Early European and French Exploration of North America – 1492 to 1534

France, which was the major continental European power in the 17th century, was a major colonial Power in North America. The colony of New France existed from the early 17th century to the early 19th century when the Jefferson Administration bought the territory from Napoleon. It initially covered the shores of the St. Lawrence River, Newfoundland and Acadia (Nova Scotia), but eventually covered much of the Great Lakes region and parts of the Trans-Appalachian West. The French Presence in North America was characterized by economic exchange with the Native Americans, but also conflicts as the French attempted to control this vast territory.  There was also a strong religious motivation as part of France’s desire to establish an effective colony in the St. Lawrence Valley.

France’s interest in North America manifested itself later than the other Western powers, and after explorations made by: Christopher Columbus in 1492; John Cabot in 1497; the Corte-Reale brothers (Portugal) in 1501 and 1502; and Giovanni da Verrazzono (Italian, whose family ran the eponymous Ciantti Vinyard near Florence) who explored the Eastern Shore of America from Florida to Newfoundland. All of these explores ranged throughout America prior to the French explorer, Jacques Cartier, who finally arrived in 1534. Subsequent posts will discuss the founding of New France.

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