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Quebec City

Population in 1763: 8,000 (city and surrounding area)

In 1663, Quebec City became the capital of New France. The colonial administration was located there, including the Governor General, legal authorities, religious leaders and large businesses. Quebec City's importance made it a highly strategic target for the British, who besieged the city several times and finally captured it in 1759


Population in 1737: 2,023, of whom 35% were military personnel

The settlement of Louisbourg was established on Île Royale in 1713, after the French were driven out of Acadia and Newfoundland. It was fortified beginning in 1719. Louisbourg was known as "the Dunkerque of North America" because of the large number of privateer ships outfitted there. The British occupied the fortress for four years during their first siege, from 1745 to 1748. In 1758, the British recaptured Louisbourg, destroyed the fortifications and made Île Royale (renamed Cape Breton Island) part of Nova Scotia.

Chaleur Bay

Chaleur Bay is an inlet in the Gulf of St Lawrence, separating the Gaspé peninsula from Acadia. Chaleur Bay was named by Jacques Cartier, who, when he saw the fog over the water, thought it looked like steam. (The French word chaleur means "heat.")

Its main tributaries are the Restigouche, Matapédia and Nepisiguit rivers.

Mingan Islands

The Mingan Islands extend for almost 500 km between the North Shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence and Anticosti Island.

In 1679, Frontenac granted Louis Jolliet the Seigneury of Mingan, along with the fishing rights for cod and seals. Throughout the 18th century, the settlement of Mingan was a hub for trade and privateering activity. In 1836, the area and all the rights associated with it were sold to the Hudson's Bay Company.

Canso Strait

Canso Strait is a deep (60 m), narrow (3 km) channel that extends for 27 km, separating Cape Breton Island from the Nova Scotia mainland. For American privateers, the Canso Strait was a more direct route to the Gulf of St Lawrence than the Cabot Strait.


Population in 1777: 75, including 47 children

The village of Paspébiac was founded around 1747 at the northern (Gaspé) end of Chaleur Bay. Charles Robin launched his cod fishing and processing business there around 1766. The buildings were destroyed by fire in 1964.


Percé was a Micmac fishing spot that became the main cod fishing centre for Europeans (Normans, Bretons and Basques) in the 17th century. In the early 1660s, Charles Robin established a sizeable business there.

Because of its prosperity, Percé was attacked a number of times by British privateers during the 17th and 18th centuries.

St Lawrence River and Gulf

The St Lawrence is one of the longest rivers in North America. It flows from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of St Lawrence and into the Atlantic Ocean-a total distance of more than 1,000 km.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the St Lawrence was central to all communications, fishing and trade, exploration, and the war fought to gain control of the territory.

The Aboriginal people had named it "Path That Walks," and later the Europeans called it "Cod River." In 1535, on the feast day of St Lawrence, Jacques Cartier was staying on the Mingan Islands at the river's mouth, and he officially named it the St Lawrence River.

Water from the Great Lakes meets the Atlantic Ocean around Île d'Orléans, near Quebec City. As it flows closer to the sea, the water becomes saltier. There are also great variations in tides and water temperature, providing habitats for many different fish and marine mammals.

Île Royale (Cape Breton Island)

Cape Breton Island, which today is part of Nova Scotia, was first named Île Royale when it belonged to France. In the 18th century, it was mostly populated by Acadians, who came to live there in 1713 when New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were ceded to Britain after the War of the Spanish Succession.

It was then that Fortress Louisbourg was constructed and coal mining began.

Île Royale remained a French colony after the War of the Austrian Succession, and the inhabitants of Plaisance, who had been evacuated when Newfoundland once again became part of Britain, also came to live there.

In 1763, almost all of North America became British. Only Saint-Pierre and Miquelon still belonged to France, and Île Royale became Cape Breton Island, first as an independent province, then as part of Nova Scotia.

Île Saint-Paul

Île Saint-Paul is an island 30 km off the eastern tip of Cape Breton that was never inhabited. Strong westerly winds frequently blew in storms off the north coast of the island, causing many shipwrecks. Because of its location on navigation routes, Île Saint-Paul was also a handy stopping point for 18th-century privateers.

Salem, Massachusetts

Population in 1790: 1,218

In 1623, a small fishing colony was established at a site the Aboriginal people called Naumkeag (comfortable shelter). In 1629, the place was renamed Salem, from the Hebrew word shalom, meaning "peace."

In 1629, the village was seized by mass hysteria over a series of incidents that people believed were caused by witchcraft. Nineteen people were executed.

During the 18th century, Salem grew considerably, thanks to cod fishing and international trade. As a busy port, it was also a favoured embarkation point for privateering expeditions, especially during the American War of Independence.

In 1790, Salem was the sixth-largest city in the United States, and the richest.


Population in 1755: around 1,750 Acadians

Port Royal was founded in 1605. In 1607, the founder, Pierre Du Gua De Mons, lost his exclusive rights to the fur trade and returned to France with all the colonists.

The site was watched over by Membertou, an Aboriginal friend of De Mons, and the colony was revived in 1610 and became the capital of Acadia. In the years that followed, it changed hands between the British and the French as a result of a series of wars. In 1710, Britain finally took over Port Royal for good. It was renamed Annapolis Royal and became part of Nova Scotia.

In 1755, the Acadians living in Annapolis Royal were deported, and British colonists moved in.

Plaisance, Newfoundland

Population in 1711: 189

Although Basques had come to Plaisance in the 16th century, it was not until 1632 that France claimed fishing rights to this site on the southern coast of Newfoundland. In 1662, the King of France tried to counter the threat of an English invasion by fortifying the settlement and populating it with 80 colonists, hundreds of soldiers and, in summer, large numbers of fishermen.

As a result of numerous conflicts during the 18th century, Plaisance fell into British hands in 1713, and its inhabitants migrated to Cape Breton. Because the city of Saint-Jean was French at the time, the two parts of the island were in conflict. The British finally acquired Saint-Jean, which became St John's, and the fortifications of Plaisance, no longer serving any purpose, were torn down in 1811.

Despite these conflicts, Plaisance remained an important centre of trade, and in 1778 its population was larger than that of St John's.