Nova Scotia (Latin for "New Scotland", pronounced in English as ; ) is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and constitutes one of the four Atlantic Canada provinces. Located almost exactly halfway between the Equator and the North Pole (44º 39' N Latitude), its provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the second-smallest province in Canada, with an area of , including Cape Breton Island and another 3,800 coastal islands. As of 2011, the population was 921,727, making Nova Scotia the second-most-densely populated province in Canada.
The province includes regions of the Mi'kmaq nation of Mi'kma'ki (mi'gama'gi). Nova Scotia was already home to the Mi'kmaq people when the first European colonists arrived. In 1605, French colonists established the first permanent European settlement in Canada and the first north of Florida at Port Royal, founding what would become known as Acadia.
The British conquest of Acadia took place in 1710. It was formally recognized in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht, when Cape Breton Island (Île Royale) was returned to the French. What is now New Brunswick was still a part of the French colony of Acadia. The name of the capital was changed from Port Royal to Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. In 1749, the capital of Nova Scotia was changed from Annapolis Royal to the newly established Halifax. In 1755, the vast majority of the French population (the Acadians) were expelled and replaced by New England Planters who arrived between 1759 and 1768.
In 1763, most of Acadia (Cape Breton Island, St. John's Island (now Prince Edward Island), and New Brunswick) became part of Nova Scotia. In 1769, St. John's Island became a separate colony. Nova Scotia included present-day New Brunswick until that province was established in 1784, after the arrival of United Empire Loyalists. In 1867, Nova Scotia was one of the four founding provinces of the Canadian Confederation.
17th and 18th centuries
The history of Nova Scotia was significantly influenced by the warfare that took place on its soil during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Mi’kmaq had lived in Nova Scotia for centuries. The French arrived in 1604, and Catholic Mi’kmaq and Acadians were the predominant populations in the colony for the next 150 years. During the first 80 years the French and Acadians were in Nova Scotia, there were nine significant battles as the English and Scottish (later British), Dutch and French fought for possession of the colony. These battles happened at Port Royal, Saint John, Cap de Sable (present-day Port La Tour, Nova Scotia), Jemseg and Baleine. During the 17th Century there was the Acadian Civil War (1640–45).
Beginning with King William's War in 1688, there were six wars in Nova Scotia before the French were defeated and peace was made with the Acadians and Mi’kmaq:
The battles during these wars were primarily fought at Port Royal, Saint John, Canso, Chignecto, Dartmouth, Lunenburg and Grand-Pré. Despite the British Conquest of Acadia in 1710, Nova Scotia remained primarily occupied by Catholic Acadians and Mi'kmaq, who confined British forces to Annapolis and Canso. A generation later, Father Le Loutre's War began when Edward Cornwallis arrived to establish Halifax with 13 transports on June 21, 1749. A General Court, made up of the governor and the Council, was the highest court in the colony at the time. Jonathan Belcher was sworn in as chief justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court on 21 October 1754. The first legislative assembly in Halifax, under the Governorship of Edward Cornwallis, met on 2 October 1758. During the French and Indian War (North American theatre of the Seven Years' War), the British deported the Acadians and recruited New England Planters to resettle the colony. The seventy-five-year period of war ended with the Burial of the Hatchet Ceremony between the British and the Mi'kmaq (1761). After the war, some Acadians were allowed to return and the British made treaties with the Mi’kmaq.
The American Revolution (1775–1783) had a significant impact on shaping Nova Scotia. At the beginning, there was ambivalence in Nova Scotia, "the 14th American Colony" as some called it, over whether the colony should join the Americans in the war against Britain and rebellion flared at the Battle of Fort Cumberland and the Siege of Saint John (1777). Throughout the war, American privateers devastated the maritime economy by capturing ships and looting almost every community outside of Halifax. These American raids alienated many sympathetic or neutral Nova Scotians into supporting the British. By the end of the war a number of Nova Scotian privateers were outfitted to attack American shipping. British military forces based at Halifax were successful in preventing American support for rebels in Nova Scotia and deterred any invasion of Nova Scotia. However the British navy was unable to establish naval supremacy. While many American privateers were captured in battles such as the Naval battle off Halifax, many more continued attacks on shipping and settlements until the final months of the war. The Royal Navy struggled to maintain British supply lines, defending convoys from American and French attacks such as the fiercely fought convoy battle, the Naval battle off Cape Breton.
After the British were defeated in the Thirteen Colonies, its troops helped evacuate approximately 30,000 United Empire Loyalists (American Tories), who settled in Nova Scotia, with land grants by the Crown as some compensation for their losses. (Nova Scotia was divided and the present-day province of New Brunswick created). The Loyalist exodus created new communities across Nova Scotia, including Shelburne, which was briefly one of the larger British settlements in North America, and infused the province with additional capital and skills. However the migration also caused political tensions between Loyalist leaders and the leaders of the existing New England Planters settlement. The Loyalist influx also pushed Nova Scotia's Mi'kmaq People to the margins as Loyalist land grants encroached on ill-defined native lands. Approximately 3,000 members of the Loyalist migration were Black Loyalists who founded the largest free Black settlement in North America at Birchtown, near Shelburne. However unfair treatment and harsh conditions caused about one-third of the Black Loyalists to resettle in Sierra Leone in 1792 where they founded Freetown and became known in Africa as the Nova Scotian Settlers.
During the War of 1812, Nova Scotia’s contribution to the war effort was communities either purchasing or building various privateer ships to lay siege to American vessels. Perhaps the most dramatic moment in the war for Nova Scotia was when HMS Shannon escorted the captured American frigate USS Chesapeake into Halifax Harbour (1813). Many of the prisoners were kept at Deadman's Island, Halifax.
During this century, Nova Scotia was the first colony in British North America and in the British Empire to achieve responsible government in January–February 1848 and become self-governing through the efforts of Joseph Howe. Nova Scotia had established representative government in 1758, an achievement that was later commemorated by erecting the Dingle Tower in 1908.
Thousands of Nova Scotians fought in the American Civil War (1861–1865), primarily for the North. The British Empire (including Nova Scotia) was declared neutral in the struggle between the North and the South. As a result, Britain (and Nova Scotia) continued to trade with both the South and the North. Nova Scotia’s economy boomed during the Civil War.
Immediately after the Civil War, Pro-Confederation premier Charles Tupper led Nova Scotia into the Canadian Confederation on July 1, 1867, along with New Brunswick and the Province of Canada. The Anti-Confederation Party was led by Joseph Howe. Almost three months later, in the election of September 18, 1867, the Anti-Confederation Party won 18 out of 19 federal seats, and 36 out of 38 seats in the provincial legislature.
Nova Scotia became a world leader in both building and owning wooden sailing ships in the second half of the 19th century. Nova Scotia produced internationally recognized shipbuilders Donald McKay and William Dawson Lawrence. The fame Nova Scotia achieved from sailors was assured when Joshua Slocum became the first man to sail single-handedly around the world (1895). This international attention continued into the following century with the many racing victories of the Bluenose schooner. Nova Scotia was also the birthplace and home of Samuel Cunard, a British shipping magnate, born at Halifax, Nova Scotia, who founded the Cunard Line.
Throughout the nineteenth century, there were numerous businesses that were developed in Nova Scotia that became of national and international importance: The Starr Manufacturing Company (first skate manufacturer in Canada), the Bank of Nova Scotia, Cunard Line, Alexander Keith's Brewery, Morse's Tea Company (first tea company in Canada), among others. (Early in the 20th century Sobey's was established as was Maritime Life.)