The Society of New France
There were many early expeditions from Europe to North America, most in search of a Northwest Passage that linked the Atlantic to the Pacific, thus leading to the wealth of Asia . These excursions alerted Europeans of the resources North America offered and this attraction of fish and furs stimulated annual voyages from Europe to reap the benefits of the New World. As appealing as this discovery was, Europeans considered this New World a harsh environment and few thought of settling permanently , but eventually political and economic interests inspired Europeans establish settlements in North America . Overseas colonies were regarded as an opportunity to gain political advantage amongst European monarchs in constant competition for power and glory .
While English settlement in eastern North America was influenced by the fish-rich waters, French colonization was influenced by the desire for even greater riches . In 1534, Jacques Cartier was sent to the New World to claim the land for France and search for the gold that was believed to be in line for discovery. After failure to find the gold that was anticipated and Cartier’s unsuccessful colonization attempt, France lost interest in North America settlement . It wasn’t until 1600 that the demand for furs significantly increased and France regained interest in North America . The north shore of the St. Lawrence became the focus and in 1608, Samuel de Champlain full of determination and perseverance founded France’s first permanent Canadian colony. He strategically chose the location of Quebec as the new base of operations for the commercial, political and religious conquest of Canada . Among Quebec’s advantages were the spectacular natural defences and the proximity to the land of the Native peoples who were absolutely necessary to fur traders . After much fascination with this New World, the consequential fur trade along with the contributions of Samuel de Champlain inspired the birth of New France, a French territory that, in combination with various elements, evolved into its own very unique and flourishing society.
New France existed throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth century. It was during this period that a vast majority of North America was under French influence or control . At its peak, New France extended from Acadia in the east to the Mississippi River basin in the west and from the Hudson Bay in the north to Louisiana in the south. The population of New France was unsurprisingly concentrated in Canada which was the location most beneficial for economic prosperity. It was the area between Quebec and Montreal and bordering the St. Lawrence River where the fur trade had better prospects for success .
Settler society in New France was slow to develop, but by the eighteenth century the most of Canada’s population was colonial born . Though the economy was still largely shaped by the interests of France and New France was still closely linked to France through church, state and commercial institutions , a distinctive culture emerged, full of its own character. In Canada, the most populous colony, over 80 percent of the colonists lived in the rural countryside where a peasant culture had taken root . They had a much closer relationship with the land than the 20 percent of urban colonists, whose fortunes and values were more influenced by trans-Atlantic trade and culture . These rural areas were mostly home to Canadian-born farmers who cultivated the land. As in France, the typical landholding system was seigneurialism in which all the land belonged to the Crown. The governor, on behalf of the king, granted land to the seigneurs in return for a promise to find settlers to clear the land and begin farming. But in the early years it was difficult to find farmers for the colony, and since cultivating the land was crucial for New France’s survival, farming had to be more...
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