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Catherine Desbarats Frenchmen into Peasants' reviewers have repeatedly pointed out the illuminating intuition underlying the research presented in this book. It has become increasingly clear, in recent years, that early modern France was perhaps considerably less immobile than has often been thought, harboring instead a wide range of migratory movements of varying distance and duration. Leslie Choquette has capitalized on, and along the way significantly reinforced, such insights, bringing them to bear on transatlantic moves. Migrations to Canada and to Acadia, she argues, can fruitfully be seen as extensions of internal circuits, whether these involved the recruitment of soldiers, the seasonal movements of rural workers, or the artisan's tour de France. Microscopically, in tables and in prose, she maps the regional, religious, and occupational origins of men and women bound for French North America during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, fleshing out the picture of a France "on the move" no less than the rest of Europe.2 And on the whole, she suggests, those departing look like members of an almost robust flow of ambitious job-seekers from the most commercialized, "outward-looking" parts of the country. We will be turning to this detailed verbal portrait for some time to come.3 We will be equally tempted to muse over the irony hinted at in the book's title. How deeply does Choquette want us to plumb the implications of standing Eugen Weber's Peasants into Frenchmen on its head? Weber gets little more than a footnote, and the book, at times, seems to want to wear its chiastic framing device lightly.4 But like the rebellious footnotes in Ronald Grudin's Book: A Novel,5 this one takes on a life of its own, and in Catherine Desbarats is Associate Professor of History at McGiIl University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.© French Colonial History Vol. 2, 2002, pp. 19-27 ISSN 1539-3402 19 20Catherine Desbarats the end will simply not be ignored. By Frenchmen into Peasants' final chapter , it commands our full attention. Having portrayed migrants to New France as "modern Frenchmen," and characterized French Canada, at least by the nineteenth century, as a "traditional," "backward" peasant society, Choquette could scarcely avoid explaining what is cast as a kind of regression . How then did an "un-modern" society emerge from such a sprightly, even urbanized immigrant stock? Whether the question itself, or the answers appended to this ambitious demographic study, are ultimately compelling will be eventually considered below. Meanwhile, Dale Miquelon's comments have given us the novel and memorable image of a pinwheel with which to think about the significance of the interlocking migratory networks explored in Choquette's book. In a slightly bloodier (but no less figurative) vein, lined with historiographical corpses and shot through with ellipses and allusions, Miquelon would also have us think about this book's relationship to a less moribund literature than that invoked by Choquette herself. The information revolution notwithstanding, or perhaps as its result, the history of early French Canada does indeed seem to me to be vulnerable to a particular kind of défonçage de portes ouvertes [breaking down of open doors]. It is also an arena in which wheels of all kinds are reinvented at regular intervals, complete with innovative design flaws and neglect of original inventors. Partly in a preemptive spirit, then, and also in honor of the insights and strenuous labor underlying the verbal maps alluded to above, I would like to deal mainly with how I think this book fits in with the work of others. First, the numbers themselves: How do Choquette's figures fit with those already afloat in the literature? For such a literature does indeed exist, a point clearly made in the book, but lost in many of its reviews. As one historian recently put it, the Saint Lawrence Valley has long been a veritable laboratory for historical demographers who have at their disposal more than 300,000 computerized records, the backbone of which are acts from parish registers, and all of which have been compiled and repeatedly analyzed by members of the Programme de Recherche en démographie historique (PRDH).6 By and large, and at least where...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-7787
Print ISSN
1539-3402
Pages
pp. 19-27
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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