There has been human habitation in New Brunswick since 6000-8000 BCE, beginning with the native Mi'kmaq, Wolastoqiyuk, and Passamaquoddy populations. First known European activity in the area occurred in 1534, with the arrival of French explorer Jacques Cartier. The area then went largely undisturbed until 1604 when French explorers Pierre du Gua de Monts and Samuel de Champlain established a winter settlement in the area. This marked the beginning of French colonization of the area, establishing it as part of the French province of Acadia for the next 150 years. 1713 marked the beginning of English domination of the region, which was largely completed by 1763 despite native and Acadian resistance. The are was then absorbed into the new English province of Nova Scotia, becoming Sunbury County. Settlement was slow until after the Revolutionary War, when Loyalist refugees flooded the region. Tensions between pre-existing populations and Loyalists spurred the partitioning of Nova Scotia and the creation of the Colony of New Brunswick in 1784. The capital was established at St Anne's Point, now Fredericton. The University of New Brunswick, the first English-speaking university in Canada, and first public university in North America, was established there the following year. A period of sustained and varied immigration followed for several centuries, with Acadian populations returning to the area along with immigrants from England, Ireland, and Scotland. The hotly contested boundary between New Brunswick and the American state of Maine was settled by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty following a brief war in 1842. In 1867 New Brunswick joined with the provinces of Nova Scotia and Canada (now Ontario and Quebec) to form the Dominion of Canada, despite resistance from some inhabitants of the province. As feared by these resistors, New Brunswick underwent economic troubles due to federal policies, as well as the decline of the wooden shipbuilding industry and the Great Fire of 1877. The twentieth century saw recovery in the manufacturing boom and the growth of the railway industry. As in other areas of Canada and the world, setbacks were experienced during the Great Depression, but were largely recovered from during the Second World War and post-war boom. Efforts to integrate the French-speaking Acadian population began in 1960, and resulted in the adoption of French as a second official language with the Official Languages Act of 1969, making New Brunswick the only officially bilingual province.
New Brunswick is one of the three Maritime provinces in Canada. It is the only one of the three to have a significant land border. It is bordered to the north by the Gaspé Peninsula, to the east by the Gulf of St Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait, to the southeast by Nova Scotia, to the south by the Bay of Fundy, and to the west by Maine. It contains major mountain ranges in the form of the Appalachian Mountains and the Notre Dame Mountains, as well as other highlands. Its capital is Fredericton, while its most populous city is Saint John.
There are just over 750,000 people in New Brunswick. A majority of the population reports their ethnic origin as Canadian, with just over 57% of the population identifying as such. There are also major populations reporting their origin as French, English, Irish, and Scottish, with smaller populations reporting German, Acadian, Native, Dutch, or Welsh origins, and a small fraction of the population claiming Italian, Métis, American or Danish ancestry. Christianity is the dominant religion, with 86% of the population claiming adherence to some denomination.
A majority of the population speaks English as a first language, while a large minority, about 33%, reports speaking French as a first language. There are a number of other languages identified as native by residents, none of which exceed 0.4% of the population.