How to Not Kill Samuel de Champlain

Champlain’s Statue, Nepean Point, Ottawa, Canada.

Barely a month after July 3, 1608, the day Samuel de Champlain and his fellow French colonists founded Quebec, what they hoped would be a permanent trading post and settlement, the Father of New France found himself at the center of an assassination plot. Using Champlain’s own words, this post looks at what led to the plot, how Champlain found out about it, and what was his response was. Continue reading

Canadian History in the News: Fall 2016 Edition

Canadian History in the News: The past is always a part of the present. This blog series looks at current events and stories that have a Canadian history element to them and I offer my opinion on the subject.

Game of Furs

Sometimes I come across news articles or stories that I think would be great to talk about on this blog—–except for the fact that they are pretty short and therefore wouldn’t make for much of a blog post by themselves. Solution? Every now and then I pull a few together. In this late fall edition we have a follow up to a Spring 2016 story, a new television show loosely based on the fur trade era, and an update on the discovery of the HMS Terror. Continue reading

Voyageurs and Coureur des Bois

Fashion Flashback: Given that fashion was instrumental in the creation of Canada, this blog series explores the development of what Canadians wore one era at a time.

Radisson & Groseillers by Archibald Bruce Stapleton. Two coureurs des bois who went on to establish the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Normally, my historical fashion posts go in chronological order but for this ~Special Edition~ we are jumping back in time a bit to take a closer look at those involved in the fur trade. Voyageurs and coureurs des bois both played significant, yet distinct roles in the expansion of the fur trade and hold a place in the mythology of Pre-Confederation Canada. Who were the voyageurs and coureurs des bois? What were their similarities and differences? Above all, why were they important and how does their clothes factor into Canadian history? Continue reading

Health Care in New France

Note: This is a two-part post on Health Care in New France. Part 1 will explore diseases, hygiene issues, and how to survive in New France. Part 2 will discuss health care professionals, treatments, and theories.

A General System of Surgery by Laurence Heister (1743). Amputation was the most common major surgical procedure.

Last week we learned that unless you were a highly lucky individual, at some point during your 40 years of life (the average age expectancy in New France), you were bound to catch some sort of infectious disease.  So what happened if you got sick? As noted before, New France’s health care was quite diverse. Who were some of the medical professionals that settlers in New France could seek out? What guided medical theory and what sort of medicines existed? If you had to get surgery done, were you screwed? Essentially, how effective were 17th and 18th century medical practitioners? Continue reading

Disease and Hygiene in New France

Note: This is a two-part post on Health Care in New France. Part 1 will explore diseases, hygiene issues, and how to survive in New France. Part 2 will discuss health care professionals, treatments, and theories.

A sketch of Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal (by H. Giroux, date unknown). Founded by Jeanne Mance (co-founder of Montreal) in 1642, the hospital is still in use today, making it the oldest hospital in Canada. Click here to see what it looks like nowadays.

In New France during the 17th and 18th centuries, illnesses were a part of daily life—even more so than today. Hospitals and doctors existed; often medical practitioners worked in conjunction with religious congregations to administer care for sick individuals. However, as you can imagine health care was much, much different back then. So what exactly happened if you were living in New France and got sick? Continue reading

Pirates of the Maritimes

Imagine living in a fishing port in the Maritimes during the early 18th century. You’re poor and spend your time working in the harbour. One day you see a large fleet of ships on the horizon. They’re not flying British or French colours, rather their flags are black with a skull and cutlasses on them. What would you do? Run? Warn others? Or wait until they dock and ask the first pirate you see, “Where do I sign up?”

This actually happened in Trepassey, Newfoundland in 1720. Legendary pirate Bartholomew Roberts, better known as Black Bart, attacked the small fishing port over the course of two weeks. When he left, Black Bart had gained a lot more than plunder; numerous fishermen joined his crew and together they would sail off to ransack and terrorize other seaside communities. This was not just a one-off incident. Rather, the history of Canada’s maritime provinces are steeped in piracy. Continue reading

The Inaccuracy of “Accurate” Maps

Cartography Series: Because who doesn’t love looking at old maps? This blog series looks at the cartographic development of Canada.

La Canada ou Partie de la Nouvelle France, contenant la Terre de Labrador la Nouvelle France, les Isles de Terre neuve, de Nostre Dame by Pierre Mortier (c. 1700).

If you look through the early days of historical Canadian cartography, you will notice that most of the mapmakers are French. The reason for this isn’t just because a large part of North America fell under the French empire at the time; rather during the 17th century France was the preeminent force in global cartography. The French cartographers of the time were known producing the most up-to-date works. Mapmakers came from all over, but given the idea that French maps were the most accurate, they were immensely popular, sold world wide, and got reproduced over time. As such, they are the ones that last to this day and give us our best look at how cartographers of that time viewed their world. Continue reading

The History of Canadian Thanksgiving

I’m thankful for Google Image Search. You never disappoint me.

To those who are celebrating this long weekend, Happy Thanksgiving!

Ever wonder how this holiday even got started in this country given that the Mayflower, Pilgrims, and whatnot have pretty much nothing to do with Canada? Why do we celebrate in October and not later on in November? Also, if our celebration isn’t based off the American one, why does our holiday meal similar to theirs? Well, good news! I have some answers for you. Continue reading

Spotlight: Mathieu Da Costa

Mathieu Da Costa by Dr. Henry Bishop, Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia—can I have his sick looking hat?

If you lived back in the 17th century and wanted to undertake a successful exploration mission to discover new lands, what sort of people would you have had on your crew? Experienced sailors? Definitely. Navigators/cartographers? Sure. Traders? Possibly. How about a skilled translator? New lands meant new people who can speak all sorts of languages seldom heard by European ears before. As such, adventurous, multilingual individuals who had a gift for picking up new languages found themselves heavily desired by those who led expeditions to North America.

This is how Mathieu Da Costa, the first (recorded) free Black man in Canada, earned his living. We don’t know a whole lot about him, but what we do know is that he led a pretty interesting life. Continue reading