European fishermen had plied the North Atlantic by the thousands since the 16th century. They came from the Basque country, Brittany, Normandy and La Rochelle to fish for cod and hunt whales off the coast of the "Newfoundland" and in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence River. In setting up fish-drying installations on shore, fishermen came in contact with the Aboriginal inhabitants—this contact gave rise to the fur trade. It was also the age of discovery and exploration in search of a route to the riches of India and China. In competition first with Spain, then with England, the kings of France strove to extend their influence in the New World. The adventure in Canada started with the individual initiatives of King Francis I and King Henri IV, and also those of a few adventurers, noblemen and sailors; the first settlements and foundings date from the early 17th century. In 1627, under Cardinal Richelieu, a true colonial policy began to take shape, while French trade and maritime interests were given a decisive boost. With the rising number of employment contracts, emigration became organized, which helped populate the colony with skilled tradesmen. Moved by a similar zeal to spread the Gospel, both lay people and clergy embarked along with them. To further the colony's development, these voluntary emigrants were later joined by soldiers, who were encouraged to settle in Canada as well as the filles du roi [daughters of the King] and occasionally, a few salt smugglers and other petty criminals.

Profil de la ville de la Rochelle, capitale de l'Aunis
[View of the city of La Rochelle, capital of Aunis],
by Aveline, late 17th century
FR AD17 1 Fi La Rochelle 131
Points of Departure
Farewell to France
Fishing Voyages
The Royal Will
The Engagés
The Salt Smugglers