Search for "New France"

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New France

The history of France as a colonial power in North America began during the 16th century, during the era of European exploration and fishing expeditions. At its peak, the French colony of New France stretched over a vast area from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Louisiana. The French presence was characterized by extensive trade, as well as by recurrent conflicts with the Indigenous peoples, who were established over a wide area that France sought to appropriate. Some objectives motivating the French colonization were related to evangelization and settlement. Following the British Conquest, New France was ceded to Great Britain in 1763 and became a British colony. (See Treaty of Paris 1763.)

(This article is the full version of the text regarding New France. For a plain-language summary, please see New France (Plain Language Summary).)

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Compagnie des Indes occidentales

The Compagnie des Indes occidentales was a trading company that drove France’s colonial economy from 1664 to 1674. Its name translates to West Indies Company. King Louis XIV gave the company exclusive rights to trade and govern in all French colonies. Its territory extended from the Americas to the Caribbean and Western Africa. In addition to natural resources such as furs and sugar, the Compagnie traded enslaved people.

This company is not to be confused with the French trading company founded by John Law and renamed Compagnie des Indes in 1719.

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Company of One Hundred Associates

The Company of New France, or Company of One Hundred Associates (Compagnie des Cent-Associés) as it was more commonly known, was formed in France in 1627. Its purpose was to increase New France’s population while enjoying a monopoly on almost all colonial trade. It took bold steps but suffered many setbacks. The company folded in 1663. It earned little return on its investment, though it helped establish New France as a viable colony.

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Playing-Card Money

Playing-card money was a type of paper money used periodically in New France from 1685 to the British Conquest in 1763. Playing cards issued by the king — later replaced with white cards cut to various shapes — held values equivalent to French livres.

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Seigneurial System

The seigneurial system was an institutional form of land distribution established in New France in 1627 and officially abolished in 1854. In New France, 80 per cent of the population lived in rural areas governed by this system of land distribution and occupation.

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Brandy Parliament

Brandy Parliament, an assembly of 20 notables of New France, who on 10 October 1678 were asked their opinion of the sale of brandy to the Indigenous peoples. The title was bestowed in 1921 by historian W.B. Munro.

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Filles du Roi

Unmarried women sponsored by the king to immigrate to New France between 1663 and 1673. Private interests gave priority to bringing over male workers, and the French government and religious communities wanted to correct the gender imbalance in the colonies.

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King's Presents

The practice of offering regular gifts to Indigenous trading partners and allies, begun by Governor Montmagny in 1648, was, by the end of the 17th century institutionalized as the "Présents du Roy" at the annual meeting with the governor-general of New France at Montréal.

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Communauté des biens

Communauté des biens (community of property), term used in the legal codes of NEW FRANCE and Québec to describe the pooled assets of husband and wife. It began as part of the Coutume de Paris, introduced about 1640 and the sole legal code of the colony after 1664.

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Voyageurs

Voyageurs were independent contractors, workers or minor partners in companies involved in the fur trade. They were licensed to transport goods to trading posts and were usually forbidden to do any trading of their own. The fur trade changed over the years, as did the groups of men working in it. In the 17th century, voyageurs were often coureurs des bois — unlicensed traders responsible for delivering trade goods from suppliers to Indigenous peoples. The implementation of the trading licence system in 1681 set voyageurs apart from coureurs des bois, who were then considered outlaws of sorts. Today, the word voyageur, like the term coureur des bois, evokes the romantic image of men canoeing across the continent in search of furs. Their life was full of perilous adventure, gruelling work and cheerful camaraderie.

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Seven Years’ War (Plain-Language Summary)

The Seven Years’ War (1756–63) was the first global war. In North America, Britain and France fought each other with the help of Indigenous allies. At the end of the war, France gave Canada (Quebec) and Ile Royale (Cape Breton) to Britain, among other territories. This is the reason that Canada has a British monarch but three founding peoples — French, British and Indigenous.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the Seven Years’ War. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry Seven Years’ War.)

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Croix de Saint Louis

 In Canada Louis-Hector de CALLIERE (1694) was the first to receive the decoration; Louis de Buade de FRONTENAC received it in 1697. The first Canadian chevalier was Pierre Le Moyne d' IBERVILLE (1699). By 1760 some 145 men had been decorated in Canada.

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Pays d'en Haut

Pays d'en Haut [French "up country" or "upper country"] was an expression used in the fur trade to refer to the area to which the voyageurs travelled to trade.

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A Dish with One Spoon

The term a dish with one spoon refers to a concept developed by the Indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes region and northeastern North America. It was used to describe how land can be shared to the mutual benefit of all its inhabitants. According to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), the concept originated many hundreds of years ago and contributed greatly to the creation of the “Great League of Peace” — the Iroquois Confederacy made up of the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, and Mohawk nations. The Anishinaabeg (the Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi, Mississauga, Saulteaux and Algonquin nations) refer to “a dish with one spoon” or “our dish” as “Gdoo – naaganinaa.”

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Fur Trade in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

The fur trade began in the 1600s in what is now Canada. It continued for more than 250 years. Europeans traded with Indigenous people for beaver pelts. The demand for felt hats in Europe drove this business. The fur trade was one of the main reasons that Europeans explored and colonized Canada. It built relationships between Europeans and Indigenous peoples.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the fur trade. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Fur Trade in Canada.)

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Hôtel-Dieu

Hôtel-Dieu is the name given to hospitals established by nursing orders of nuns. The Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal was founded by Jeanne Mance and funded by Madame de Bullion, the widow of one of Louis XIII's superintendents of finance.

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Compagnie du Nord

Compagnie du Nord (Compagnie de la Baie du Nord), fd 1682 by Canadian merchants, led by Charles Aubert de la Chesnaye, to trade into Hudson Bay by sea.