The fur trade
At the heart of the colony’s development
The entire development of New France revolved around the fur trade: from explorations and populating the first settlements, to trading and forming alliances with Indigenous nations.The large beavers populations were a huge resource in New France because they enabled the development of the fur trade.
The French wanted furs to make felt hats, which were very fashionable in Europe at the time. Felt is made from beaver fur. In Europe, beavers had been so over hunted that they were becoming extinct. The French preferred the fur from beavers that had been hunted in the winter because it was silkier and more beautiful. This type of fur was called winter fat beaver and was the most expensive fur of all. In addition to beaver, other fur-bearing animals were also popular, such as otter, marten and fox.
Video narration in French at
A network of trades
It was Indigenous peoples who provided the French with furs. They were the ones who hunted the animals. Indigenous peoples bartered; in other words, they exchanged the furs for European products. Indigenous peoples often traded for metal objects such as pots, knives and axes. They also liked European wool clothing because it offered more advantages than leather. Clothes made of wool protected from the cold better and dried faster after it rained.
See also – Traces of the past: