France has had a presence in North America since long before the birth of the United States. Most American history looks back at France's presence on the continent largely from the British side of events that occurred. W. J. Eccles' France In America introduces readers to French history in North America drawing largely from the french side of events. Eccles begins the book around the year 1500 with early french exploration and the events that eventually lead to colonization. France In America details the events that took place in France and french colonies from colonial beginnings to the years following the American Revolution.
William John Eccles was born in Thirsk, England on July 17, 1917. When Eccles was just a young boy, he came to Canada, where he lived the rest of his life. Eccles received his education at McGill University in Montreal and the Sorbonne in Paris (MU). After receiving his education he began teaching as a historian at the University of Manitoba in 1953. After 4 years of teaching at Manitoba he then moved on to the University of Alberta and again to the University of Toronto in 1963. Eccles is the author of several books including: Frontenac: The Courtier Governor, The Canadian Frontier, 1534-1760, and of course France in America. W. J. Eccles retired from the University of Toronto on 1983 and passed away October 2, 1998. When Eccles wrote France in America, he did so with the argument that even though the modern day presence of French speaking people in North America is very small, that was not always the case. Eccles argues that France once controlled far greater amounts of land than England and therefore France plays an important role in American History. Since most Americans have only heard history from the British perspective that his book "views events and developments from the French rather than the English side of the hill" (Eccles xii).
France in America introduces readers to events and developments throughout North American History from a perspective that is not normally presented in American History classes. The book begins by introducing readers to the events that would eventually lead lead France to colonize North America. After many failed attempts to colonize areas such as Brazil and Florida, France was forced to settle for lands in the north that were not sought out by rival European powers at the time. Eccles explains that France was not interested in settling permanent colonies like the British, instead the French were interested in seasonal fur trading. Permanent colonies were not pursued until later when they were deemed necessary in order to secure Canada's wealth for France and keep other rival countries from trading.
France made several attempts to colonize Canada and Acadia, but usually with the same result, lack of capital or man power. Unlike England, France had internal religious issues to deal with both in France and the New World. Constant power struggles between French Catholics and Huguenots initially made it very difficult for the French Crown to support overseas colonies, but eventually France overcame these problems and was able to begin devoting more resources into a permanent settlement.
When England began settling its American colonies, the objective was to establish new English-only societies. Since their society was to be one of white Christians, natives, who were seen as savages and only traded with were only traded when beneficial for the English or necessary for their survival. Unlike England, France took a much different approach to colonization. Since the French presence in North America small at first, daily interactions with natives became a colonial way of life for the French. When French Jesuits arrived in North America from France, they did so with the intent of converting the native peoples to Christianity and assimilating them into New France's society. One very interesting fact presented by Eccles was that if the...
Cited: Eccles, William J. France in America (NY 1972). First Edition. New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers
"W. J. Eccles, McMaster libraries." Eccles, W. J.. May 21, 2003. McMaster University Libraries. < HYPERLINK "http://library.mcmaster.ca/archives/findaids/fonds/e/eccles.htm" http://library.mcmaster.ca/archives/findaids/fonds/e/eccles.htm>.
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