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New France

France was a colonial power in North America from the early 16th century, the age of European discoveries and fishing expeditions, to the early 19th century, when Napoléon Bonaparte sold Louisiana to the United States. French presence in North America was marked by economic exchanges with Indigenous peoples, but also by conflicts, as the French attempted to control this vast territory. The French colonial enterprise was also spurred by religious motivation as well as the desire to establish an effective colony in the St. Lawrence Valley. From the founding of Québec in 1608 to the ceding of Canada to Britain in 1763, France placed its stamp upon the history of the continent, much of whose lands — including Acadia — lay under its control. Through the use of encyclopedic articles, biographies, exhibits, study guides and searchable timelines, this collection features content related to this history.

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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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New France (Plain-Language summary)

New France was a French colony in North America. By the early 1740s, France controlled what is known today as the Maritime provinces, much of modern-day Ontario and Quebec, and the Hudson Bay region. The territory also stretched from today’s Northeastern United States to the Gulf of Mexico. Quebec City was the center of culture, society and economics. The French living in New France created a distinct culture. The French population of New France were known as habitants. Many habitants had a better life in New France than peasants in France. That said, not many people from France wanted to emigrate to New France. Most people in France thought New France was too cold and very dangerous. Because there was little immigration, New France had a very small population. In 1763, approximately 70,000 French colonists lived in New France. (See Population Settlement of New France.) This small population made New France weak. It was one of the most important reasons why New France was taken over by Britain in 1763.

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

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Marie Rollet

Marie Rollet, first Frenchwoman to settle in New France (born circa 1580 in Paris, France; died in May 1649 and buried 27 May 1649 in Quebec City, New France). She is recognized as the first female French farmer in New France, alongside her husband Louis Hébert.

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Ministère de la Marine

The Ministère de la Marine is the section of the French government that administered Canada during its last 100 years as a French colony. The Ministère de la Marine — variously described as a ministry, department, or secretariat of state — administered France’s navy, colonies and seaborne trade.

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Jean Talon

Jean Talon, intendant of New France (baptized 8 January 1626 in Châlons-sur-Marne, France; died 24 November 1694 in France). He served as New France, Acadia and Newfoundland’s first "Intendant of Justice, Public order and Finances" between 1665–1668 and 1669–1672. Jean Talon was a determined, energetic, and imaginative servant of the king and his minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert.

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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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Carignan-Salières Regiment

The Carignan-Salières Regiment was a regiment of French troops who were sent to New France from 1665 to 1667 to fight the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois). These professional soldiers, who had little experience with fighting in the woods, invaded the lands of the Haudenosaunee but did not succeed in defeating them. Nevertheless, the French show of force led to a peace accord in 1667. Though most of the French soldiers then went home, some stayed, married and settled in New France. Many of them married Filles du Roy and now have many descendants. Quebec municipalities such as Berthier, Chambly and Verchères still bear the names of officers of this regiment.

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François Bigot

François Bigot, financial commissary of Île Royale 1739–1745, intendant of New France 1748–1760 (baptized at Bordeaux, France on 30 Jan 1703; died at Neuchâtel, Switzerland on 12 Jan 1778). Traditionally, Bigot has been remembered for administrative fraud so massive as to cause the Conquest of New France by the British during the Seven Years' War. His legacy is, however, more nuanced as the colony’s economic issues went far beyond Bigot’s own corruption.

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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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Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil de Cavagnial

Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil de Cavagnial, Marquis de Vaudreuil, (sometimes Vaudreuil-Cavagnial), officer, last governor general of New France 1755–1760 (born in Québec, New-France on 22 November 1698; died in Paris, France 4 August 1778). He was the governor of New France during the Seven Years’ War and the British Conquest of New France. Following the capture of Quebec by British forces, Vaudreuil signed the capitulation of Montreal and New France in 1760.

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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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Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry

Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry, military engineer (born 3 October 1682 in Toulon, France; died 23 March 1756 in Quebec City, QC). Chaussegros de Léry contributed to the development of New France by fortifying the colony’s towns, namely Quebec and Montreal. His relief maps of Quebec and Montreal are still regarded as accurate models of these cities. Some consider Chaussegros de Léry the father of the first truly Canadian architecture. (See also Architectural History: The French Colonial Regime.)