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The French colonization of the Americas began in the 16th century, and continued in the following centuries as Francemarker established a colonial empire in the Western Hemispheremarker. France founded colonies in much of eastern North America, on a number of Caribbeanmarker islands, and in South America. Most colonies were developed to export products such as fish, sugar, and furs.

As they colonized the New World, the French established forts and settlements that would become such cities as Quebecmarker and Montrealmarker in Canadamarker; Detroitmarker, Green Baymarker, St. Louismarker, Mobilemarker, Biloximarker, Baton Rougemarker and New Orleansmarker in the United Statesmarker; and Port-au-Princemarker and Cap-Haïtienmarker in Haitimarker.

North America

The French first came to the New World as explorers, seeking a route to the Pacific ocean and wealth. Major French exploration of North America began under the reign of King Francis I. In 1524, Francis sent Italianmarker-born Giovanni da Verrazano to explore the region between Floridamarker and Newfoundlandmarker for a route to the Pacific Oceanmarker. Verrazzano gave the names Francesca and Nova Gallia to that land between New Spain and English Newfoundland, thus promoting French interests.

Later, in 1534, Francis sent Jacques Cartier on the first of three voyages to explore the coast of Newfoundland and the St. Lawrence Rivermarker. The French subsequently tried to establish several colonies throughout North America that failed, due to weather, disease or conflict with other European powers. Cartier attempted to create the first permanent European settlement in North America at Cap-Rougemarker in 1541 with 400 settlers but the settlement was abandoned the next year after bad weather and Indian attacks. A small group of French troops were left on Parris Islandmarker, South Carolinamarker in 1562 to build Charlesfort, but left after a year when they were not resupplied from France. Fort Carolinemarker established in present-day Jacksonville, Floridamarker in 1564, lasted only a year before being destroyed by the Spanish from St. Augustinemarker. An attempt to settle convicts on Sable Islandmarker off Nova Scotia in 1598 failed after a short time. In 1599, a sixteen-person trading post was established in Tadoussacmarker (in present-day Quebecmarker), of which only five men survived the first winter. In 1604, Saint Croix Island, Mainemarker was the site of a short-lived French colony, much plagued by illness, perhaps scurvy. Fort Saint Louis was established in Texas in 1685, but was gone by 1688.

A major French settlement lay on the island of Hispaniolamarker, where France established the colony of Saint-Domingue on the western third of the island in 1664. Nicknamed the "Pearl of the Antilles," Saint-Domingue became the richest colony in the Caribbean before a 1791 slave revolt, which began the Haitian Revolution, led to freedom for the colony's slaves in 1794 and, a decade later, complete independence for the country, which renamed itself Haitimarker. France briefly also ruled the eastern portion of the island, which is now the Dominican Republicmarker.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, France ruled much of the Lesser Antilles at various times. Islands that came under French rule during part of all of this time include Dominicamarker, Grenadamarker, Guadeloupemarker, Marie-Galantemarker, Martiniquemarker, St. Barthélemymarker, St. Croixmarker, St. Kittsmarker, St. Luciamarker, St. Martinmarker, St. Vincentmarker and Tobagomarker. Control of many of these islands was contested between the French, the British and the Dutch; in the case of St. Martin, the island was divided in two, a situation that persists to this day. Great Britainmarker captured some of France's islands during the Seven Years' War and the Napoleonic Wars. Following the latter conflict, France retained control of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Marie-Galante, St. Barthélemy, and its portion of St. Martin; all remain part of France today. Guadeloupe (including Marie-Galante and other nearby islands) and Martinique each is an overseas departments of France, while St. Barthélemy and St. Martin each became an overseas collectivity of France in 2007.

In Martinique, unlike Saint-Domingue, slavery was not abolished during the French Revolution. Meanwhile, in Guadeloupe slaves gained their freedom from 1795 (due to pressures by the French Revolution, the convention in Paris performed this task and sent Victor Hugues to implement the new law) but then faced the reinstatement of the institution of slavery by Napoleon in 1802.

South America

From 1555 to 1567, French Huguenots, under the leadership of vice-admiral Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon, made an attempt to establish the colony of France Antarctique in what is now Brazilmarker, but were expelled. From 1612 to 1615, a second failed attempt was made in present-day São Luísmarker, Brazil.

French Guianamarker was first settled by the French in 1604, although its earliest settlements were abandoned in the face of American Indian hostility and tropical diseases. The settlement of Cayennemarker was established in 1643, but was abandoned. It was re-established in the 1660s. Except for brief occupations by the English and Dutch in the 17th century, and by the Portuguese in the 19th century, Guiana has remained under French rule ever since. From 1851 to 1951 it was the site of a notorious penal colony, Devil's Islandmarker (Île du Diable). Guiana is presently an overseas department of France.

In 1860, a French adventurer, Orelie-Antoine de Tounens proclaimed himself king of Araucania and Patagonia. His claim was not accepted by foreign powers and Chilemarker and Argentinamarker took firm control over the regions, treating him as insane.

See also



Notes

  1. 1524: The voyage of discoveries, Centro studi storici Verrazzano
  2. As the French and Indian War started two years earlier, and continued until the signing of the peace treaty, the name Seven Years' War is more properly applied to the European phase of the war.


References

  • The French Founders of North America and Their Heritage, Sabra Holbrook, Atheneum, New York, 1976, hardback, ISBN 0-689-30490-0



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