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Atlantic History French Atlantic World
by
Marie-Jeanne Rossignol
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 December 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0025

Introduction

The very notions of Atlantic history and a French Atlantic are heavily debated, especially by French historians. Yet there is no gainsaying that the rise of Atlantic history in the 1990s has corresponded to a renewed interest in the history of the first French colonial empire together with innovative historiographical approaches (greater focus on indigenous peoples, slavery, and ordinary immigrants). However, the French Atlantic covers a set of issues that must not be confused with or limited to French colonial policy or enterprise in North, Central, and South America. This entry will thus emphasize French migration across and around the Atlantic, trade and commerce (including the slave trade), and imperial policies and actions (wars with Britain, relations with indigenous peoples). The French Atlantic covers a period starting in the early 17th century (after a few failed attempts in the 16th century in both North and South America) and going beyond 1763, as the events and repercussions of the American Revolution together with those of the French and Haitian revolutions unfolded. This entry will thus take researchers to the 1830s. Like the British Atlantic, the French Atlantic suggests a space where human, political, and commercial exchanges are connected and coordinated on the ocean but also far inland. Not only did the French American colonies have an impact on the metropolis (economically and in many other ways), but they also constantly traded with or clashed with neighboring empires, Spain, Britain, or Native American nations, in the Americas. Most particularly the vast spread of the French empire in the interior of North America and the low number of French immigrants to the continent made for intense and diverse contacts with indigenous peoples. No two European empires in the Americas were similar. What sets the French Atlantic apart from the rival British Atlantic is probably the role of the state. From the start French imperial expansion was characterized by a considerable involvement of the state, which does not mean that there ever was a unanimous opinion, at court or among French colonial officials in France and America, on how to organize the French empire and on the course it was meant to take. Nor does that mean that French merchants and colonial settlers did not benefit from a measure of autonomy. Another peculiarity of the French empire in the Americas was its fragmentation among colonies of very different kinds. After its defeat on the North American continent in 1763, France chose to retain its sugar colonies in the Caribbean, reinforcing its commitment to African slavery and the slave trade. Even after losing Canada and Louisiana, French authorities maintained an interest in the North American continent (and in South America in Guyana). Their originally reticent support for the American Revolution turned into a wartime alliance that eventually led to profound changes in France. The North American debate on slavery in those years (1776–1787) was also instrumental in focusing French liberal efforts on ending slavery and the slave trade, while many émigrés and refugees chose the United States as a haven during the age of revolution, with mixed results.

General Overviews

Most textbooks or general treatment volumes give a disproportionate emphasis to New France (with a definite emphasis on French Canada). The Caribbean and Louisiana suffer from relative neglect. Boucher 1989 and Pritchard 2004 cover all the different geographical sections, while Eccles 1998 focuses on French Canada. Havard and Vidal 2005 includes renewed historiographical approaches in its synthesis on the French presence in North America. Pluchon 1991 gives more prominence to the first French empire than Meyer, et al. 1990, reflecting Pierre Pluchon’s own interest in the Caribbean but also new historiographical trends. Yet neither distinguishes the French Atlantic from other areas of French imperialism before 1830.

  • Abénon, Lucien-René, and John A. Dickinson. Les français en Amérique: Histoire d’une colonisation. Lyon, France: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 1993.

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    A compact and useful two-part book for undergraduates focusing first on New France (mainly Canada) and then on the Caribbean. Louisiana is relatively neglected.

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    • Boucher, Philip P. Les Nouvelles Frances: France in America, 1500–1815, an Imperial Perspective. Providence, RI: John Carter Brown Library, 1989.

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      This 183-page volume is a gem for undergraduates. Boucher covers the whole history of the first French empire in the Americas (North America; the Caribbean; South America; Cayenne, French Guiana) in a synthetic narrative that includes about forty illustrations. Also useful are a bibliography of about two hundred primary sources mainly from the John Carter Brown Library (discussed in the narrative) and fifty secondary sources.

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      • Eccles, W. J. The French in North America, 1500–1765. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1998.

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        A history of New France with a focus on French Canada. A thorough and useful synthesis (also based on primary sources) for undergraduates and others. Covers the aftermath of the loss of Canada for France (participation in the War of Independence). Includes illustrations and an updated bibliographical essay.

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        • Greene, Jack P., and Philip D. Morgan, eds. Atlantic History: A Critical Appraisal. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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          Chapter 5 offers a general overview of the French Atlantic by the Guadeloupe specialist Laurent Dubois.

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          • Havard, Gilles, and Cécile Vidal. Histoire de l’Amérique française. Paris: Flammarion, 2005.

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            Already a classic volume on the history of the French Atlantic (French Canada and Louisiana). Does not cover the Caribbean. Thorough, up-to-date, and innovative historiographically with a large focus on native and enslaved populations; contains a useful bibliographical section.

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            • Meyer, Jean, Jean Tarrade, Annie Rey-Goldzeiguer, and Jacques Thobie. Histoire de la France coloniale. Vol. 1, Des origines à 1914. Paris: Armand Colin, 1990.

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              The first three hundred pages only bear on French colonization to 1830 in this massive history.

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              • Pluchon, Pierre. Histoire de la colonisation française. Vol. 1, Le premier empire colonial des origines à la restauration. Paris: Fayard, 1991.

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                More than one thousand pages devoted to the first French empire. Includes appendices, a bibliography, and an index of names and places. A useful textbook or reference work for undergraduates and others.

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                • Pritchard, James. In Search of Empire: The French in the Americas, 1670–1730. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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                  This is an attempt at synthesizing research on French overseas possessions and how the state got involved in their development in a sensitive period. Pritchard downplays the role of the state and highlights local contexts and initiatives while dismissing merchant powers. This particular point seems to be controversial in the eyes of French reviewers, who contend that French merchants did take part in the construction of the Spanish empire in the Americas and may have had their own agendas.

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                  Bibliographies and Encyclopedias

                  Boucher 1985 is a bibliography covering every dimension of early French colonization. Faÿ 1925 focuses mainly on primary sources but also includes a bibliography, while Echeverria and Wilkie 1994 offers an incomparable bibliography of printed works. Rodriguez 2002 reflects the new global interpretation of the Louisiana Purchase that came out of the 2003 bicentennial. The Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online is a thorough bilingual source of information for undergraduates.

                  • Boucher, Philip P. The Shaping of the French Colonial Empire: A Bio-Bibliography of the Careers of Richelieu, Fouquet, and Colbert. New York: Garland, 1985.

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                    Covers almost every dimension of French colonial enterprise in the Western Hemisphere during the 17th century beyond the bio-bibliography of the three central figures in French colonial expansion. Boucher complains that the history of the first French empire is neglected on both sides of the Atlantic. Surveys archival material as well as printed sources and secondary sources to 1985 with remarkable thoroughness and sometimes chilling honesty.

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                    • Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

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                      A bilingual site that offers wonderfully detailed biographies of early travelers and figures in French Canada.

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                      • Echeverria, Durand, and Everett C. Wilkie Jr. The French Image of America: A Chronological and Subject Bibliography of French Books Printed before 1816 Relating to the British North American Colonies and the United States. 2 vols. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1994.

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                        Offers an incomparable tool to investigate the French image or dream of America through print (but not newspapers). Included are works by French nationals on America, translations of works on America into French, and works by American authors printed in France or in French.

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                        • Faÿ, Bernard. Bibliographie critique des ouvrages français relatifs aux États-Unis, (1770–1800). Paris: Champion, 1925.

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                          A bibliographical supplement to Faÿ’s L’esprit révolutionnaire en France et aux États-Unis à la fin du XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Champion, 1925). Contains a bibliography of around 225 French works relating to America published between 1770 and 1800 and a bibliographical essay of some sixty pages. A classic now superseded by Echeverria and Wilkie 1994.

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                          • Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. The Louisiana Purchase: A Historical and Geographical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2002.

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                            With eighty-five entries and three hundred contributors, this encyclopedia covers the Louisiana Purchase in all of its dimensions (diplomatic, relationships with natives) and constitutes a real encyclopedia of the American West as a legacy of French Louisiana.

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                            Journals

                            Journals regularly publishing articles on the French Atlantic often carry the notion of colonial in their titles. Such is the case with French Colonial History and French Colonial Studies. Outre-Mers: Revue d’Histoire and Itinerario: European Journal on the History of European Expansion and Global Interaction both refer to the phenomenon of European expansion globally. Only Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos and Revue d’Histoire de l’Amérique Française offer a perspective specifically grounded in the Americas.

                            Primary Sources

                            This section begins with a survey of online resources on the French Atlantic (primary material, encyclopedias, and so forth) in Collections. Then it turns to printed primary sources, presenting them by region. First French Canada is covered with three subheadings (Maps and Illustrations, Memoirs in French, and Memoirs in English). Then Florida, South America, and Louisiana are covered. A short subheading refers to primary sources on the French Caribbean, and relationships between the British North American colonies and then the United States with France are dealt with in the last subheading.

                            Collections

                            The Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) has digitalized vast quantities of published documents in French on its website Gallica. This site also includes documents on the relationship between France and Brazil. Documents on early Canada are available on the Canadiana website; see the Early Canadiana Online (ECO) section of the site. The website Archives Canada France offers quantities of primary source material on the history of New France. The Library of Congress Global Gateway website also stores digitized documents on the French Atlantic.

                            • Archives Canada France.

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                              All the sources concerning New France will progressively be made available online. This is due to an effort by the Canadian government with the support of the Archives de France. The documents also come from France’s overseas archives in Aix-en-Provence.

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                              • Early Canadiana Online (ECO).

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                                Documents on early Canada are collected on this website devoted to the digitalization of Canadian documents.

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                                • France in America.. Library of Congress Global Gateway.

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                                  One of five bilingual presentations on the Library of Congress Global Gateway site. A cooperative project of the Library of Congress and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, France in America explores the French presence in North America from the 16th to the early 19th centuries. Digital access to complete books, maps, prints, and other documents from the collections of the partner libraries. Major focuses are the role of France in exploring the continent and participation of France in the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.

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                                  • Gallica.

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                                    The Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) has digitalized vast quantities of published documents in French on its website. It also includes sources on the relationship between France and Brazil.

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                                    French Canada

                                    Resources on French Canada are so numerous that they had to be divided in three subheadings (Maps and Illustrations, Memoirs in French, and Memoirs in English).

                                    Maps and Illustrations

                                    Gallica makes it possible for researchers to access the original maps designed and used by the early discoverers of New France. Champlain 1632 and Charlevoix 1744 provide essential maps in addition to their accounts of expeditions and travels, while Lafitau 1724 and Lahontan 1704 also make drawings of the natives and their environments available.

                                    Memoirs in French

                                    Famous French travelers (Bougainville 1993, Cartier 1986, Cartier 1992) published reports of their explorations, many of which are available online. Some of them produced pioneering works of anthropology by describing the native populations and manners (Charlevoix 1744, Lafitau 1983, Lahontan 1990). The Jesuits were a main source of information about the Indians (Thwaites 1896–1901).

                                    • Bougainville, Louis-Antoine de. Ecrits sur le Canada: Mémoires-journal-lettres. Edited by Roland Lamontagne. Sillery, QC: Pélican-Klincksieck, 1993.

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                                      Includes notes and documents relating to Bougainville’s stay in Canada, his diary for the years 1756–1759, and his letters concerning the same period. Bougainville expresses his hopes for the colony but deplores the French naval weakness to defend it.

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                                      • Cartier, Jacques. Relations. Edited by Michel Bideaux. Montreal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1986.

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                                        A scholarly edition of Cartier’s reports on his journeys to the New World, together with appendixes and a bibliography of Cartier’s Relations.

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                                        • Cartier, Jacques. Voyages au Canada, avec les relations des voyages en Amérique de Gonneville, Verrazano, et Roberval. Edited by Charles-André Julien, René Herval, and Th. Beauchesne. Paris: Découverte, 1992.

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                                          A useful collection of documents bearing on the first decades of French contacts with the Americas. Gonneville visited the coast of Brazil in 1503–1505; Verrazano explored the coast of North America in 1524; Jacques Cartier claimed Canada for France in 1534.

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                                          • Charlevoix, Pierre François Xavier de. Histoire et description générale de la Nouvelle-France, avec le journal historique d’un voyage fait par ordre du roi dans l’Amérique Septentrionale. 3 vols. Paris: Pierre-Francois Giffart, 1744.

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                                            Provides an early anthropological study of the Iroquois and other native groups. Available online.

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                                            • Charlevoix, Pierre François Xavier de. Journal d’un voyage fait par ordre du roi dans l’Amérique Septentrionale. Montreal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1994.

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                                              Originally published in 1744. Charlevoix was in charge of investigating rumors of a western sea in the interior of the continent. His western travels (1720–1722) took him to the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi but brought no new information. Yet they provide fascinating anthropological information on Native Americans. Available online.

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                                              • Lafitau, Joseph-François. Moeurs des sauvages américains. 2 vols. Paris: Maspéro, 1983.

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                                                Studying the Iroquois, Lafitau produced a pioneering work of anthropology in 1724.

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                                                • Lahontan, Louis Armand de Lom d’Arce. Oeuvres complètes. 2 vols. Montreal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1990.

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                                                  Most memorable is Lahontan’s New Voyages to North America (Volume 1 and Volume 2), containing an account of the several nations; their customs, commerce, and ways of navigation upon the lakes and rivers; and the several attempts of the English and French to dispossess one another. This account proved immensely popular throughout Europe, although part of it (trip to the Long River) was in fact fictional. Also includes anthropological information on North American natives.

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                                                  • Thwaites, Reuben Gold. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France, 1610–1791. 73 vols. Cleveland, OH: Burrows, 1896–1901.

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                                                    Invaluable collection that offers the documents in the original French together with their translations in English. Recent paperback editions are available for undergraduates in very abridged form: see The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in the New France, 1610–1791 (Whitefish, MT: Kessinger, 2007) and The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations (Charleston, SC: Bibliolife, 2009).

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                                                    Memoirs in English

                                                    The French Atlantic spread far inland in North America, into contested terrain that was to become part of the United States (Haefeli and Sweeney 2006). Some authors were translated early (Kalm 1987). All are popular as sources in English (Bougainville 1990, Lahontan 1812, Thwaites 1896–1901).

                                                    • Bougainville, Louis Antoine de. Adventure in the Wilderness: The American Journals of Louis Antoine de Bougainville, 1756–1760. Translated by Edward Pierce Hamilton. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.

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                                                      An army officer and scientist, Bougainville was sent to Canada in 1756 as an aide-de-camp to Marquis de Montcalm. He was involved in the Seven Years’ War on the frontier, then the defense of Quebec City in 1759. Some of his writings were translated and edited by Edward Pierce Hamilton. Bougainville used Indian tactics to wage war on the frontier, yet did not have a high opinion of natives and locals.

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                                                      • Haefeli, Evan, and Kevin Sweeney, eds. Captive Histories: English, French, and Native Narratives of the 1704 Deerfield Raid. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006.

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                                                        The raid in the colonial borderlands produced a variety of memoirs, reminiscences, and histories. A variety of points of view are covered in this rigorous work, which offers a contrasted view of this archetypal frontier incident but triggered by events in Paris and Europe.

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                                                        • Kalm, Pehr. Peter Kalm’s Travels in North America: The English Version of “1700”. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1987.

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                                                          Famous Swedish naturalist. Visited Pennsylvania and New Jersey but also Quebec (1749–1750). Described flora and fauna as well as local people (natives and newcomers) and their customs.

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                                                          • Lahontan, Louis Armand de Lom d’Arce. Travels in Canada. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1812.

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                                                            The account of Lahontan’s travels to the Great Lakes region, first published 1703, was immensely popular throughout Europe, although part of it (trip to the Long River) was in fact fictional. Also includes anthropological information on North American natives. Available online.

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                                                            • Thwaites, Reuben Gold. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France, 1610–1791. 73 vols. Cleveland, OH: Burrows, 1896–1901.

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                                                              Collection offers the documents in the original French along with their translations in English. Indispensable.

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                                                              Florida, South America, and Louisiana

                                                              Brazil (Léry 1994, Thévet 2006) and Florida (Bennett 2001, Laudonnière 1975, Ribaut 1927) were early sites of French explorations and attempts at settlements. Although it was part of the first French empire in North America (described in Dumont de Montigny 2008) and was then lost to Spain, Louisiana became a source of belated French interest in the North American continent (Baudry des Lozières 1802) in the early 19th century.

                                                              • Baudry des Lozières, Louis-Narcisse. Voyage à la Louisiane, et sur le continent de l’Amérique Septentrionale, fait dans les années 1794 à 1798. Paris: Dentu, 1802.

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                                                                The Saint-Domingue planter Baudry des Lozières published his account of Louisiana at a time when the territory was in the process of being returned to France. Thus he insisted on its importance. Available online.

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                                                                • Bennett, Charles E. Laudonnière and Fort Caroline: History and Documents. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2001.

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                                                                  Describes the French attempts to colonize southeast North America, in 1562 with Jean Ribaut and in 1564–1565 under René de Laudonnière at Fort Caroline. New biographical information on de Laudonnière. Also includes other 16th-century documents on these expeditions (Spanish ones in particular).

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                                                                  • Dumont de Montigny, Jean-François Benjamin. Regards sur le monde atlantique: 1715–1747. Sillery, QC: Septentrion, 2008.

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                                                                    A soldier, Dumont de Montigny traveled to Quebec, the Caribbean, and Louisiana. His writings on the French Atlantic are collected in this volume.

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                                                                    • Laudonnière, René Goulaine de. Three Voyages. Translated and edited by Charles E. Bennett. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1975.

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                                                                      Among the few early accounts of Florida. Laudonnière writes to Gaspard II de Coligny about the Spaniards and (in detail) the Indians he meets. Does not recommend further French colonization.

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                                                                      • Léry, Jean de. Histoire d’un voyage faict en terre de Brésil. Edited by Frank Lestringant. Paris: Librairie Generale Francaise, 1994.

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                                                                        A reproduction of the 1580 edition. The text is complemented by two hundred extra pages (bibliography, chronology, and so forth), turning it into a useful critical edition. Also includes an interview with Claude Lévi-Strauss.

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                                                                        • Ribaut, Jean. The Whole and True Discoverye of Terra Florida. Deland: Florida State Historical Society, 1927.

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                                                                          This is a reprint of the 1563 English version, the French original having disappeared.

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                                                                          • Thévet, André. Histoire d’André Thévet Angoumoisin, cosmographe du roy, de deux voyages par luy faits aux Indes Australes, et Occidentales. Edited by Jean-Claude Laborie and Frank Lestringant. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 2006.

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                                                                            Thévet crossed the Atlantic twice (1550–1551 and 1555–1556), visiting Brazil. A critical edition, with appendices and a thorough bibliography.

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                                                                            The Caribbean

                                                                            This short subheading focuses on the mammoth account of Saint-Domingue in Moreau de St. Méry 2004 by the planter, lawyer, and politician who published the work during exile in Philadelphia 1796.

                                                                            • Moreau de St. Méry, Médéric Louis Elie. Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’îsle de Saint-Domingue. 3d ed. 3 vols. Introduction by Marcel Dorigny. Paris: Publications de la Société Française d’Histoire d’Outre-Mer, 2004.

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                                                                              This edition also contains a biography by Blanche Maurel. An erudite testimony on prerevolutionary Saint-Domingue. Originally published in 1796 in Philadelphia when Moreau de St. Méry was a refugee and bookstore owner, it remains an invaluable document on the social, racial, and economic organization of the colony as well as on its history. The original Philadelphia edition is available online.

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                                                                              British North America and the United States

                                                                              European colonization in the Americas and its travails had become a popular subject by the mid-1770s (including Raynal 1770), yet it was the American Revolution that prompted heightened French interest in the formerly British North American colonies, especially in the participants in the American Revolution (Chastellux 1828, Jefferson 1931, Layfayette 1929). French revolutionaries originally idealized the new United States, as portrayed in Brissot de Warville 1789 and Brissot de Warville 1791. Later French exiles to the New World had more complex appreciations of the new nation, its nature, and its people (Chateaubriand 1861, Moreau de St. Méry 1947).

                                                                              • Brissot de Warville, Jacques-Pierre. Mémoire sur les noirs de l’Amérique Septentrionale: Lu à l’assemblée de la Société des Amis des Noirs, le 9 février 1789. Paris: Bailly, 1789.

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                                                                                On returning from his journey to the United States, the leader of the French antislavery society provided information on the state of slavery in the United States. Available online.

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                                                                                • Brissot de Warville, Jacques-Pierre. Nouveau voyage dans les États-Unis de l’Amérique Septentrionale, fait en 1788. 3 vols. Paris: Buisson, 1791.

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                                                                                  After starting the French antislavery society earlier in the year, Brissot visited the United States, North and South, meeting with abolitionist leaders and George Washington. The first two volumes deal with the journey itself, while the third one reproduces an earlier piece on Franco-American trade that Brissot had previously penned with Evienne Clavière. Reflects French optimism in the new nation. Available online.

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                                                                                  • Chastellux, François-Jean. Travels in North America, in the Years 1780–81–82. New York: n.p., 1828.

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                                                                                    Documents the travels of the first Europeans in the region, contains maps and accounts of relations with Native Americans. Originally published in French in 1786. A somehow positive account of the new nation. Yet incurred the wrath of Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville for its criticism of antislavery Quakers. Available online.

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                                                                                    • Chateaubriand, François-René de. Oeuvres complètes de Chateaubriand. Vol. 6, Voyage en Amérique. Paris: Acamédia, 1861.

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                                                                                      Fleeing the French Revolution, Chateaubriand traveled in North America in 1791 and 1792. His novels Atala and René included fictional renditions of the romantic landscapes (Niagara Falls) and people (Native Americans) he saw and met. Available online.

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                                                                                      • Jefferson, Thomas. The Correspondence of Jefferson and Du Pont de Nemours. Edited by Gilbert Chinard. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1931.

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                                                                                        Edited by one of the foremost early 20th-century specialists of relationships among North America, the United States, and France, the correspondence between the aging Physiocrat and the president of the United States, then a retired gentleman farmer.

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                                                                                        • Lafayette, Gilbert du Motier. The Letters of Lafayette and Jefferson. Edited by Gilbert Chinard. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1929.

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                                                                                          Lafayette treasured his friendship with Jefferson and visited him during his triumphal tour of the United States in 1824–1825.

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                                                                                          • Moreau de St. Méry, Médéric Louis Elie. Moreau de St. Méry’s American Journey. Translated and edited by Kenneth Lewis Roberts, Anna M. Roberts, and Stewart L. Mims. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1947.

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                                                                                            The author of the famous Description topographique, physique, civile, politique, et historique de la partie française de l’îsle de Saint-Domingue spent the years 1793–1798 in Philadelphia and then published Voyage aux États-Unis de l’Amérique. Invaluable source of information on the émigré and refugee populations in the US capital and on the United States. Reprinted in Monique Pouliquen, Voyage aux États-Unis de l’Amérique: 1793–1798 (Saint-Denis, France: Publications de la Société Française d’Histoire d’Outre-Mer, 2007).

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                                                                                            • Raynal, Guillaume-Thomas. Histoire philosophique et politique des établissemens et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes. 6 vols. Amsterdam: n.p., 1770.

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                                                                                              Raynal compiled information on European settlements in the Americas, denouncing colonization and mainly the slave trade and slavery. Though confused, this book was influential on both continents. Available online.

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                                                                                              Historians and the Debate

                                                                                              Coming in the wake of debates on the British Atlantic, historiographical discussions on the French Atlantic have proven animated and innovative. French historians were initially reluctant to use the French Atlantic as a historical field (Marzagalli 2001, Vidal 2006, Vidal 2008). Marzagalli 2008 suggests that this may have been due to the Atlantic being more relevant to former colonies than to former metropolises. Yet the French Atlantic is now a stimulating category of historical analysis. Dubois 2006 and Vidal 2009 insist that race and gender should be key categories in studying the French Atlantic. Marzagalli 1999 reminds us that the French Atlantic must be clearly distinguished from the British Atlantic. Ruggiu and Vidal 2009 argues that a comparative approach is necessary to go beyond national and imperial borders in the study of the Atlantic.

                                                                                              • Dubois, Laurent. “An Enslaved Enlightenment: Rethinking the Intellectual History of the French Atlantic.” Social History 31.1 (February 2006): 1–14.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1080/03071020500424342Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Studying the Enlightenment means opening up to the thoughts and actions of the enslaved. Through the circulation of goods, people, and ideas, the Atlantic was integrated, and its ultimate universal message was embodied in the new political solutions to oppression that were offered by the Haitian Revolution.

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                                                                                                • Marzagalli, Silvia. “The French Atlantic.” Itinerario 13.2 (1999): 70–83.

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                                                                                                  Contrasts the French with the British Atlantic. The demography of the French Atlantic was radically different, as was the role of the state. Economically speaking, Canada played a minor role, unlike the French Caribbean colonies. Yet the French Atlantic trade never reached the level of complexity of the British Atlantic and did not boost the French economy to the same extent.

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                                                                                                  • Marzagalli, Silvia. “Sur les origines de l’‘Atlantic history’: Paradigmes interprétatifs de l’histoire des espaces atlantiques à l’époque moderne.” Dix-huitième Siècle 33 (2001): 17–31.

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                                                                                                    Brilliant overview of the concept of Atlantic history, insists that the Atlantic cannot do without national approaches.

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                                                                                                    • Marzagalli, Silvia. “L’histoire atlantique en Europe.” Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos (Spetember 2008).

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                                                                                                      Suggests Atlantic history may better suit the social and intellectual needs of former colonial societies, such as the United States or Ireland. World history might be better suited to answer Europe’s questions on its own past. Yet European historians will enrich Atlantic history as they appropriate it.

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                                                                                                      • Ruggiu, François-Joseph, and Cécile Vidal. “Réflexions sur l’historiographie des sociétés coloniales et/ou esclavagistes américaines.” In Sociétés, colonisations, et esclavages dans le monde atlantique: Historiographie des sociétés américaines des XVIe–XIXe siècles. Edited by Cécile Vidal and François-Joseph Ruggiu, 9–29. Bécherel, France: Perséides, 2009.

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                                                                                                        Ruggiu and Vidal call for specialists of the various Atlantic empires to join forces for a real comparative study of the Atlantic.

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                                                                                                        • Vidal, Cécile. “The Reluctance of French Historians to Address Atlantic History.” Southern Quarterly 43.4 (2006): 153–189.

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                                                                                                          Suggests that the lack of integration of slavery and colonization into French history and collective memory are the main reasons for the reluctance of French historians to address Atlantic history. Part of a special issue titled “Imagining the Atlantic World.”

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                                                                                                          • Vidal, Cécile. “La nouvelle histoire atlantique en France: Ignorance, reticence, et reconnaissance tardive.” Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos (September) 2008.

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                                                                                                            Colonial history went into a decline in France starting in the 1950s. French history is mainly organized around national or even local questions. Yet the French colonial past made a comeback on the national public scene in the 1990s and 2000s. Studies on the French Atlantic such as this connect historians and area studies specialists on both sides of the Atlantic around various institutions and scholars. Part of a special issue titled “L’histoire atlantique de part et d’autre de l’Atlantique.”

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                                                                                                            • Vidal, Cécile. “Introduction: Le(s) monde(s) atlantique(s), l’Atlantique français, l’empire atlantique français.” Outre-Mers: Revue d’Histoire 362–363 (2009): 7–37.

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                                                                                                              An ambitious attempt at conceptualizing Atlantic history by one of the foremost French specialists. Notions such as the French Atlantic are ambiguous, but the national angle offers possibilities for historiographical criticism. Suggests empire, race, and gender should be used in connection with it. Religion, diaspora, revolution also make it possible to think about the Atlantic.

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                                                                                                              The Early French Atlantic

                                                                                                              Early attempts at French colonization of the New World took place within the troubled context of the religious wars in France and were mainly led by French Protestants (Acera and Martinière 1997, Litalien and Vaugeois 2004). Colonizing attempts were characterized by failure in the 16th century (in Canada, Brazil, and Florida, see McGrath 2000) but may have paved the way for later English attempts at colonizing North America (Lestringant 1999), thus revealing a connection between the French and the British Atlantics. Relationships with natives in these early decades led to the idealization of savages in France (Lestringant 1997) and later to accommodation in New France (Dickason 1984). The study of early colonization in the Caribbean is currently seen as a source of new interpretation for the history of the region (Boucher 2008).

                                                                                                              • Acera, Martine, and Guy Martinière, eds. Coligny, les Protestants, et la mer. Paris: Presses de l’Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 1997.

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                                                                                                                A collection of essays focusing on the years between 1558 and 1626 and investigating the connection between European expansion and religious strife, most particularly in France.

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                                                                                                                • Boucher, Philip P. France and the American Tropics to 1700: Tropics of Discontent? Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                  A remarkably informed narrative history of French colonization ventures in the American tropics (South America and the Caribbean). Colonization proper started in 1625 in the Caribbean. Focuses on native-settler relationships, slavery, social history, and the natural environment.

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                                                                                                                  • Dickason, Olive Patricia. The Myth of the Savage: And the Beginnings of French Colonialism in the Americas. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1984.

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                                                                                                                    Beautifully illustrated. Believing natives to be primitive, Europeans were unprepared to face complex cultures. Yet the early failures of the French taught them that they should cooperate, not clash, with natives. Thus a process of (sometimes painful) cultural, commercial, and religious accommodation was started in Canada in the early 18th century. Translated to French as Le mythe du sauvage (Sillery, QC: Septentrion, 1993).

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                                                                                                                    • Lestringant, Frank. Cannibals: The Discovery and Representation of the Cannibal from Columbus to Jules Verne. Translated by Rosemary Morris. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1997.

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                                                                                                                      A specialist of European encounters with the American other, literary scholar Lestringant argues that Renaissance thinkers idealized the first cannibals, while 19th-century colonialist authors saw Native Americans as degraded creatures. An erudite and truly Atlantic study. Originally published in French, as Le cannibale: Grandeur et décadence, Paris: Perrin, 1994.

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                                                                                                                      • Lestringant, Frank. Le Huguenot et le sauvage: L’Amérique et la controverse coloniale, en France, au temps des guerres de religion. Paris: Klincksieck, 1999.

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                                                                                                                        Considers the body of Protestant writings on the New World in 16th-century France. Argues that French Huguenot attempts in Brazil and Florida inspired English colonization attempts in North America and gave birth to the image of the noble savage. Contains appendices and a bibliography.

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                                                                                                                        • Litalien, Raymonde, and Denis Vaugeois, eds. Champlain: La naissance de l’Amérique française. Sillery, QC: Septentrion, 2004.

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                                                                                                                          A collection of essays on Protestants in the New World. Focuses on new works.

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                                                                                                                          • McGrath, John T. The French in Early Florida: In the Eye of the Hurricane. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000.

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                                                                                                                            A careful look at the sources allows the author to go beyond biased accounts and to conclude that the bloody outcome was not predetermined: the French came close to succeeding.

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                                                                                                                            Key Figures

                                                                                                                            The new French Atlantic history does not focus on founding fathers in the metropolises or colonies. Yet Samuel de Champlain enjoyed attention in the early 21st century due to the 400th anniversary of his founding of the city of Quebec in 1608 (Fischer 2008 and D’Avignon 2008), while the Marquis de Lafayette benefited from renewed friendship between France and the United States on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of his birth in 2007 (Kramer 1996, Saint Bris 2006).

                                                                                                                            • D’Avignon, Mathieu. Champlain et les fondateurs oubliés: Les figures du père et le mythe de la fondation. Quebec: Presses de l’Université Laval, 2008.

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                                                                                                                              An attempt at deconstructing the figures of the Quebec founding fathers (such as Samuel de Champlain) that involves a criticism of those historians who contributed to the myth. The roles of other figures are underlined.

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                                                                                                                              • Fischer, David Hackett. Champlain’s Dream. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                Considered the definitive biography of Samuel de Champlain. The product of exhaustive research, this nuanced portrait of Quebec’s founder insists on his humane leadership. Also includes a huge bibliography and sixteen appendices.

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                                                                                                                                • Kramer, Lloyd S. Lafayette in Two Worlds: Public Cultures and Personal Identities in an Age of Revolutions. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                  An original attempt at breaking with traditional biographical treatments of Lafayette focusing mainly on the French and American revolutions. Kramer shows that Lafayette was connected to all revolutionary and intellectual figures on two continents throughout his life. The book was criticized as overenthusiastic about a superficial historical figure.

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                                                                                                                                  • Saint Bris, Gonzague. La Fayette. Paris: Télémaque, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                    An early 21st-century biography of Lafayette in French. Aimed at the general reading public.

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                                                                                                                                    Religion

                                                                                                                                    Deslandres 2003 argues that once Protestant efforts had spent themselves in failed expeditions (described in Augeron, et al. 2009), one motive behind French imperial expansion was the official goal of spreading Catholicism to native populations. The church also shaped the moral attitudes of the local population of New France.

                                                                                                                                    • Augeron, Mickaël, Didier Poton, and Bertrand Van Ruymbeke, eds. Les Huguenots et l’Atlantique. Vol. 1, Pour dieu, la cause, ou le affaires. Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne et Indes Savantes, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                      A vast synthesis on how French Protestants made their mark on the Atlantic world from Brazil to North America and South Africa. The first volume focuses on the European colonial expansion.

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                                                                                                                                      • Deslandres, Dominique. Croire et faire croire: Les missions françaises au XVIIe siècle, 1600–1650. Paris: Fayard, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                        A study of how the Counter-Reformation in France spurred a Catholic missionary impulse abroad. Deslandres focuses more particularly on attempts to evangelize natives in New France and studies interactions between missionaries and Indians from a cultural point of view.

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                                                                                                                                        • Jaenen, Cornelius J. The Role of the Church in New France. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1976.

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                                                                                                                                          First covers the missionary experience of the Indians but then mainly focuses on the influence of religion in shaping the identity and behavior of the New France population. The church managed to establish a stronger moral hold over the population than it did in France.

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                                                                                                                                          • Van Ruymbeke, Bertrand. “‘A Dominion of True Believers Not a Republic for Heretics’: French Colonial Religious Policy and the Settlement of Early Louisiana, 1699–1730.” In French Colonial Louisiana and the Atlantic World. Edited by Bradley G. Bond, 83–94. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                            Van Ruymbeke counters the traditional view that the France’s empire did not develop as much as the British Empire (economically, demographically) because Protestants were prevented from settling there. His position is that French Protestants were not particularly interested in settling in North America.

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                                                                                                                                            Immigrants, Refugees, and Émigrés

                                                                                                                                            Specific groups of French people chose the British North American colonies then the United States as a religious haven or place of exile. Scholars have focused on the main regions, the United States, New France, the Caribbean, and North America in general.

                                                                                                                                            The French in British North America and the United States

                                                                                                                                            Both Butler 1983 and Van Ruymbeke 2006 study the Huguenot migration into North America. Potofsky 2006 and Meadows 2000 examine the complex community of exiles who gathered on the American east coast during the French and Haitian revolutions. Blaufarb 2005 tells the story of the Vine and Olive Colony in Alabama after 1815.

                                                                                                                                            • Blaufarb, Rafe. Bonapartists in the Borderlands: French Exiles and Refugees on the Gulf Coast, 1815–1835. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                              Shows that the Vine and Olive Colony in Alabama was mainly peopled by Domingans, not by former generals in Napoléon’s army intent on taking up warlike activities. Yet the myth endures.

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                                                                                                                                              • Butler, Jon. The Huguenots in America: A Refugee People in New World Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983.

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                                                                                                                                                Examines Huguenot assimilation into the British North American colonies and considers that Huguenots assimilated rapidly in North American society because they did not have a cohesive religious framework and were prompted by material factors in their immigration. An important book also for the methodological questions it raises.

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                                                                                                                                                • Meadows, R. Darrell. “Engineering Exile/Social Networks and the French Atlantic Community, 1789–1809.” French Historical Studies 23.1 (2000): 67–102.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1215/00161071-23-1-67Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  An influential article that analyzes the networks (social, familial, commercial, racial) that made it possible for the French exile community (1789–1809) to find support in their countrymen all around the Atlantic.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Potofsky, Allan. “The ‘Non-Aligned Status’ of French Émigrés and Refugees in Philadelphia, 1793–1798.” Transatlantica 2 (2006).

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                                                                                                                                                    Clarifies the distinction between émigrés and refugees. The exiles formed a supportive community in spite of political differences, but many failed in their attempts at financial prosperity. Returning to France during the Quasi War, they nursed bitter memories of their stay.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Van Ruymbeke, Bertrand. From New Babylon to Eden: The Huguenots and Their Migration to Colonial South Carolina. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                      Building on Butler 1983, Van Ruymbeke has probably produced the definitive work on the South Carolina Huguenots.

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                                                                                                                                                      The French in New France

                                                                                                                                                      Emigration from France to New France, detailed in Charbonneau 1987, was limited in numbers. Some aspects of the emigration have intrigued historians, including the autors of Debien 1952 and Landry 1992. The latter focuses on women settlers. Choquette 1997 questions traditional views of the immigrants as former peasants. Working on the displaced Acadians in particular, Mouhot 2009 shows the deep connections between their peregrinations and Atlantic questions.

                                                                                                                                                      • Charbonneau, Hubert, B. Desjardins, A. Guillemette, Y. Landry, J. Légaré, and F. Nault. Naissance d’une population: Les Français établis au Canada au XVIIe siècle. Montreal: Press de l’Université de Montréal, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                                        A thorough demographic study of the migration to New France and the making of the New France population in the New World.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Choquette, Leslie. Frenchmen into Peasants: Modernity and Tradition in the Peopling of French Canada. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                          An innovative study of the French immigrants to New France and Acadia. Choquette argues that they came from the French Atlantic ports and became peasants only once in the New World.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Debien, Gabriel. “Engagés pour le Canada au XVIIe siècle, vus de la Rochelle.” Revue d’Histoire de l’Amérique Française 6 (1952): 177–233.

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                                                                                                                                                            As Boucher 1985 (cited under Bibliographies and Encyclopedias) reminds us, this is only one of Debien’s numerous and excellent articles on French migrations to the New World (others bear on the Caribbean).

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                                                                                                                                                            • Landry, Yves. Les filles du roi au XVIIe siècle: Orphelines en France, pionnières au Canada. Montreal: Leméac, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                              A thorough demographic and social history of those women who were sent by Louis XIV to Canada and ended up representing half of all the women who settled there under French colonization. Contains a biographical repertory and tables.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Mouhot, Jean-François. Les réfugiés Acadiens en France (1758–1785): L’impossible réintégration? Sillery, QC: Septentrion, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                Investigates why Acadian refugees to France felt the need to go back to North America (Louisiana) after having spent thirty years in France. Goes together with an online database of fifteen hundred documents on the Acadians in France from forty-two archival centers.

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                                                                                                                                                                The Caribbean

                                                                                                                                                                More works might have been cited, but because of space constraints, only this work by a specialist of Haitian history is included.

                                                                                                                                                                • Cauna, Jacques de. L’eldorado des Aquitains: Gascons, Basques, et Béarnais aux îles d’Amérique (XVIIe–XVIIIe siècles). Biarritz, France: Atlantica, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                  A highly researched, pioneering work on regional French immigration to the Caribbean.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Trade, Commerce, Mercantile Networks, and Port Cities

                                                                                                                                                                  The new Atlantic history emphasizes trade relations. Although trade, commerce, and mercantile networks all refer to the circulation of goods and people across the Atlantic, port cities must be studied specifically as they constituted outposts of empire on both sides of the Atlantic and were anchored in both colonial and imperial circumstances.

                                                                                                                                                                  Trade, Commerce, and Mercantile Networks

                                                                                                                                                                  French trade relations with the New World involved more than national actors, as Butel 1974, argues, although French colonial policy was inspired by strong national leaders, such as Jean-Baptiste Colbert (discussed in Coles 1939, Mims 1912). The constant imperial wars in the Atlantic caused French merchants to look for solutions to maintain their activities (Marzagalli and Marnot 2006), including an active part in the Atlantic slave trade (covered by Stein 1979). Yet, Potofsky 2006 argues, Franco-American trade after the War of Independence never managed to rise up to French expectations.

                                                                                                                                                                  • Butel, Paul. Les négociants bordelais: L’Europe et les îles au XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Aubier, 1974.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Although the book explores the relationships between Bordeaux and the French Caribbean, Butel interestingly reveals that many Bordeaux merchants were often foreign (northern Europeans), thus connecting the local, colonial, European, and imperial dimensions of Atlantic trade. Also shows the economic links between the port city and its larger region.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Coles, Charles Woolsey. Colbert and a Century of French Mercantilism. 2 vols. New York: Columbia University Press, 1939.

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                                                                                                                                                                      A classic study of the founding father of modern French colonialism.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Marzagalli, Silvia, and Bruno Marnot, eds. Guerre et économie dans l’espace atlantique du XVIe au XXe siècle. Actes du Colloque International de Bordeaux. Pessac, France: Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Not limited to the French Atlantic, this collection of essays covers a broad scope of issues (the fate of individuals, privateers, commercial networks, and so forth) to question the relationship between war and economic activities in the Atlantic world, offering no unilateral answer. However, a focus on war does highlight the many strategies used by economic actors around the Atlantic world to preserve and develop their activities.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Mims, Stewart L. Colbert’s West India Policy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1912.

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                                                                                                                                                                          A classic study of the West Indies before Colbert as well as of the French West India company, according to Boucher 1985 (cited under Bibliographies and Encyclopedias).

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Potofsky, Allan. “The Political Economy of the French-American Debate: The Ideological Uses of Atlantic Commerce, 1787 to 1800.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 63.3 (July 2006): 489–516.

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                                                                                                                                                                            The debt owed by the United States to France in the wake of the American Revolution was the source of growing misunderstanding between the two nations even though the Americans started reimbursing in 1790.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Stein, Robert Louis. The French Slave Trade in the Eighteenth Century: An Old Regime Business. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1979.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Based on archival work conducted in various French ports, this highly readable book offers a synthetic view of the trade conducted by the French.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Port Cities

                                                                                                                                                                              Studies of port cities offer case studies in Atlantic history, joining social, racial, economic, and religious questions. Brunelle 1991 examines the Atlantic investments and growing prosperity of Rouen merchants at a time of religious strife. Martin 1993 and Saugera 1995 are remarkable monographs on port cities and the slave trade. McNeill 1985 suggests that colonial ports also played a role in the operation of metropolitan-inspired colonial policy.

                                                                                                                                                                              • Brunelle, Gayle K. The New World Merchants of Rouen, 1559–1630. Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies 16. Kirksville, MO: Sixteenth Century Journal, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                A study of 144 Rouen merchants with investments in the Atlantic trade. Surveys links among Rouen, Europe, and the Americas in general. Takes the religious dimension into account. Examines how the merchants prospered and rose socially.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Martin, Gaston. Nantes au XVIIIe siècle: L’ère des négriers (1714–1774). Paris: Karthala, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  A pioneering study of the French slave trade based on a case study of the port city of Nantes. Originally published in 1928.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • McNeill, John Robert. Atlantic Empires of France and Spain: Louisbourg and Havana, 1700–1763. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    A sophisticated monograph comparing two Atlantic ports at a time of rising British power. Insists on local conditions and how they limited the policy and commercial goals of the metropolises.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Saugera, Eric. Bordeaux port négrier. Paris: Karthala, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      A solid study of Bordeaux as an Atlantic slave trade harbor. Saugera examines not only the families involved in the trade and how slave trade profits were invested but also French legislation on slavery and the thoughts of critical thinkers, such as Montaigne and Montesquieu, who lived in the area.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      The French Empire in the Americas to 1763 and Beyond

                                                                                                                                                                                      Although sharing the general European ideology of empire (as discussed in Pagden 1995), France’s empire was distinct in its vast spread in the interior of the North American continent (Ekberg 2002, Galloway 1982, Parkman 1999). Difficulty in maintaining adequate communications throughout the empire may have caused its breakdown (Banks 2002). Yet French authorities continued to maintain an interest in the American continents after 1763 (Fürstenberg 2008, Godfroy-Tayart de Borms 2009). Hinderaker 1997 argues that US expansion would probably have shattered these dreams of a renewed empire.

                                                                                                                                                                                      • Banks, Kenneth J. Chasing Empire across the Sea: Communications and the State in the French Atlantic, 1713–1763. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Analyzes the network of communications between the French state and the colonies in the Caribbean and North America. Banks studies the flow of communication between and within the colonies as well. His focus is also on the agents of royal power, colonial governors who had to adjust to local elites and to rival factions in Paris. His innovative thesis is that a breakdown of imperial communications, not merely a superior navy, was conducive to the defeat of France in the Seven Years’ War.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Ekberg, Carl J. François Vallé and His World: Upper Louisiana before Lewis and Clark. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Contends that French immigrants imported rural mentalities and agricultural traditions to the Illinois frontier.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Fürstenberg, François. “The Significance of the Trans-Appalachian Frontier in Atlantic History.” American Historical Review 113 (June 2008): 647–677.

                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1086/ahr.113.3.647Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            Sees the years between 1754 and 1815 as a continuing struggle for control of the western lands, with natives, empires, and nations participating. After 1763 the French maintained an active interest in the region until the sale of Louisiana to the United States in 1803.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Galloway, Patricia K., ed. La Salle and His Legacy: Frenchmen and Indians in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1982.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Contributors use the tools of ethnography, archaeology, linguistics, and geography to question the history of early French Louisiana.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Godfroy-Tayart de Borms, Marion F. “La Guerre de Sept Ans et ses conséquences atlantiques: Kourou ou l’apparition d’un nouveau système colonial.” French Historical Studies 32.2 (Spring 2009): 167–191.

                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1215/00161071-2008-016Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                Godfroy-Tayart contends that Étienne-François de Choiseul had not given up hope of a French empire in continental America, as is shown by his interest in Guyana, which he saw as a counterpoint to the British North American colonies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Hinderaker, Eric. Elusive Empires: Constructing Colonialism in the Ohio Valley, 1673–1800. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Contrasts the protective policies of France and Britain in the Ohio Valley with the de facto expansionism of the US government, led by its own citizens. Remarkable command of primary and secondary sources.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Pagden, Anthony. Lords of All the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain, and France, c. 1500–c. 1800. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    A history of the European discovery and colonization of America (p. 2) through a comparative analysis of ideologies of empire, from conquest and evangelization to commerce and enlightenment.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Parkman, Francis. La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West. New York: Modern Library, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      Originally published in 1869. Recounts the story of Sieur de La Salle’s final expedition. Although Parkman is no longer recognized as a historian due to his ideological bias against the French empire, his works are all in print and are loved by the general public for their capacity to evoke the past in lyrical tones.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      Race, Slavery, and Abolition

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Peabody 1996 argues that the freedom principle was enforced in France. Nevertheless, Boulle 2007 shows that there was a rise in institutional and cultural racism in France in the 18th century mainly due to the elite’s influence (Aubert 2004). See Régent 2007 for a history of slavery.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Aubert, Guillaume. “The Blood of France: Race and Purity of Blood in the French Atlantic World.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 61.3 (2004): 439–478.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        By the end of the 18th century, French-Indian and French-African relationships represented a form of dishonor, which was seen as threatening the pure blood of the French noble colonial population.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Boulle, Pierre H. Race et esclavage dans la France de l’ancien régime. Paris: Perrin, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          A collection of articles by the author. Studies the black population in France before 1789. The growth of racism in France must be connected to the rise of colonial slavery and the role of the colonial elite in shaping policies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Peabody, Sue. There Are No Slaves in France: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            Examines the tension between French colonial slavery and the freedom principle in the metropolis, a situation different from that in England. Also studies how the question of race and slavery reverberated in French discourse against despotism.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Régent, Frédéric. La France et ses esclaves: De la colonisation aux abolitions, 1620–1848. Paris: Grasset, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              A synthesis of the history of slavery in France to the final abolition in 1848.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              Natives and Empire

                                                                                                                                                                                                              France’s empire covered a large part of the North American continent. Inspired by the new Indian history, historians have put Indians at the center of the stage, studying intercultural contacts in their diversity from Louisiana (Usner 1992) to the Arkansas Valley (DuVal 2006), the Great Lakes region (White 1991, Havard 2003), and the East Coast (Havard 2001, Jaenen 1976). Richter 2001 offers an interimperial perspective.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              • DuVal, Kathleen. The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                Focuses on the neglected Arkansas Valley. DuVal studies contacts between Siouan-speaking peoples and their neighbors (French, Native Americans, and Americans) mainly from 1650 to 1858.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Havard, Gilles. The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701: French-Native Diplomacy in the Seventeenth Century. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A translation and revised edition of the 1992 book. Explains how the wars between the French and the Iroquois came to an end in 1701. French diplomacy adapted to native customs, and the 1701 treaty was the result.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Havard, Gilles. Empire et métissages: Indiens et Français dans le Pays d’en Haut, 1660–1715. Sillery, QC: Septentrion, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Havard’s massive work (858 pages), based on a vast body of archival sources mainly in French, constitutes the master synthesis on the subject and the period. Unlike Richard White, who insists on close French-Indian relations and the building of alliances, Havard stresses conflict but also deals with other important questions, such as the gradual emergence of a métis nation in 19th-century Canada or the workings of French imperial rule in the distant Pays d’en Haut.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Jaenen, Cornelius J. Friend and Foe: Aspects of French-Amerindian Cultural Contact in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. New York: Columbia University Press, 1976.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A pioneering study of contact, acculturation, and accommodation between the French and their native partners in New France (French Canada).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Richter, Daniel K. Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A broad revisionist history of early America as seen from the perspective of Native Americans. How the Indians gradually came to abandon direct confrontation with European powers in favor of complex patterns of balanced accommodation with rival European empires. During the 18th century, the gradual incorporation of natives into world capitalist networks led to conflicts and the final collapse of accommodation strategies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Usner, Daniel H., Jr. Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley before 1783. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A pioneering study of intercultural contact in Louisiana and West Florida. A social history of empire with a focus on population and the economy but also the local diplomatic relations with Native Americans.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A pioneering work that places Indians at the center of the scene (p. xi) and tells the story of how Europeans and Indians constructed a common, mutually comprehensible world (p. ix).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Science and Empire in the French Atlantic

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Science is acknowledged as having played a major part in the development of modern empires. Its institutions provided the necessary infrastructure to collect data (McClellan and Regourd 2000), but peripheries also contributed to shaping Atlantic knowledge (Castelnau-L’Estoile and Regourd 2005). Humble and little-known actors also played a crucial role in the collection and dissemination of knowledge (Delbourgo and Dew 2008).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Castelnau-L’Estoile, Charlotte de, and François Regourd, eds. Connaissances et pouvoirs: Les espaces impériaux (XVIe–XVIIIe siècles) France, Espagne, Portugal. Pessac, France: Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A volume rich in historiographical reflections (see the introduction by the editors) and comparative essays on New World colonization. Argues that the history of science can rejuvenate the political history of imperial expansion and that the role of peripheries in this complex development should not be overlooked.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Delbourgo, James, and Nicholas Dew, eds. Science and Empire in the Atlantic World. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                An interimperial perspective. Focuses on the (sometimes humble and little-known) individuals and the networks that shaped the Atlantic world of science.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • McClellan, James E., III, and François Regourd. “The Colonial Machine: French Science and Colonization in the Ancien Régime.” Osiris, 2d ser., 15 (2000): 31–50.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Influential paper that examines the institutions (such as the Académie Royale des Sciences) that made it possible for the French central government to spread its imperial domain.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  French Atlantic Revolutions

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Having lost its North American empire in 1763, France allied itself to the new United States in 1778, thus decisively contributing to the victory of the new nation. The universal message of the American Revolution inspired liberals in France (and elsewhere). Among the first leaders of the French Revolution were former French veterans of the American War of Independence. This classic “Atlantic thesis” is now complemented by reflections on revolutionary currents leading to and renewed and enlarged by the Haitian Revolution. Such revolutionary connections in the Atlantic era did create an “age of Atlantic revolutions.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  From the American to the French Revolution

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Palmer 1959–1964 emphasizes the connections between the French and American revolutions, but Arendt 1963 and Higonnet 1988 distinguish the two. Faÿ 1925 and Echeverria 1957 admit French fascination but suggest it may have been based on misunderstandings of the American model, thus leading to later clashes between the two countries (Cheney 2006). Ghachem 2003 opens up the era of revolutions to Haiti and the Latin American republics.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Arendt, Hannah. On Revolution. New York: Viking, 1963.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The philosopher and political scientist Arendt contrasts what she sees as the successful consequences of the American Revolution with the bitter results of the French events, wise North American founders with Maximilien Robespierre. Highly controversial, but did make a major mark on the debate thanks to its philosophical angle.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Cheney, Paul. “A False Dawn for Enlightenment Cosmopolitanism? Franco-American Trade during the American War of Independence.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 63.3 (July 2006): 464–488.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Although France entered the War of Independence mainly with a view to retaliate against Britain, hopes of more liberal commercial relations with the New World and a new world order also came out of the war, though these hopes did not materialize.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Echeverria, Durand. Mirage in the West: A History of the French Image of American Society to 1815. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Though the French were fascinated by the new North American nation and its Revolution, they were very much prejudiced by their expectations when examining the new nation. Like Faÿ 1925, Echeverria studies the influence of America on France as a matter of perception.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Faÿ, Bernard. L’esprit révolutionnaire en France et aux États-Unis à la fin du XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Champion, 1925.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          An erudite published dissertation that focused on the transmission, reception, and perception of American revolutionary ideas in France between 1774 and 1799, creating a common revolutionary spirit. Argues that the French idealized America for their own purposes.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Ghachem, Malick W., ed. “Special Issue: Slavery and Citizenship in the Age of Revolutions.” Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques 29 (2003): 1–188.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            An influential collection including Haiti and Latin America. The original papers were presented at the Harvard University International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World, 1500–1825.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Higonnet, Patrice. Sister Republics: The Origins of French and American Republicanism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Higonnet contrasts the French Revolution, where Maximilien Robespierre’s rule foreshadowed “modern totalitarianism” (p. 3), with the American Revolution, seen as the opposite, progressing to more individual rights and a plural polity. A highly controversial depiction of the French Revolution as a “failure” (p. 9).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Palmer, Robert Roswell. The Age of the Democratic Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1959–1964.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Palmer is mainly interested in stressing the similarities between the two revolutions: the principles, objectives, democratization, roles of the groups from below, and general pattern are somewhat similar. An important book in regard to the Atlantic history of modern revolutions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                From the French Revolution to Guadeloupe and Haiti

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Dubois 2004 offers a detailed account of the emancipation of slaves in Guadeloupe during the French Revolution, while Gaspar and Geggus 1997 examines the interplay of imperial wars and revolution in the Caribbean. Geggus 2001 focuses on the consequences of the Haitian Revolution.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Dubois, Laurent. A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787–1804. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Centering on the Victor Hugues expedition to Guadeloupe, this remarkable book provides a reflection on French republicanism and its limitations then and in the early 21st century. The French Republic went forward with emancipation in Guadeloupe but believed that former slaves could not immediately be granted full equal rights.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Gaspar, David Barry, and David Patrick Geggus, eds. A Turbulent Time: The French Revolution and the Greater Caribbean. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Includes contributions by specialists on the Haitian Revolution, such as Carolyn E. Fick, and was one of the first books to focus on consequences of the French Revolution and revolutionary wars in the Caribbean, stressing a convergence between slave resistance and European-born ideological currents.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Geggus, David Patrick, ed. The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Fifteen scholars (Seymour Drescher, Robin Blackburn, Simon Newman, Robert Alderson, and Paul Lachance, among others) study the repercussions of the event in the region. The United States and the Caribbean were directly affected with a noticeable rise in insurrections but also a considerable influx of immigrants, many of them nonwhite. On the whole, early 21st-century scholars disagree on the impact the Haitian Revolution may have had on antislavery ideologies and organizations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Aftermath of Revolutions

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In the wake of the American Revolution, French immigrants to the trans-Appalachian West saw their agrarian dreams come to an end (see Moreau-Zanelli 2000), while French government officials finally laid to rest their hopes of a renewed French empire in North America with the sale of Louisiana to the United States (Kastor 2002, Kastor and Weil 2009).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Kastor, Peter J., ed. The Louisiana Purchase: Emergence of an American Nation. Washington, DC: CQ, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A useful collection of primary documents together with essays by leading scholars on the impact of the purchase at the local level (what were the repercussions for an Indian chief, for instance) as well as at the national and international levels.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Kastor, Peter J., and François Weil, eds. Empires of the Imagination: Transatlantic Histories of the Louisiana Purchase. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A collection of essays that covers the Louisiana Purchase as a multifaceted event (racial, gender, diplomatic dimensions) and as a contested site of local, national, and transatlantic memory.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Moreau-Zanelli, Jocelyne. Gallipolis: Histoire d’un mirage américain au XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Harmattan, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The definitive, exhaustive work on the agrarian dreams that led French immigrants to America to fall prey to land speculation in the early 1790s and settle in inappropriate places on the Ohio frontier, most famously in Gallipolis.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Memory and Culture

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The renewed interest in the first French colonial empire has also led to studies on North American sites of French American memory (Wien, et al. 2006) and to studies of its legacy in early 21st-century literary and theoretical works by Caribbean authors (Miller 2008).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Miller, Christopher L. The French Atlantic Triangle: Literature and Culture of the Slave Trade. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Starts with a survey of the French slave trade and then focuses on representations of slavery since Voltaire, with a strong emphasis on the literary and theoretical productions by Francophone Caribbean authors to the early 21st century. A critical approach of hybridity, seen as the result of violence.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Wien, Thomas, Cécile Vidal, and Yves Frenette. De Québec à l’Amérique française: Histoire et mémoire; Textes choisis du deuxième colloque de la Commission franco-québecoise sur les lieux de mémoire communs. Sainte-Foy, QC: Presses de l’Université Laval, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The authors consider that the colonial past of New France has played a key role in the shaping of French Canadian space and people.

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