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Acadia was the name given by the French to the territory named Nova Scotia named after the mythical Arcadia. Later, the area was divided under British rule into the three Maritime provinces.

The territory's first European colonists, who would later become known as Acadians, were French subjects of the colony of New France primarily from the Pleumartin to Poitiers area of France. The French took control of the Micmac territory by military force and in 1654 king Louis XIV of France appointed aristocrat Nicholas Denys as Governor of Acadia granting him the confiscated Micmac lands and the right to all it minerals.

The area was captured by British colonists in the course of King William's War but returned to France at the peace settlement. It was recaptured in the course of Queen Anne's War and its conquest confirmed in the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713.

Following this reverse, the French signalled their preparedness for future hostilities by building the fort of Fortress Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. The British were alarmed by the prospect of disloyalty in war time of the French colonists now under their rule. The territorial conflicts between Britain and France led to over 6000 Acadian homes being burned by the British in 1755. Those Acadians who refused to swear loyalty to the British crown fled or were expelled to the American Colonies. Many settled in Louisiana, then still under French rule, where they formed the nucleus of the Cajun population. The name Cajun is derived from Acadia: the word for Acadian in French is acadien, which, said fast, becomes Cajun.

The poem Evangeline by Longfellow begins in Acadia.

See also: List of Acadian governors