New France Grows Slowly

The population of New France grew slowly. The first permanent French settlement was not established until 1608, when Samuel de Champlain established a colony in Quebec. Wealthy landlords bought huge tracts, or areas of land, along the St. Lawrence River. They sought settlers to farm the land, but the harsh Canadian climate, with its long winters, attracted few French peasants.

Many who went to New France soon abandoned farming in favor of the more profitable fur trapping and trading. They faced a hard life in the wilderness, but the soaring European demand for fur ensured good prices. Fishing was another industry that supported settlers, who exported cod and other fish to Europe.

Royal Power and Economic Growth

In the late 1600s, the French king Louis XIV set out to strengthen royal power and boost revenues, or income, from taxes from his overseas empire. He appointed officials to oversee economic activities in New France.

He also sent soldiers and more settlers—including women—to North America. However, Louis, who was Catholic, prohibited Protestants from settling in New France.

By the early 1700s, French forts, missions, and trading posts stretched from Quebec to Louisiana, and the population was growing. Yet the population of New France remained small compared to that of the English colonies that were expanding along the Atlantic coast.

The 13 English Colonies

At the time of Columbus and throughout the centuries ahead, the English sailed westward, hoping to find a sea passage to India. In 1497, John Cabot, a Venetian explorer, commanded an English expedition that reached the rich fishing grounds off Newfoundland. He claimed the region for England. Dozens of other English explorers continued to search for a northwest passage to Asia, without success. In the 1600s, England turned its attention instead to building colonies along the Atlantic seaboard of North America.


The English built their first permanent colony at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. Its early years were filled with disaster. Many settlers died of starvation and disease. The rest survived with the help of friendly Native Americans.


In 1620, another group of English settlers landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts. They were Pilgrims, or English Protestants who rejected the Church of England.

A map shows the European colonization of North America, around 1700.
Image Long Description

England, France, and Spain controlled large parts of North America. Their colonies differed from each other in a number of ways.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments