What follows is the tenth instalment of The Nations of Canada, a serialized project adapted from transcripts of Greg Koabel’s ongoing podcast of the same name, which began airing in 2020.
By the end of the sixteenth century, conditions for the European colonization of Canada had become ideal—as there was, by now, both a motive and an opportunity for the creation of permanent year-round settlements along the St. Lawrence River.
The motive was the increasing reach and sophistication of the Indigenous fur-trading networks that had been expanded during the fur boom of the 1580s (as discussed in the ninth instalment of this series). The land we now call Canada was no longer a byword for fool’s gold, as it had been in Jacques Cartier’s day (see instalment number eight). Here was a commodity of real value.
The European window of opportunity, meanwhile, arose from the Indigenous depopulation of much of the St. Lawrence River region during the latter sixteenth century, a process that most historians now believe was largely (and perhaps entirely) unrelated to the European newcomers. Generations of turmoil in the Indigenous geopolitical milieu, which had resulted from disruptions caused by the introduction of corn as a major agricultural crop, culminated in the dispersal of the Iroquoian-speaking…