After the American Revolution, British North America fell back on the heart of the 17th-century position in North America - the Gulf of St Lawrence, Acadia, and the St Lawrence valley - plus, in the north, the territory of the Hudson's Bay Company and, in the east, Newfoundland. The principal inshore fisheries in the northwestern Atlantic and the fur route from Montreal to the northern edge of the Great Lakes and on to the northern plains remained in British control. The long-contested Ohio valley and the rich agricultural lands of the upper Mississippi, which the French had begun to settle late in the French regime and the British had officially reconnected to the lower St Lawrence in 1774, passed to the United States. The struggle between Britain and France for North America had ended as few could have foreseen. Britain had lost most of her original position in North America and had gained France's.
At the end of the 18th century fish and furs were still the principal exports of the territory that had become British North America. The fishery clung to the Atlantic shore, the techniques of catching and processing cod little changed from the 16th century. The French migratory inshore fishery was now largely confined to northern and western Newfoundland, and the English migratory fishery was almost at an end, replaced by a resident fishery. The Montreal-based fur trade extended up the Ottawa River and far beyond, challenging the Hudson's Bay Company and drawing HBC traders inland. But most people in British North America lived on farms and had no connection with these trades. Their farms provided a large part of their material requirements and, perhaps, some surplus for sale. Some trade linked town and countryside, and some agricultural products were exported, but few farms were primarily commercial ventures. The local agricultural economy permitted population growth and supported farm families that were weakly integrated within the international economy. The export economy of the fur trade and the cod fishery, managed in the towns and generating much of their prosperity, bound fur-trading posts and fishing settlements to transatlantic markets.
Superimposed on a contorted coast and rockbound interior, these different economies shaped the settlement geography of what is now Eastern Canada in 1800. People lived in patches of isolated settlement and no one town, unless it were London, England, dominated the entire area. Experiences and prejudices were very different. Almost 200 000 French-speaking people, many generations Canadian and making up some 60% of the population of the seven British North American colonies, lived along the lower St Lawrence together with perhaps 25 000 English speakers who had come after the conquest. Acadian refugees lived along the south shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence. Loyalists and others newly arrived from the United States made up the principal population of Upper Canada and the Atlantic colonies where there were also a few Highland Scots and Germans. English and Irish fishermen, many of them temporary residents, lived in Newfoundland. There were Native people in each colony.