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ACADIA. The history of Acadia, long an exposed borderland where New France and New England over-lapped, is indissociable from the deportation of much of its French-speaking population from 1755 to 1763. This tragedy overshadows another, the later marginalization of the region's aboriginal inhabitants.

There have been several Acadias. To begin with, in 1524 explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano baptized as Arcadia a lush, probably Virginian coastal landscape. He named it in honor of the ancient Greeks' earthly paradise. On later sixteenth-century maps, the name reappeared near the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Both the new location and the ensuing loss of the letter "r" suggest that cartographers had learned of Native Micmac place-names containing, in European renderings, the suffix acadie. French negotiators were apt to label Acadia the entire swath of territory extending from the Gaspé Peninsula to the Kennebec River. Indeed, northern Maine, Abenaki territory that would long remain a disputed fur-trading frontier, was the scene of the first French settlement in the region over the winter of 1604–1605 on St. Croix Island. But increasingly during the seventeenth century, the toponym "Acadia" would refer to peninsular Nova Scotia and the Chignecto Isthmus, where the Micmacs already accepted the presence of French traders and missionaries.

It was here, and more precisely at Port Royal (later Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia)—initially founded by the survivors of that first Maine winter and briefly (1629–1632) inhabited by Scots (hence Nova Scotia)—that French settlement began in earnest in the late 1630s. Numbering fourteen hundred by 1701, the Acadians, as the French settlers were soon known, spread northwest-ward from Port Royal, converting the marshlands of the Bay of Fundy into dike-protected grain fields. Before 1755, a minority would scatter along other coastlines of the Maritime Provinces. Periods of English rule (1654–1667 and 1690–1697) and regular visits from New England merchants had made the Nova Scotia Acadians familiar with the costs and benefits of their borderland existence well before the 1710 British conquest, confirmed by the 1713 treaty ending Queen Anne's War, of peninsular Nova Scotia.

Over the next four decades, they understandably resisted pressure from the missionaries acting for their former king to give up their farmsteads and move to French territory and from the British to swear an oath of allegiance to George II. Upon the outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1754, British authorities feared invasion by the French with Micmac support. They regarded the Acadians as hostile, even though most of the latter were neutral and themselves feared Micmac attacks. In 1755, Nova Scotia governor Charles Lawrence ordered their dispersal. From then until 1763, upwards of ten thousand Acadians were deported or fled; many of those who did not perish ended up in France, Canada, and Louisiana, where they came to be called Cajuns. Some refugees eventually returned to join those who had remained in the region as fugitives to found a new Acadia under British rule. Most of these survivors settled in eastern or northern New Brunswick and a few elsewhere in the Maritimes, but not on the ancestral marshlands now occupied by New Englanders. Relegated for the most part to marginal land, many turned to fishing or lumbering. The second half of the nineteenth century saw both socioeconomic and institutional diversification as a middle class emerged and towns grew. Five-sixths of the 300,000 Maritimers whose mother tongue is French live in New Brunswick, an officially bilingual province since 1969 and the center of Acadia.


Griffiths, N. E. S. The Contexts of Acadian History, 1686–1784. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1992.

Harris, R. Cole, ed. Historical Atlas of Canada. Vol. 1, From the Beginning to 1800. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987.

Chiasson, Anselme, and Nicolas Landry. "Acadia, Contemporary." Canadian Encyclopedia. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1999.

Reid, John G. Acadia, Maine, and New Scotland: Marginal Colonies in the Seventeenth Century. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981.

———. "An International Region of the Northeast: Rise and Decline, 1635–1762." In The Northeastern Borderlands: Four Centuries of Interaction. Edited by Stephen J. Hornsby, Victor A. Conrad, and James J. Herlan. Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada: Acadiensis Press, 1989.


See alsoColonial Wars ; French and Indian War ; Maine .


views updated May 18 2018

Acadia a former French colony established in 1604 in the territory now forming Nova Scotia in Canada, ceded to Britain in 1763.

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