Timeline Website Design and Content by Eric Krause, Krause House Info-Research Solutions ( 1996)
Concept: Margaret Carter, Heritage Research Associates Inc.
All Images Parks Canada Unless Otherwise Designated

  Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada

Fortress of Louisbourg Timeline Site

Post Card: "Historic Louisbourg" Ruined Walls and Bombproofs. Louisbourg, N.S., Canada  Parks Canada / Parcs Canada

Louisbourg Souvenir Edition - Booklet




First known as Havre l'Anglois, Louisbourg's harbour was always its most important asset in an age of water travel. 

As a North American port close to Europe, the harbour first attracted European visitors in the 16th century.  They were fishermen who stopped to dry cod from their fishery in nearby waters.  The visit quickly became an annual event, and Havre l'Anglois entered the vocabulary of Atlantic navigators as an estblished reference point.   

Permanent settlement was slow in coming. There were several short term attempts in the 17th century that resulted in a French emphasis in the Cape Breton area. [1]  [1]  The land, however, was not fertile, and French sailors who chose to settle in the New World selected locations with richer soil in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Quebec.   

Most of these settlements were informal or initiated under charter.  Canada, which included "the area along the St. Lawrence from Montreal to just north of Quebec City", was the only Crown colony in the New World before 1713.  Colonial possessions in America had little value until strategic position became important during the War of Spanish succession (1701-1713). 

The terms of the Treaty of Utrecht that ended the war in 1713 changed all this.  At Utrecht the European powers carved up available portions of the New World, claiming and acknowledging one another's land rights for the first time. 

While this invoked a temporary peace, it altered traditional informal patterns of behaviour.  Many of the lands French fishermen seasonally used to dry their cod became off limits once Utrecht ceded Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to Great Britain. 

France, on the other hand, was required to develop a new network of colonial administration.  Utrecht gave the French crown formal responsibility for a network of colonies in the New World.  These included Isle Royale, Labrador, Louisiana, the Postes du Roi (from La Malbaie to Sept-Iles on the North Shore of the St. Lawrence), the Pays d'en Haut or interior, and the "Western Sea".  Together they comprised "New France", a territory that had to be occupied and defended if it was to be retained. 

With the addition of these new territories, New France itself became too large to be administered from one single central location.  Sub-colonies were created to administer specific areas. Each had its own government, with a governor or commandant and a commissaire -ordonnateur who reported directly to the Minister of the Marine in France.  One of these was Isle Royale. 

Isle Royale incorporated present day Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton.  In 1713 France selected Isle Royale as the site of a permanent administrative base in the New World.  This new base would provide a headquarters for France to manage its relations with its Indian allies. It would also be a transatlantic transfer and provision point, a central port linking France to its New World possessions, a protected rendez-vous for French West and East India trading fleets. 

This scheme was launched on 13 August 1713 when M. de Contreville, commander of the ship-of-war Seneglay, took formal possession of Louisbourg harbour for France.

Map Content


- almost empty. The site of Ochiltree's early fort could be marked. 

New World

- Canada was the largest -- and major formal colony in New France before 1713.

context map

- Walter Phelps Hall, Robert GreenHalgh Albion, Jennie Barnes Pope, A History of England and the Empire Commonwealth (Toronto:  Ginn and Company, 1961), p.302.

- depicts French and English claims in North America in 4 periods - 1701 (appropriate here), 1713(appropriate 1730s or this section), 1763 and 1783   



"The harbour of Louisbourg is in latitude 45" 54' N., and longitude 59" 52' W.  Its entrance, a little more than a quarter of a mile in width, leads between some small rocky islets, and a bold point on the north-east side....  A delusive entrance presents itself from the sea between the islands and the western point on which Louisbourg stood;  but a rocky ledge, covered with a few feet of water, extends across it, and renders the passage impracticable, while it also defends the harbour most completely against the heavy rolling sea of the Atlantic.

Within, a capacious basin, nearly three miles in length, and about a mile in width, with excellent holding ground, forms one of the best harbours in the world." John MacGregor, British America (London: T. Cadell, 1832), Vol. 1, p.390.

Flag or coats of arms or Kings' portraits 

Trading photograph

During the 17th century, France "was the most powerful nation in Europe". [2]   Under Richilieu, then Mazarin, the French monarchy strengthened its authority and expanded its European territory.  It also began to develop trading colonies. 

(for context - may add to caption) War of Spanish Succession -"William [of Orange] was particularly determined to prevent the union of Spain [whose King had died with no successor] with France, which would close a considerable part of Europoe and the New World to English and Dutch trade. Besides, French conrol of the Spanish Netherlands would threaten the security of both Holland and England."   Walter Phelps Hall, Robert GreenHalgh Albion, Jennie Barnes Pope, A History of England and the Empire - Commonwealth (Toronto:  Ginn and Company, 1961), p.283.

- the war was conducted on several fronts, all but one of which were in Europe.  The exception was the North American battle, usually referred to as Queen Anne's War.

French peasants

- by 1709, France had lost heavily in Europe.  "On top of defeats and an empty treasury from such prolonged warfare, she was faced with famine after a bitter winter, 'the Great Frost' which froze crops in the ground and peasants in their huts. Louis, ready to concede almost anything, agreed to all but one of forty allied demands." Hall, Albion and Pope, p.283. 

Chronology Items

1497 - John Cabot first sites Newfoundland, initiating major European pursuit of the Grand Banks fishery 

1605 - Champlain establishes Annapolis Royal opening the way to Acadian settlement 

1608 - French establish Habitation at Quebec - beginning of settlement 

164? - Louis XIV, a minor, ascended to the throne of France. 

1660  - Cromwell's civil regime in England ends, and the Stuarts return to the English throne.  Charles II had both family and religious ties with the French throne.       

1666 - the Great Fire of London 

1688 - William of Orange and Mary become King and Queen of England, beginning long period of hostility between England and France 

1689 - Second Hundred Years' War began.  "At the outset ... France had an overseas empire which looked very impressive ... It occupied more space on the map than the British." 

In North American the territory claimed by France almost completely hemmed in the English colonies in a narrow strip between the mountains and the sea.  French empire included Quebec and the St. Lawrence Valley, Acadia, Great Lakes area and Mississippi Valley, and a series of sugar islands in the West Indies.  France also had extensive claim to territories in the East Indies (centred at Pondicherry), and slave trading posts on the Guineau Coast of Africa.

England and France both laid claim to Newfoundland and the Hudson's Bay regions. (Walter Phelps Hall, Robert GreenHalgh Albion, Jennie Barnes Pope, A History of England and the Empire -Commonwealth (Toronto:  Ginn and Company, 1961), p.301. 

1710 - Annapolis Royal won by the British - opening way for Acadian territory (mainland Nova Scotia/New Brunswick) to be granted to the British at Utrecht

1701-13- the War of Spanish succession (1701-1713) which ended in the Treaty of Utrecht -- "England's first successful     looting of the French colonial Empire". [3] England obtained clear title to the disputed regions of Hudson's Bay and Newfoundland as well as part of Acadia (that is, mainland Nova Scotia including New Brunswick).

1712  - the population of Isle Royale was reported to consist of one Frenchman and 25 to 30 Micmac families.4

1713 - a party of 250 men, women and children sailed from France to establish a colony at Louisbourg 


[1] 1629 - Louisbourg harbour's first permanent settlement. Lord Ochiltree, a Scot, built a fort at Baleine just north of the present Fortress site, but did not last a year.

1629 - Cape Breton's first permanent settlement. French captain Charles Daniel defeated Ochiltree then built his own establishment at St. Ann's, Cape Breton.  It disappeared about 1641.

1668  - end of informal French settlement on Cape Breton (Isle  Royale). Fire destroyed a small community created by Nicholas St. Denys at St. Peters.

[2]   Walter Phelps Hall, Robert GreenHalgh Albion, Jennie Barnes Pope, A History of England and the Empire - Commonwealth (Toronto:  Ginn and Company, 1961), p.264.

[3]    Walter Phelps Hall, Robert GreenHalgh Albion, Jennie Barnes Pope, A History of England and the Empire -Commonwealth (Toronto:  Ginn and Company, 1961),p.289.

[4]    A.J.B. Johnston, The Summer of 1744:  A Portrait of Life in 18th-Century Louisbourg (Ottawa: National Historic Sites, Parks Service, Environment Canada, 1983 reprinted in 1991), p.11.