This Week in History


Peace Treaty at Utrecht Changes Map of North America

For the week of Monday April 6, 1998

On April 11, 1713, in the Dutch town of Utrecht, the kingdoms of western Europe ended 12 years of bitter fighting by signing a series of peace treaties. A war that started over the Crown of Spain ended with changes across the North Atlantic world. The French king, Louis XIV, lost heavily on the battlefields of Europe, then paid off many of these losses by giving up possessions in North America.

Sites in North America affected by the Treaty of Utrecht

Sites in North America affected by the Treaty of Utrecht
© Parks Canada / Krista Banwell

When the war of the Spanish Succession broke out in 1701, Louis XIV laid claim to much of the northern half of North America. France had possessions in Newfoundland, all of Acadia (our present-day Maritime provinces), the valley of the St. Lawrence, and the Great Lakes region. Her outposts ran all the way down the Mississippi River to its mouth. The far west was unknown to Europeans, but parts of Hudson Bay were French. England had posts in James Bay, some Newfoundland coastline, and the seaboard colonies from Maine to Carolina. Spain's colonies were further south and west. The Peace of 1713 changed much of this. In the east, the shape of the next generation's conflicts could already be seen.

France abandoned Hudson Bay. From then on, the western French fur trade was aconducted from Montréal. Further east, the boundaries between New England and New France remained confused. From the Sioux in the west to the Mi'kmaq in the east, the First Nations would continue to live with and to influence the rivalries between New France and New England.

Britain took the French possessions in Newfoundland. The French settlers and fishermen of Plaisance (Placentia) relocated to Isle Royale (Cape Breton Island). Acadia's old capital of Port Royal surrendered to New Englanders in 1710 and stayed British after Utrecht. The French administrators also moved to Cape Breton. There, on a magnificent harbour, the Fortress of Louisbourg took shape as guardian of the French fisheries and the sea lanes to Québec. Mainland Nova Scotia became an outpost of New England.

This struggle in North America between European rivals is commemorated at many national historic sites. Fort Anne at Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia; York Factory in northern Manitoba, and Castle Hill (Placentia) in Newfoundland all changed hands in 1713. The spectacular Fortress of Louisbourg might never have been built if France had kept either Acadia or Placentia. At opposite ends of Nova Scotia we still find towns named for the two monarchs: Annapolis Royal for Queen Anne, and Louisbourg for Louis XIV. These names echo with the power of the kingdoms of Europe, a power that shook the foundations of the North American colonies.

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