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French Colonies


The French established their first colonies in North America in the 17th century (1600s), many in modern-day Canada. They were primarily designed to produce and provide goods such as furs and sugar for export.

The French also established forts, trading posts, and settlements in the areas surrounding the Great Lakes and up and down the Mississippi River, including the huge colony of Louisiana. The territory encompassed the modern-day states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and Idaho. Named after the French King Louis XIV, its capital, New Orleans, at the mouth of the Mississippi River, was founded in 1718.

After the Treaty of Paris at the end of the French and Indian War (1763), the French surrendered Louisiana to the Spanish. They regained control of the colony in 1800, and three years later, Napoleon sold it to the young United States. This sale, which ignored the Indian tribes who inhabited the land, became known as the Louisiana Purchase.

French forts and trading posts were built at the sites of what later became well-known American cities, such as Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Detroit, Michigan; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Natchez and Biloxi, Mississippi.

Map of the French Colonies

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