This is a collection of biographical essays about important figures in the history of Newfoundland. The emphasis is upon the pre-Confederation period, beginning with John Cabot and ending with Joseph Smallwood, Newfoundlands first premier after Confederation with Canada.
In many cases it is very difficult to decide whether the actions of any individual were positive or detrimental for those around them. This ambivalence determined the title of the book and the inclusion in it of famous pirates such as Peter Easton and outlaws like Peter Kerrivan alongside pioneering explorers, like Bob Bartlett and entrepreneurs, like Abram Kean. The book includes equal numbers of male and female Newfoundlanders, as well as well-known Beothuks, Demasduit and Shanawdithit.
The book does not include any people from Labrador. Recognizing its separate history and cultures the authors suggest the possibility of a subsequent volume dedicated to them. The book offers a unique way of examining the multifaceted contribution of men and women from Newfoundland in the history of this province, Canada and the world in general.