The first French colonial empire consisted of New France in North America, the French West Indies in the Caribbean, French Guyana in South America as well as Senegal in western Africa and parts of eastern India. After its defeat in the Napoleonic Wars, the second French colonial empire divested of North American colonies but colonized French Indochina in southeast Asia, Madagascar, New Caledonia in the Pacific and Algeria in northern Africa.Continue Reading
The earliest French colonies were formed in the early 17th century in North America with the founding of Port Royal, located in contemporary Nova Scotia, Canada. French territorial claims on the continent grew over the next two centuries until New France stretched from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Lakes. Additionally, the empire colonized the Caribbean islands such as Haiti, Guadeloupe, Saint Lucia and Grenada. Around this same time, the French established trading colonies on the African west coast as well as Chandernagore and Pondicherry in southeastern India.
The colonial and European wars of the 18th century, coupled with the French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic Wars, slowed the development of the empire's colonies. After being defeated by the Seventh Coalition in 1815, the second French colonial empire was restored some former possessions but relinquished all North American holdings. Instead, France continued to enlarge holdings in Africa and expand control of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Decolonization began in the mid to late 20th century, and as of 2015, France holds only a handful of overseas protectorates.Learn more about Modern Europe