European Exploration of America

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What were the French looking for when they came to the New World?

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New France (1534–1763) was established for many of the same reasons that motivated Spanish and English settlers in the New World. These reasons included a search for a route to Asia, economic opportunities, and a desire to spread Christianity. France's footprint on the New World, however, was not as deep or as lasting as those of Spain and England.

Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian explorer, established the French claim to North America. Like Columbus before him, Verrazano was looking for a passage to the riches of Asia. He returned to France in 1524 and made two more voyages for France to the New World.

France's main economic activity was the fur trade. Early sixteenth-century French fisherman off Newfoundland traded with local Indigenous peoples. They received fresh meat and furs from the Indigenous people. The fishermen sold these furs in Europe, and a lucrative business began.

France also tried to convert the Indigenous groups to Catholicism. Religious orders, such as the Jesuits, sent priests to the most remote parts of New France.

New France was never very strong. Its sparse population and British naval power led to its demise in 1763.

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