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Dale Miquelon Frenchmen into Peasants: Modernity and Tradition in the Peopling ofFrench Canada fairly bristles with citations. Leslie Choquette has read widely in the rich literature on migration contributed to by both historians and demographers in the United States, France, Great Britain, and Canada.1 In the case of French Canada, Hubert Charbonneau and his équipe at the Université de Montréal are front and center in this on-going study of historical demography The demographic history of New France has less of a following among English-speaking historians, although Choquette has been preceded in some aspects of the subject by Peter Moogk.2 Choquette now contributes significantly to this historiography in this notable book. Choquette writes, "Migrations were an integral part of French life under the Ancien Régime."3 The movement of people she describes in Frenchmen into Peasants resembles that of a swirling, burning pinwheel tacked onto the map of France. Its fiery tails fly out beyond the borders of the country to European neighbors and across the Atlantic. The migrants may leave simply a trace of their passage or they may leave a bit of themselves , but this is always incidental to the movement of the pinwheel itself. Choquette makes New World historians see immigration in a new light as simply an aspect of migration. That the reader experiences a feeling of revelation concerning something long taken for granted is the book's strongest claim on our attention. The chapters that detail migration, which are the real heart of the archival research, are therefore especially satisfying. This research is placed within a broader framework of interpretation. Choquette argues that immigrants to Canada in the early modern period Dale Miquelon is Professor of History at University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.© French Colonial History Vol. 2, 2002, pp. 11-17 ISSN 1539-3402 11 12Dale Miquelon originated in regions of France described as "modern," and that in nineteenth century Canada their descendants became "traditional" peasants. This is contrary to the perception of nineteenth century historians, who, as Choquette tells us, related the traditional character of the French Canada they knew to its origins in the seventeenth century. Through the device of the first person singular, Choquette introduces herself into the text, as compiler of data, framer of arguments, dispeller of historiographical illusions . The book therefore invites us to consider three interesting questions: the relationship of a new work of history to the body of historiography, the explanation of history in terms of an overriding concept (in this case the idea of "modernity"), and the relation between the historian and the historian 's text. Choquette establishes the orientation of her text when she writes of French migrants: "The fundamental modernity of these 'Frenchmen' was long obscured by a peasantist nostalgia that projected a mythical and idealized backwardness onto a group that was, in reality, the vanguard of French Atlantic expansion."4 The principal French-language historians she refers to are Abbé Etienne-Michel Faillon (1799-1870) and Abbé JeanBaptiste -Antoine Ferland (1801-1865), whose clerico-nationalist interpretations culminated in the works too numerous to mention of Abbé Lionel Groulx (1878-1967).5 From the English side of the linguistic Great Divide, she cites Francis Parkman (1823-1893).6 The views of these historiographical ancestors (with either a French positive or an English negative spin on pious feudal peasants) constitute the windmills Choquette tilts against with her new interpretation. But it is worth asking why anyone would structure a cutting-edge work of history in our own time injust that way. The year 1999 is the fifty-second anniversary of Maurice Séguin's article "La Conquête et la vie économique des Canadiens" (in the Quebec periodical , Action nationale)— an article which drove a stake through the heart oíAbbé Groulx.7This year is also the fortieth anniversary of the publication in Canada of WJ. Eccles' Frontenac. The Courtier Governor, the book that drove a stake through the heart of Francis Parkman. Publication of Eccles' views in the United States followed in 1961.8 Intellectually speaking, neither the Catholic/traditional nor the Anglo/liberal interpretations, both of them imbued with nationalist romanticism, ever recovered from these blows...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-7787
Print ISSN
1539-3402
Pages
pp. 11-17
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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