Week 4, Lecture Part I, Imperial Desires and Settler Behaviour

I. Review Discussion.

of Week 3,

Lecture Part I, Monday: recall demographics in the Americas changed.

Aboriginal: population decrease — social changes; traditional territories changed; some cultural changes as well.

[see map of North America and refer to chart of activity during 1500s to trace landing of disease, progress of epidemics in light of outbreaks recorded and pre-existing Aboriginal trade patterns:

Offshore — Columbus 1492

South America — Aztec 1518-1521

Inca, 1524-1527 (note unfriendly coastal response to the northward)

Atlantic Region — Cartier, 1535-1536

Gulf of Mexico – Mississippi Valley, 1540-1550 (note subsequently Cartier gets hostile response)

Brazil 1562

Inca 1588-1590

East Coast, 1600 — Patuxet, Eastern Massachusetts, Plymouth Bay]

Week 3

Lecture 2, Tuesday — recall consumption/sumptuary laws were enacted partly in an attempt to ensure things stayed the same — but — social status was changing — merchants were dressing like aristocrats — men wanted hats.

Frans Hal, painting, “Laughing Cavalier,” dated 1624. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

food: people went from whale to salt cod

Week 3

Lecture 3, Thursday — recall fishers: changed where they fished from Iceland to Terra Neuve — then predominant method of curing fish switched.

Recall debate re: green vs dry.

Re: what to do about changing facts & value judgements?

The British getting control of the cod fishery towards the end of the 16th century — is that good or bad? Depends on whether you’re Spanish/French/Basque/Portuguese/Aboriginal or not?

And. in terms of the focus of this course, which begins with a survey of interactions between peoples in the Atlantic Canadian region from the time of First Nations – European contact, we can see that:

although up to 1600 large-scale settlement was not yet taking place, both the reasons for, and the consequences of the apparently mild and intermittent instances of contact between fisher/fur traders and Aboriginal North Americans are 1) complex in their reasons for taking place and in their consequences 2) the consequences are really only apparent if the broader context of the century 1500-1600 is considered.

II. Week 4

And so we move to the theme this week:

Imperial Desires and Settler Behaviour: Early Attempts at European Settlement in the North Eastern North American Atlantic Region

Readings: Conrad & Hiller, Chapters 4 & 5

Gisa Hynes, “Some Aspects of the Demography of Port Royal, 1650-1755”

Daniel B. Thorp, “Equals to the King: The Balance of Power in Early Acadia”

Readings Questions: Was Acadia well integrated into the structure of the French Empire?

How might a focus on the study of demography — meaning the study of population characteristics — help us to answer this question?


Lecture Question: Why are the early attempts to settle Europeans in the Atlantic Region generally considered to be ‘failures’?

European-driven colonization of the Atlantic region began to take hold in the 1600s. There are two prominent areas of new settlement [some, such as historical geographer Cole Harris pointedly call it re-settlement] in the region a) Newfoundland and b) ‘la Cadie’ a.k.a Acadia. The literature about these settlement areas displays three prominent approaches to historical analysis [note: none of which is ‘better’ than the others, they are merely different]:

1) the ‘view from the top’

— the ‘top’ being France and England [and to some degree Scotland] as socio-political entities.

In this approach, historians examine how North America figured in these countries’ histories. They tend to outline a pattern of warfare and diplomacy and to generate ‘great man’ and ‘great woman’ stories. [i.e. ‘lives of the rich and powerful’]

Peter Paul Rubens, painting, “Ann of Austria,” dated c.1622-1625, depicting the Queen of France and mother of Louis XIV. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

2) the economic or ‘development’ view

— which analyzes rates of ‘success’ — or, in the early Newfoundland and ‘la Cadie’ instances, more properly the lack of success at a) replicating the relations that existed in Europe onto the ‘blank canvas’ of North America, and b) replicating Spanish and Portuguese success at appropriating already processed gold and silver from conquered peoples and adapting already existing infrastructures built by those peoples to a new regime. [i.e. a scaled-down version of ‘lives of the rich and powerful’, that tends to supply stories about the ‘trials and tribulations of lesser aristocrats and the cream of the rising middle class’]

Painting depicting the wreck of the English ship, Merchant Royal, off Land’s End, Cornwall in rough weather, 1641. The vessel is reputed to have sunk with at least 100,000 pounds of gold, 400 bars of Mexican silver, and nearly 500,000 pieces of eight and other coins — one of the most valuable wrecks of all time. Source: www.merchantroyalshipwreck.com/2007/09/

3) the ‘view from below’

— which asks: what were all the settlers doing while they were apparently ‘unsuccessful’ at creating a ‘New Europe’? [i.e. what were the lives of the average Joseph or Margaret like? (in what Canadian historian Jack Granatstein has characterized as discrete and disconnected studies of ‘housemaid’s knee’)]

Interpretive stance a) the view from the top: a brief synopsis

1) The historical source base is official correspondence — papers left behind by governing officials and their minions.

From the number of large-scale conflicts these sources describe, it is clear that ordinary people, such as new settlers (Europeans), and previous settlers (Aboriginal Peoples), had a difficult time dealing with official representatives of various countries who decided to wage war on each other’s ‘New World’ holdings.

[See handout: War Years and Conflict: 1600s]

Last class I mentioned that the Italian wars and Religious wars were raging during the 16th century. In the 17th century …

A) The highly competitive ‘Small’ Powers in Europe [meaning principalities of various sorts still vying to remain independent and, in the case of England, groups vying with the reigning royals] were pursuing intermittent ‘small’ wars, of various sorts.

For example:

1. 1601:

a) Duchy of Savoy [independent region: neither part of Italy nor France] vs. France:

Savoy resisted when France attempted to disrupt Spanish trade by bullying Savoy into giving France land from which to threaten Milan [originally a city-state, but at the time dominated by Spain, and now part of Italy]

[background: The reign of Henry IV of France saw many such examples of France hindering the Spanish (though never openly declaring war as France was still suffering from the French Wars of Religion) and the evidence suggests that Spain was so irked by this that both countries were on the verge of open warfare when Henry IV was assassinated in 1610]

b) Ireland vs. England:

End of the Nine Years War: which was an Irish resistance [especially Gaelic Irish chieftain Hugh O’Neill] to the advance of the English state into Ireland [the former moved from control over the Pale to ruling the whole island] and the spread of Protestantism in Ireland. 1601 was a particularly bloody year, which saw the pounding of the inhabitants by English troops, and the defeat of Irish troops at the battle of Kinsale.

2. 1642-1651:

Parliament vs. King [England]. The English Civil War

John Pettie, painting, “Roundhead.” Source: Wikimedia Commons.

— a series of armed conflicts and political machinations that took place between supporters of Parliament — the Parliamentarians (called Roundheads, either because of their unique helmets, or their ‘pudding bowl’ haircuts) and supporters of Charles I & II (called the Royalists, or Cavaliers — because they were wealthy enough to ride nice horses and they had the right to wear nice beaver hats btw.).

[background: Charles I executed, Charles II exiled, and monarchy replaced with the Commonwealth of England (1649-1653), and then the Protectorate (1653-1659) of Oliver Cromwell. The monopoly of the Church of England on Christian worship came to an end, and the victors consolidated the already-established Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. Constitutionally, the wars established a precedence that British monarchs could not govern without the consent of Parliament, although this would not be cemented until the ‘Glorious Revolution’ later in the century]

B) ‘Larger’ Powers — and their constant attempt to consolidate control over territory and power over subjects and competitors

Cornelius Claesz van Wieringen (attributed), painting, “The Explosion of the Spanish Flagship during the Battle of Gibraltar, 25 April 1607,” with notation: “thirty Dutch ships took the Spanish fleet by surprise in the Bay of Gibraltar. The Spanish vessels, which threatened Dutch trade with Asia, were destroyed. … This was the first great victory of the Eighty Years War for the Dutch fleet.” Source: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, online; object no. SK-A-2163.


Ottoman Turks: waged expansion wars on nearby territories through the century, which had the effect of keeping other powers worried.

Spain: 1601: had an internal conflict with Moriscos: who were the ‘Moors’ who had converted to Christianity after the Christian reconquest (11th – 15th centuries) of Spain — though some ‘converts’ continued to follow Islam.

[background: The Moriscos were accused of supplying Spain’s competitors with information — the Moriscos had rebelled occasionally before 1600, against the Inquisition for example, then a decree was issued for their expulsion from Spain, reputedly on religious and political grounds (alleged conspiracy with Holland &/or Turks) but likely also for economic reasons, as they had managed to prosper in agriculture, trade, and industries.]

England: had a series of wars with the Netherlands in the 2nd half of the century.

1652-1654: The First Anglo-Dutch War (called the First Dutch War in England, and, in translation, the First English War in the Netherlands), was fought entirely at sea between the navies of the Commonwealth of England and the United Provinces of the Netherlands.

[background: cause was trade disputes — England attacked Dutch merchant shipping and conflict expanded]

1665-1667: 2nd Anglo-Dutch War (Dutch Naval victory)

1672-1674: 3rd Anglo-Dutch War — England enters to support France against Dutch [4th Anglo Dutch War followed much later, 1780-1784]

William Miller, engraving, “The Prince of Orange lands at Torbay [England],”  dated 1852. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

plus: for 100 years after the ‘Glorious Revolution‘ (1688) England feared a French/Catholic invasion, and had various wars with France.

[The ‘Glorious Revolution’ (in the parlance of Orange Order Protestants): in 1688 a Protestant prince, William III of Orange-Nassau, became King of England (an event tied in with the War of the Grand Alliance on mainland Europe), by overthrowing his uncle and father-in-law, King James II (Stuart), a Catholic + ‘King Billy’ had fought against Louis XIV of France. (And in fact Jacobite risings occurred later in 1715, 1745.) (Btw: King Billy’s wife was Mary II.)]

France: in 1685 Louis the XIV: had revoked the ‘Edict of Nantes’, which had ended the French Religious wars and had allowed the Huguenots to practice their faith

[background: Huguenots: Protestant Reformed Church of France, historically known as French Calvinists. Huguenots increasingly chose to migrate to America]

so, effectively, the revoking of the Edict of Nantes was a declaration of renewed war on Protestants. Including those of England — as in the 1689-1697 war with England, and, during that period France was also at war with the German states, Spain, Sweden, Austria, and Holland.

Plus: many of these later conflicts arose out of the fact that most everybody, from 1618-1648, had joined in the Thirty Years’ War. The which mainly took place in today’s Germany, but at times spilled over into the Americas.

For example: in 1629 English privateers (the Kirke brothers), seized New France (it was returned to France in 1632).

And although officially the Thirty Years’ War is said to have lasted 30 years, the conflicts between the various participants continued for 300 years more.

Conclusion of view from the top historiography:

Conflict meant instability, all communities were vulnerable to destruction

Interpretive stance b: the economic or development view

1) The source base:

is correspondence and records dealing with trade — a lot of paperwork was generated by merchants recording profit and loss, and by governments dealing with regulating trade, and raising revenues through taxation.

It is clear from these records that the production of staples mattered.

[definition: staples — economic term, meaning a necessary* commodity for which demand is a constant] [*remember to ask: ‘necessary for whom? why?’]

Fish was very important, fur became progressively important.

2) Prominent historiographical points of interest:

Merchant activity and fishery regulation tend to be the main points of interest. As well, these economic studies point out that:

French and English approaches differed in the kind of government involvement in trade and economic development (though not necessarily the degree of involvement), because there were differences in the way societies in France and England were structured.

— France had entrenched aristocratic privilege, and there were quarrels among various aristocrats of its diverse regions.

Aristocrats who were not the monarch did not engage directly in trade to make their money.

France had a large population to draw on [16,000,000 – 20,000,000 people] for taxes and for workers [for military etc.].

— In contrast, in England, where the population was 4,500,000 – 5,000,000, wealthy non-aristocrats could rise to positions of power through trade, and aristocrats actively engaged in trade to make money.

In Both England and France ‘joint stock’ companies, or some kind of economic arrangement that included moneyed non-aristocrats (such as wealthy merchants), might foot the bill and be held responsible for settlement ventures.

But, while in France the Crown was directly involved in determining the social, cultural, and political policy of such settlements, in England the social, cultural, and political policy of settlements was determined by negotiations between a settlement company and Parliament — negotiations conducted largely independently of the Crown [so the Crown delegated power].

3) The overall conclusion of this economic historiographic view:

— with respect to Newfoundland, it seems to be that settlement companies, whose settlers were dependent on the fishery (whether they liked it or not), had a difficult time carving a secure niche for themselves, and political-economic ‘development’ was not forwarded by their presence.

— The conclusion with respect to Acadia is similar: settlers managed to eke out a subsistence living, but did not produce a surplus, so the desired political-economic ‘development’ did not come about in these years.

Interpretive Stance c: the view from below (more properly called ‘social history’)

“Iroquois women at work grinding corn or dried berries (1664 engraving).” Source: New World Encyclopedia, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

1) historical source base – the settlers, whether old settlers [Aboriginal] or new settlers [European] did not leave written records, or their records have been scattered. Their activities have to be got at indirectly, ‘teased’ out of what records do exist (for example see Gisa Hynes, “Demography of Port Royal” reading). Or, more and more often recently, researched through analysis of oral traditions. [Or, recourse must be made to the work of archaeologists, ethnologists, historical geographers, climatologists, genealogists etc.]

2) Prominent historiographical interest: agency of ordinary people

definition: agency — the state of being in action or exerting power

(they were not merely pawns in someone else’s game, they determined their own course of action and by doing so, had an impact on the way events played out).

[See, for example “America as a Religious Refuge: the 17th Century”]

3) the conclusions of this interpretive stance are hard to synthesize into a summary because social historians tend to produce isolated studies of specific groups — ethnically bounded, gendered, or occupationally defined [the traditional categories of analysis have been “‘race’, class, and gender”; but recently age, physiognomy of various kinds, and religion have also served as categories.]

Social historians use methods of their own devising or preference — cliometrics [stats (usually economic)] and discourse analysis etc. — that do not always readily connect to other studies. Social historians make it clear, however, that, in any region in the past, there were many different groups of people doing many different things. And they tend to confirm the agency of these historical actors.

— In the past Atlantic region we are studying, social historians argue that settlers may have been buffeted by external forces, but they were actively making their own decisions about what to do, rather than meekly submitting to the commands of people higher up the social ladder.

Often, the only way to control the ordinary Joseph, Margaret, and their kids was to use direct physical force [starve them, or terrorize them into submission]. Even then, escaping seems to have been a common response. The people at the bottom appear to have been mobile, ‘freedom’ [meaning personal autonomy] seekers.

Whether nominally British or French subjects [or any other kind] settlers merged and mingled, and, because they were often geographically removed from direct contact with any ‘overlord’ they were free [relative to Europeans] to do so — without having to heed social norms (such as categories of belonging that determined who could or could not marry whom) that were determined by anyone but themselves.

For historians who feel a need for categories to describe what was going on, this social mobility is a real tricky knot to untangle, it is the problem of establishing ‘identity’ or ‘naming’ groups. Academics are still working on it. I suspect they will be for a long time.

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