France and Canada share several similarities. From both being regions of diversity, commerce, and home to several foreigners to similarities of being a haven to foreigners.
France didn't just get to where it is in a day. There is a long history of growth, endurance, and conquest that has brought France to where it is today. You may not have heard so much about French history, and that's perhaps why you know little or nothing about it till now.
Here, Superprof goes down history’s lane to provide you with helpful information and interesting facts about one of Canada's most loved neighbors - France.
A Brief Analysis of the French Colonial Empire
By now, you must have known that "France" is in itself not a French word. It has a German origin, and it is said to flow from the word "Frank," which in its purest form means "free." According to history, France has always been ruled by kingdoms starting from Merovech in the 5th century.
Merovech was a Frankish who ruled France for the better part of the 5th century. However, there was not so much known about France; neither was it regarded as an empire. This period was said to usher in a very decisive moment in terms of colonial power for France.
Things gradually changed for France from the 5th century until the 17th century, when a record of the first wave of colonization was made. For a better understanding of how things played out during those times, let's examine some key moments in the history of France.
Early France and Its Many Conquests
The 16th century was when France started its attempt at establishing a colony. This followed the discovery of the American continent by the people of Spain and subsequently ushered in a new world. There was a serious tussle for power at a global level during these times as several countries, including Spain and the United Kingdom, were all struggling to establish colonies.
See how French language was established in Canada.
In 1605, the first true colony of France was founded. This was referred to as the first true colony because several other colonies were credited before now. This first true colony was known as Port Royal in Acadia. Today, this place is now known as Nova Scotia here in Canada.
It didn't take long after the first true colony was founded that another was founded. In 1608, just three years after the first, another colony was founded called Quebec, another popular city in today's Canada. Quebec was said to be founded by Samuel de Champlain.
Immediately Quebec was founded; it was named as the capital of the then colony of New France. Gradually French explorers started expanding their reach around nearby communities and were establishing more colonies.
France's rich history with Canada is perhaps why they are still regarded as sister countries in today's contemporary world.
Across virtually all of the colonies that were established there, the primary activity was fur trading. Fur trading was used to capture the interest of the settlers of those communities and also acquire financial power. With time, a fur trading network was created and prioritized over the existing agricultural settlements in those colonies.
The fur trading network reduced the population of the people in the American colonies of the French. It gave it the financial influence it needed to spread to other areas like the south of the Equator.
France and the South of the Equator
In 1625, the French had grown in influence and gained access to new territories. Its newest establishment at this time was a colony on St. Kitts, an island located on the borderlands of France and Great Britain. The establishment of a colony on this island was France's first step in gaining access to the South of the Equator.
Ten years after this colony was established, the Compagnie des Îndes d’Amérique was also established. Cardinal de Richelieu established this in 1635 to replace the non-functional Compagnie St. Christophe.
A look down history lane reveals that this was a very wise move as it gave France access to the Caribbean islands. Some of France's accessed places include St. Dominguez, the present-day Dominican Republic, Martinique, and Guadeloupe.
Entry into North America for France wasn't as easy as it was with other regions. To gain the acceptance of the people, the French had to work with the natives of this region. Several tobacco and sugarcane plantations were established in this region, which empowered the locals and ended up being a great entry tool. At this time, several ethnic revolts were happening in this region under the guise of "ethnic cleansing." The most outstanding of these revolts was the Carib expulsion of 1660, where the Carib people of Martinique were wiped out in their numbers.
France and Its African Colonies
Going through a list of French-speaking countries worldwide, you will discover that many of these countries are African countries. To be more factual, over 75% of French-speaking countries are African countries. How did France get so much dominance in Africa than it did in other regions?
France's entry into Africa started in 1664 when several trading posts were established along the coast of Senegal. In 1665, outposts were established in certain regions that France had claimed before that time. Two of these outposts were located on La Reunion and Mauritius.
With these outposts, there was a strong resistance against the French, which resulted in several tussles. France didn't win this time and had no choice but to retain only Pondicherry and Chantannagar - two cities later integrated into India.
Napoleon Bonaparte and the First French Empire
The French Revolution left France in disarray, with the country looking for the best form of government. In this period, it appeared that what the people of France had was a reign of terror until the Directory was set up to put things in place.
While the Directory was still trying to balance things and get the empire in order, there was a sudden coup that Napoleon Bonaparte led. This was around 1799. With the success of this coup, Napoleon immediately established a consulate with three consuls and made himself the first consul.
Napoleon Bonaparte led the people of France for three years (1799 - 1802) when France signed the Peace of Amiens with Great Britain, and normalcy was partially restored to the region. Having achieved this great feat, Napoleon Bonaparte was voted as a consul for life in France. In his time as consul of France, some of the challenges and achievements of Napoleon Bonaparte include:
- He was forced to sell the Louisiana territories to the United States.
- France was made an empire in 1804, and Napoleon was crowned as its head.
- Napoleon was able to conquer Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and some parts of Belgium.
- He successfully extended France's territory beyond the Rhine.
- He started the Napoleonic wars, which saw Paris surrender in 1814.
- He attempted another coup after being exiled in 1815 but he was defeated in Waterloo by the then ruler - Louis XVIII.
Napoleon III and the Second French Empire
With Napoleon's unsuccessful coup of 1815, Louis XVIII continued his rule in France until 1824, when he died. He was immediately replaced by Charles X, who spent only six years on the throne. Charles X was displaced in 1830 by Louis Philippe.
In 1848, despite many attempts to surrender power to his grandson, France stood its ground to return to a republic. After this decision, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte - cousin to Napoleon Bonaparte, was elected as president, and he is regarded as the first elected president of the country.
However, according to the constitution of the French Republic, Napoleon was only allowed to rule for a term. This wasn't okay with him, and he staged a coup after his first term that saw him remain in power. With a successful coup recorded, Louis renamed himself Napoleon III and ruled until 1870, when he resigned.
The French Post-Colonial Empire
France, having gone through several phases, gained some new territories and lost others. It gained territories like French Guyana, Senegal trading posts, and some in India. France also colonized Mauritius and Seychelles that are two prominent African French-speaking countries today.
Attempts to continue colonizing Haiti failed as it gained its independence but had to repay France for its plantations.
Napoleon III increased France's reach across Europe and in the colonies it had under its control. Colonies were established in Cambodia, Cochin China, New Caledonia, and several other parts of Africa. Attempts were made to expand in South America, but there was a lot of resistance by Benito Juarez of Mexico.
While there are several things to admire about the French Empire, there is a lot to learn about its history. As a Canadian, you can learn this history without having to leave your home. With Superprof, you can take French lessons online to learn this history of the French Empire or hire a private French tutor for home tuition.
See an overview of French empire and language.