Prior to European arrival and subsequent colonization, Algonquian, Iroquoian and Inuit groups inhabited this massive slice of land now called Quebec.
In 1534, the French explorer Jacques Cartier sailed through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, came ashore on the Gaspe Peninsula, and claimed this land for France.
Early settlements were unsuccessful, yet very productive fishing results motivated French fishing fleets to repeatedly sail across the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1603, Samuel de Champlain, a French navigator and cartographer sailed down the St. Lawrence River. During his follow-up visit in 1608, a fort was built at modern day Quebec City, and the French colonization of North America began.
We'll return to the story of the Province of Quebec in a few paragraphs, but first...
In the years that followed, Catholic missionaries, fur traders and military forces arrived, and eventually the French built dozens of forts across (New France) for protection from unrelenting Native Americans, and from the expanding influence of Britain in the Americas.
Conflict between France, Britain and their individual Native American allies was inevitable, and the French and Indian War, part of the larger conflict known as the Seven Years' War was the result.
The Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763, ended the Seven Years' War, a war that involved most major European powers. That agreement awarded nearly all of France's North American possessions (New France) to Britain, and they became the dominant colonial power.
Later that year, by British Royal Proclamation, Canada (a large part of New France) was renamed the Province of Quebec...and here's the rest of the story of the Province of Quebec, albeit a very brief rendition.
French Canadians who did not choose to leave Quebec became British subjects, and they were required to swear an oath to the King of England, and reject their Catholic religion. Well, the French people of Quebec proved to be quite a handful for the British.
To make things even worse, the American Revolutionary War was in its early stages, a war that would divide the loyalties of many European colonists.
In 1775, an historic battle took place. In an effort to seize control of the St. Lawrence River and Quebec City from the British, American Continental Army forces attacked the English fortification at Quebec City. It was a military disaster, and the invasion failed.
This was the first defeat suffered by the Continental Army, and it was a turning point for the British as they would remain in control of Canada even after their surrender to America's thirteen colonies.
After the American Revolutionary War ended in 1783, some 50,000 loyalists to the British Crown (Tories) immigrated into French-speaking Canada from the new upstart country of America.
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In 1791, with this large English-speaking aggregation now living in French-speaking Canada, the British Parliament made its move. In a Constitutional Act, it split its Province of Quebec (which now included Ontario) into Upper and Lower Canada and each entity would then have its own representative government and its own preferred language.
In the early 19th century tensions peaked between America and the British Empire over maritime power abuses, and the War of 1812 was the result. Upper Canada and Lower Canada were quickly embroiled in that conflict as America launched invasions against British forces on the Canadian frontier, and vice versa.
In the end there were no real land gains or losses on either side, but some historians believe that the War of 1812 shifted American interests from Canada, west into the Great Lakes area, and beyond.
After the war, waves of English-speaking immigrants from the British Isles continued to settle in this new frontier, mostly in Upper Canada (Ontario). By mid-century, that great migration had brought nearly 750,000 newcomers into the area.
Political and social freedom remained front-burner issues in Lower Canada, and the resistance to British control escalated. In 1838, the controversial Declaration of Independence of Lower-Canada was written, and organized rebellion surfaced.
After decades of political and social disputes between the English and French factions, the British Parliament made its move. The Act of Union (1840) essentially merged both Upper and Lower Canada into a single centralized governmental entity, appropriately named - the Province of Canada.
Almost overnight, Quebec was an independent province, but given its French heritage and the preponderance of French speaking residents, the pride and cultural uniqueness of Quebecers would not be relinquished easily, if ever.
For the next century, or so, Quebec's struggle for independence, and its linguistic, political and religious battles were front page news across Canada, and for that matter, across the entire planet.
For the most part the nationalistic tug-of-war continues. In fact, in 1995, Quebec citizens voted on a serious referendum that would decide whether the province should separate from the rest of Canada. The "No Vote" won by less than one percentage point.
For travelers to Quebec City, and other municipalities along the St. Lawrence River, the Parisian influence is undeniable in both atmosphere and architecture, and French is the language of the day.
As for the gleaming city of Montreal, the second largest city in Canada, even though over two million of its residents are of French descent, it's a melting pot of ethnicity from around the world, and a joy to visit.
For families, Quebec's culture, history and unique geography are major points-of-interest, and across this vast province, outdoor activities and attractions abound.
"Venir et Apprécier"
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