Saint-Pierre and Miquelon


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Saint-Pierre and Miquelon is Number 131 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Saint-Pierre and Miquelon are two small islands, located approximately 16 kilometers west and southwest of Newfoundland, which, as the study notes, are “all that remains to France of her once great empire in North America….” The section on political history traces how the islands went back and forth between French and British possession a number of times between the first occupation by the French in circa 1650 and their final restoration to France in 1814. The study notes that the “purpose for which the cession of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon was valued by the French Government was their utility as a base for carrying on the fishery on the Grand Banks and the Newfoundland coast. Accordingly, for many years Saint-Pierre enjoyed a considerable measure of prosperity as the head-quarters of an important fishing fleet of some 200 vessels….” The study traces the subsequent economic decline of the islands to the decline of the cod fishery and the shift of home ports to the mainland of Newfoundland. The section on economic conditions deals in detail with the cod fishery, including local stocks, how fishing is carried out, the cleaning and drying of the fish, the export market, and the labor involved in the fishery. The population of the colony in 1911 is given as 4,209, down from 6,482 in 1902. Saint-Pierre and Miquelon is today a self-governing collectivity that is part of France.

Last updated: February 4, 2016