Jacques Cartier

Few explorers have acquired the distinction given to Jacques Cartier, the first explorer to claim what is now Canada for King Francis I of France and giving Canada its name. Born in Saint-Malo, a port-town in Brittany, France, in 1491, Cartier was an accomplished mariner before being commissioned by King Francis I in 1534 to cross the Atlantic Ocean in search of a passage to Asia and lands rich in valuable resources. Over the next eight years he led three expeditions to North America: in 1534, 1535-36, and 1541-42. Cartier never found a passage through the North American continent and, though he returned from his final voyage with what he believed were diamonds and gold, the cargo turned out to be worthless. Unable to establish a permanent colony in North America, he returned to France a failure. If the resources he had brought back to France had been worthless, however, his written accounts of his voyages have since proven invaluable. Published in three volumes, Cartier’s Voyages provide one of the earliest and most comprehensive records of European impressions of North America and its people. Written with a prejudice that might offend modern sensibilities, Cartier’s accounts reveal as much about sixteenth-century European attitudes and beliefs as they do about the First Nations people he encountered on his voyages. Nevertheless, his cartography, his meticulous descriptions of the land and people, and his attempts to establish relations with the First Nations people who inhabited the territory he visited mean that his Voyages are indispensable to anyone studying the history of New Brunswick and Canada.

For the full Author Page on Cartier, click here.


The linked Author Page contains excerpts from The First Voyages of Jacques Cartier.