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First, I'd like to say what a great honor it is for me to be the recipient of the Heggoy Prize. Before summarizing my book, I would like to make a few remarks about my background and historiographical approach. I was trained in European history with an emphasis on France, and in fact my current project deals with France during the Third Republic. Where the Ancien Regime is concerned, I was inspired primarily by the several generations of Annalistes who have reconstructed the social life of entire regions. At the heart of the two parts of my book, "Modernity" and "Tradition," are two fairly lengthy Tours de France. The first attempts to situate emigration to Canada in the context of regional social and economic history, and the second examines it in relation to regional migration history. My focus in the book is therefore more on emigration from France than on immigration to Canada. The other main influence on the book, especially at the post-dissertation stage, was the rapidly expanding field ofAtlantic history Working with Atlantic historians convinced me that it makes more sense to view the colonization of French Canada from an Atlantic than from a narrowly national perspective. There were actually great similarities between the migration systems that peopled British and French North America, although they tend to be downplayed in the traditional historiography, whether English or French, liberal, conservative, or Marxist. That is not to say that the stereotypical contrasts between New France and New England are without foundation , but I interpret them more as the product of long-term developments Leslie Choquette is Professor of History at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.© French Colonial History Vol. 2, 2002, pp. 1-9 ISSN 1539-3402 2 Leslie Choquette in the New World than as preliminary givens. What distinguished French and British North America more than anything else, by the eighteenth century , was numbers—a distinction that stemmed from policy as well as geography and had momentous political consequences. But patterns of mobility, economic life, family reproduction, social structure, and even culture had much in common, and are perhaps best understood as part of a shared, if highly variegated, Atlantic colonial experience. The title of my book was, of course, inspired by the well-known study ofEugen Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization ofRural France, 1870-1914.1 Weber argues in that work that in the late nineteenth century, peasants from the most primitive and isolated parts of France gradually became acculturated into full-fledged citizens of the modern French state. I inverted Weber's title, for in some ways the history of French Canada involves a similar process, but in reverse. That is, the original emigrants were people from the most modern, dynamic, and outwardly-turned parts of France, yet they founded a nation that became, in myth anyway, a counter-revolutionary's dream: rural, hierarchical, Catholic, a peculiar New World vestige of the Ancien Régime—a "feudal hangover," as my former professor Stanley Hoffmann would say. I should add that as a Franco-American growing up in New England, I was very aware of that feudal hangover. The idealized image of a traditional French Canada is still important to an older generation of ethnic leaders. As I pursued my research, the contrast between that image and the French society that produced the emigrants intrigued me more and more. Explaining the paradox became one of the goals of my book. My definitions of traditional and modern are basically those of Weber. Peasants, as he defines them, are country folk whose labors primarily assure their own subsistence. By modernization, he means "the passage from relative isolation and a relatively closed economy to union with the outside world" through communications and a money economy.2 This process has implications, not only for material conditions, but also for mentalities and political awareness. Of course, the cultural world of eighteenth-century Frenchmen was vastly different from that of Frenchmen in 1914. When asked to define it, I think at once of the fascinating memoir of Jacques-Louis Ménétra, unearthed by Daniel Roche among the uncatalogued manuscripts of the Bibliothèque de l'Histoire de la Ville de...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-7787
Print ISSN
1539-3402
Pages
pp. 1-9
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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