Large waves of immigrants to the United States arrived from various European countries at different times in history, including Irish, Germans, Scottish, Poles, Russians and some lesser waves from Scandinavian countries.

As far as I know, there is no counterpart from France. That is, no sizable wave of French people who decided to uproot themselves for life in the New World. Given France's turbulent history, I find that surprising. Is there an explanation for why the Irish, Germans etc uprooted themselves, but much less so the French?

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    So are we talking "New World" meaning just the United States, or "New World" encompassing all of the Americas? Because you have Quebec which was called New France around 1608. Also, what's a "large wave"? If we are talking just America and a large portion of 500,000 count then this might help: emmigration.info/french-immigration-to-america.htm
    – EvanM
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 18:36
  • 1
    Look up Huguenots.
    – justCal
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 18:49
  • There was certainly significant French settlement in Louisiana in the period from 1682–1763. Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 18:50
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    @sempaiscuba Colonisation is not the same as immigration. Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 23:07
  • 2
    Why cannot a colonist be an immigrant? Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 23:13

2 Answers 2


The demographic history of France is different from that of most other European countries. While in most European countries mortality rates dropped in mid 19th century but natality rates only declined at the end of that century or even in the beggining of the 20th century, in France natality rates dropped almost simultaneously with mortality rates. Indeed, France's population almost stagnated between 1850 and 1900 (36 million in the former date, 38 million in the latter).

So, in short, while Germany, Italy, Poland, or Ireland, faced intense populational growth and consequently strong demographic pressures to which emigration was an obvious answer, France underwent no similar process, and consequently its emigration was much smaller.

A good discussion of the issue, in French, may be found here.


There are a few reasons. The first was that France's crises were resolved more quickly, and earlier (by the end of the 18th century) than those of some other European countries (more like 19th century). The French Revolution might have induced emigration to the U.S., except that it was tied up with threat of foreign invasion, meaning that many were caught up in the patriotic fervor of the time. Also France, unlike many other countries, enjoyed a long period of "peace and prosperity after the Napoleonic Wars (except in 1870-71, while other countries' upheavals were just starting. All this meant that French 19th century emigration to the U.S. was less than those of many other countries.

A second reason was that the French had other landing spots in North America. One of them was French-speaking Quebec (Canada). A second was French-speaking "Louisiana," which didn't become part of the U.S. until 1803. And as a commenter pointed out, the French (and British) also had landing spots in Africa and Asia (e.g. Algeria and Indochina). So the French emigration was not fully reflected in French immigration to the U.S.

A third issue was that French immigration to North America (Canada, the 13 colonies or Louisiana) started earlier (17th century) than that of most other countries (except England). Put another way, the wave of French immigration started earlier, meaning that the 19th century wave was smaller by comparison to the more visible 19th century waves of other countries. Basically the French did a large share of their emigration before the U.S. became the U.S; the people of other countries did theirs afterward.

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    In regards to the third issue, I am not getting the point. Even accepting that French immigration started earlier... why would it be relevant? I mean, it is not as if there were an stablished number of French wishing/allowed to emigrate in total; starting early would not imply finishing early. I think that probably the existence of the French Colonial Empire was more important; any Frenchman wishing/forced to emigrate could go to a land with French officials, French law, full citizenship, etc.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 23:32
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    It would have been particularly important that, at the same time that steam ships made transatlantic travel far easier, secure and frequent, the French were stablishing their colonies; some of those colonies were intended to end as part of France proper and would have received a considerable share of population; by 1960 only in Algeria there were more than one million "pieds-noirs" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pied-Noir)
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 23:37
  • @SJuan76: I don't disagree with your points and amended one sentence to incorporate your point about African colonies.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 23:43
  • Is your first point that France had less crisis in the 19th century than other countries ? It doesn't look like it from France (apart from the defeat/revolution/bloodshed of 1870-71, look up 1830, 1848, the wars of the second empire, ... ) Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 0:53

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