Canadian Military History Gateway
Organization > National Defence
Subject > Politics and Society
Date > 1600 > 1650-1659 > 1650
Both Britain and France needed strong navies to protect their coasts, fishing fleets and colonies. The peak of French naval power was during the 1690s, when it dominated the coasts of England. Defeated in 1692, the French navy declined in quality and strength from that point on.
Until the 1660s, especially in the Montreal area, no one in the French settlements really felt quite safe from surprise attacks by hostile Iroquois warriors. Many Canadian settlers, including women, learned to handle firearms during the 1650s.
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.
This employee of the Hundred Associates carries a flintlock musket (or 'fusil'), a type of weapon that first appeared in the colony during the late 1640s. The fusil was lighter than the older matchlock musket and its firing system was more trustworthy. This made it an ideal weapon for Canada. The Iroquois' acquisition of firearms changed the military tactics in New France. Helmets and breastplates became useless, and French soldiers simply wore their usual clothing. This man's clothing follows contemporary civilian fashions in France. Hanging from a belt around his chest, our soldier carries individual charges of gunpowder in flasks jokingly known as 'the Twelve Apostles'. Reconstruction by Michel Pétard. (Canadian Department of National Defence)
The population of Acadia was not militarized in the way French colonists in Canada were. Relations with the local Amerindians were good, while internal social conflict and long periods of English occupation discouraged the development of a strong militia.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the European wars that had touched the eastern coasts of North and South America left the Pacific untroubled. From the European point of view, the region was largely unexplored, despite being bordered by Spanish colonies.
This print shows a classic European vision of scalping. The process was widespread amongst both the forest and plains Amerindians, and dates back to at least the early 16th century. Scalps were viewed as trophies of war, part of a ritual act of retribution on an enemy.
During the 18th century, the British colonies in what is now Atlantic Canada were very different from their counterparts further south in New England. The northern colonies had a strong military presence, relatively small civilian populations, and no strong militia.
The Iroquois and Hurons were locked in a brutal struggle. Although both were ravaged by epidemics and armed by European colonists, it was the Huron nation that was effectively destroyed.