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In an alternate history scenario I am working on, France wins the Seven Years war, thus keeping a hold of New France. As I was designing this world and its history I discovered that in 1946, America wanted to buy Greenland. Mainly for its strategic position, but this obviously did not happen.

I began to wonder, would the French try this to? After all, the main goal of New France, at least in our timeline, was for the fur trade and Greenland is rich with foxes, hares and mustelidae, prime fur hunting animals?

Would New France be likely to attempt to purchase Greenland from Denmark? If they did choose to attempt this purchase, would they have any hope of succeeding?

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  • $\begingroup$ The US wanted to buy Greenland because it was very strategic to defend against Russia. It was an extremely close airbase (and while we have naval basing rights there until the 2040s I think, I am not sure it extended to air basing rights), and would be very useful when we had constant overflights of nuclear bombers. $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Dec 22 '16 at 16:35
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I don't know why the 1946 France of the alternate timeline would want to buy Greenland: as Marshall Tigerus pointed in comments, the reason our timeline's USA wanted to buy Greenland was mostly geopolitics, and winning the 7 Years War would have radically changed geopolitics.

But, if we assume that technology and lifestyle evolved in a similar fashion, the 2016 France of the alternate timeline have one big reason to want Greenland: it is an access to claim Arctic and its reserve of oil.

Nowadays, 5 countries are claiming parts of the Arctic as part of their EEZ (Exclusive Economical Zone): Canada, USA, Russia, Norway, and Denmark through Greenland. All these countries are funding projects to study seabeds to extend their EEZ: see Wikipedia - Territorial claims in Arctic. Of course, New France could directly claim ownership of a part of Arctic, but owning Greenland would further the claim and extend France's EEZ in Arctic.

The main reason for that is not furs, but oil. Our time's President Obama just declared the American Arctic off-limits for oil exploration, and Canada took similar decisions, but alternate timeline's Emperor Napoleon IX may not be that wise.

There was actually army drills in the Arctic some time ago.

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Greenland is not rich with fur animals

While there are fur mammals on Greenland, there aren't many. Infact, there is explicity only the Arctic Fox, Ermine, and Arctic Hare.

Further, the most productive fur trapping areas were farther south, where the combination of tundra and taiga makes for a good variety of habitats. Greenland doesn't have that, it barely has any trees, and instead of vast tundras to bloom in summertime it has rocks. Lots of rocks.

Greenland has seals

Greenland does have a lot of seals. You could probably have made a decent business hunting ivory up there, or at the very least trading once a year with Inuit and making them hunt the ivory. However, getting to the upper parts of Greenland wasn't really in your timeline. Robert McClure is the first record I can find of someone heading into north of Baffin Island up to where the real productive walrus grounds would be, and that was in 1851.

In any case, you wouldn't really need to own or buy the land to get the seals. The 1800s were rife with sealing and whaling all over the Earth's oceans, particularly in the Southern Ocean where people took what they wanted and nation states owned or controlled basically nothing.

Conclusion

I don't see a good reason to buy Greenland, when the land is basically worthless, and the seas are rich but open to common use.

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