In the 16th century, the fish-laden waters off the shores of Newfoundland—an unexpected resource for early European navigators—became the focus of a lucrative industry. The whale, whose blubber when rendered represented a new source of energy, and the seemingly inexhaustible cod banks answered the needs of a swiftly growing European population. It was during fishing trips that trading for hides and furs with the Aboriginal peoples began. These products, which produced an even more immediate profit than fish, generated income that formed the foundation of New France's economy. Although furs, primarily beaver, were the colony's main export, three-quarters of the population lived by farming cereal crops. In the 18th century, Canada produced enough grain to begin exporting, and it was during this period that trade developed among Canada, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) and the French West Indies. Louisbourg became the trading hub for the three colonies as well as for France. Since fur was the only raw material New France had to offer the mother country, the limits of the European market in this commodity eventually hampered the economic development of the colony.

Des castors du Canada [Canadian Beavers], illustration from the map of North and South America, by Nicolas de Fer, 1698
CA ANC NMC-26825
The Fishery
The Compagnie de la Colonie
The Fur Trade
The Monetary System
The Merchant Assemblies
The Travelling Vendors
Exports and Imports
The Price of Wheat and
The Ironworks of
Maritime Trade