Unlike other biographies that provide chronological information from the birth to the death of an individual, Cartier Sails the St. Lawrence focuses on Cartier’s accomplishments. The scarcity of personal information about this figure forced Averill to rely chiefly on translated passages from Cartier’s own narratives of his explorations. She includes only documented information, as she chose not to fictionalize or write imagined dialogues. To help readers understand the importance of Cartier’s voyages, Averill presents a background of the beliefs, fears, and politics of the time. In the foreword, Averill explains her reliance on various books of historical research for facts about the Portuguese spy Lagarto, King Francis of France, and the courtier-pirate Roberval.
The author explains to readers the strong desire to find a shorter route from western Europe to the valuable spices and silks of China, hopefully by proving that the world was round by sailing west and thus reaching the Far East. In 1493, the pope had divided the New World between the Catholic countries of Portugal and Spain, essentially giving the Far East to Portugal, and the Americas, except for Brazil, to Spain.
The jealousy and greed in the competition for new discoveries caused much spying at the various royal courts of Europe. Portuguese and Spanish agents at the French court learned of the plan to establish a permanent settlement in Canada. Efforts to enforce the pope’s decree giving sole ownership of the...
(The entire section is 619 words.)