic changes in rural Newfoundland
of the 1990s. Sider examines sympathetically the impact of the 1992 cod
moratorium on fishing communities in northeastern Newfoundland on the
Bonavista Peninsula. He makes good use of oral interviews to reveal the
devastating social and economic upheaval wrought by the moratorium on
individuals and their communities, which have been greatly depopulated
as people left to find work on the Canadian mainland where they are
treated as second-class citizens by their fellow Canadians. At one time,
the province exported its natural resources; now, like Mexico, it
exports its citizens.

Along with the merchant as villain, Sider has added the roles of the
federal and provincial governments whose policies have effectively
served to depopulate much of rural Newfoundland. Sider argues that
anthropological studies have traditionally been dependent on a
“continuity and a processual stability in everyday life”; the social
disorder and chaos of everyday life in rural Newfoundland and Labrador
(and in many parts of the world as well) presents new and difficult
challenges for anthropologists.


Sider, Gerald., “Between History and Tomorrow: Making and Breaking Everyday Life in Rural Newfoundland,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,