Canadian Military History Gateway
Organization > National Defence
Subject > Politics and Society
Date > 1500 > 1520-1529
Archers and crossbowmen were commonly found on ships and in the early overseas settlements of the first half of the 16th century. Such soldiers were most likely part of the early Portuguese forays to Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island. (Museu de Arte Antiguo, Lisbon)
Introduction by W.A.B. Douglas, Director Directorate of History, Program Chairman. Articles in a variety of languages including: English, German, French, Italian, Portugese, Spanish, Russian, Greek.
Such ships would have carried the Portuguese who explored what is now Canada’s east coast. (Museu de Arte Antiguo, Lisbon)
Many European expeditions were sent to explore North America during the sixteenth century. The explorers were armed, and their ocean-going ships were a revolutionary technology.
The soldiers accompanying early expeditions worked for private businesses, not for the state. Many were veterans of European wars, or gentlemen seeking land or gold.
Portable firearms such as the one used by this harquebusier became common in European armies during the 16th century even though they were complicated to handle and slow to fire. Pikemen, crossbowmen, archers and swordsmen continued to be present on battlefields in the old as well as the new world.
Three types of costumes common to all Amerindian tribes are shown. Reconstruction by David Rickman. (Canadian Department of National Defence)
Some 200 ‘rondelles’ - round shields carried by infantry swordsmen, more commonly called ‘rondaches’ - formed part of the armament sent to Canada in 1541. Swordsmen still formed an important part of infantry contingents in mid-16th century European armies.
Such armour was found on the Spanish galleons going to Labrador in the second half of the 16th century. (Museo Casa Pizzaro, Trujillo, Spain)
Armour was worn by senior officers during the 16th century and would have been brought by those in the 1541 Roberval expedition.