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French colonial empire

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French Colonial Empire
Empire colonial français
Flag of French Empire
French conquests and territories over the centuries
French conquests and territories over the centuries
and largest city
• Established
• Cartier planted the French flag at Gaspé Bay
24 July 1534
30 April 1803
• Independence of Vanuatu
30 July 1980
• Disestablished
1680 (first colonial empire peak)10,000,000 km2 (3,900,000 sq mi)
1938 (second colonial empire peak)13,500,000 km2 (5,200,000 sq mi)
1534-198024,000,000 km2 (9,300,000 sq mi)
• 1938 (second colonial empire peak)
Today part of

The French colonial Empire (French: Empire colonial français) was land controlled by the French from the 16th century to the late 1960s. In the 17th and 18th centuries France gained and lost large territories in North America and India. Like the other empires of the time, was powered by slaves captured from Africa.[1] The Haitian Revolution, when many of these slaves in the colony of Saint Domingue fought and defeated the French, caused major changes in the empire.

Sometimes, people say there was a first and a second French colonial empire. The "First French Colonial Empire" was from the French colonization of the Americas to the Napoleonic Wars. The "Second French Colonial Empire" is the French colonies in Africa.

From the 16th to the 17th centuries, the First French colonial empire had a total area of over 10,000,000 square kilometres (3,900,000 sq mi), at its peak in 1680. At the time, it was the second-largest empire in the world, behind the Spanish Empire. In terms of land area, the Second French colonial empire extended to over 13,500,000 square kilometres (5,200,000 sq mi) at its peak in 1936. It was also the second largest in the world at the time, at 10% of the world's land area. The total land area of the first and second French colonial empire combined reached 24,000,000 square kilometres (9,300,000 sq mi).

France began to establish colonies in North America, the Caribbean and India in the 17th century, but lost most of them after losing in the Seven Years' War. The North American colonies were lost to Britain and Spain. Spain returned Louisiana (New France) to France in 1800. Then, France sold it to the United States in 1803. France rebuilt a new empire mostly after 1850, mostly in Africa, but also in Indochina and in the South Pacific. It started to trade with the countries by supplying raw materials and purchasing manufactured items. Rebuilding an empire improved French reputation as an international power by spreading the French language and the Catholic religion. It also provided more men to fight in the World Wars.

A major goal was the "Civilizing Mission" (French: Mission civilisatrice). 'Civilizing' the populations of Africa by spreading language and religion was used to explain how the French colonial project worked.[2] France sent small numbers of settlers to its empire, with the notable exception of Algeria, where the French settlers took power while being a minority.


[change | change source]
  1. "French Slave Trade". Slavery and Remembrance. Retrieved 2020-10-27.
  2. Priestley, Herbert Ingram (2018-05-03). France Overseas: A Study of Modern Imperialism. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-351-00241-7.