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Portuguese archer and, at left, a crossbowman, early 16th century

Type: Image

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)

Site: National Defence

Portuguese ships, early 16th century

Type: Image

Such ships would have carried the Portuguese who explored what is now Canada’s east coast. (Museu de Arte Antiguo, Lisbon)

Site: National Defence

Soldiers Of The Canadian Expeditions

Type: Document

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.

Site: National Defence

Harquebusier, 16th century

Type: Image

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.

Site: National Defence

16th century ‘rondelle’

Type: Image

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.

Site: National Defence

Spanish steel helmet and breastplate, 16th century

Type: Image

Such armour was found on the Spanish galleons going to Labrador in the second half of the 16th century. (Museo Casa Pizzaro, Trujillo, Spain)

Site: National Defence

War and the Foundation of Canada - Permanent European Settlement

Type: Document

During the 16th century, European fishermen, whalers, traders, adventurers, and explorers visited the eastern seaboard of North America and established a lucrative fur trade by the early 1600s. While fishermen and whalers had generally co-operated with First Peoples in exchanging goods, permanent European settlement and involvement in the fur trade with Hurons and Algonkians soon led the French to join these nations in their war with the Iroquois Confederacy.

Site: Canadian War Museum

Officier wearing armour, 16th century

Type: Image

Armour was worn by senior officers during the 16th century and would have been brought by those in the 1541 Roberval expedition.

Site: National Defence

Judicial torture at a 16th century Inquisition tribunal

Type: Image

Europeans were also acquainted with the savagery of torture. It was routinely used by judicial authorities to obtain confessions from suspects. Such practices were occasionally resorted to by tribunals in New France. Public executions of the guilty in Europe could also be horrendous torture spectacles. Religious Inquisition tribunals practiced it mercilessly on supposed heretics in the name of Christianity as shown in this print.

Site: National Defence

A Spanish Ocean

Type: Document

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.

Site: National Defence