Charlevoix

Remembered by Voltaire his former student at the Collège Louis-le-Grand for being a “bit longwinded”, the great philosophe bought all the books of Pierre-François-Xavier Charlevoix, not least his Histoire et description de la Nouvelle France. Coming in at 3 substantial volumes, it is the journey and observations of a teacher, editor, and priest venturing into […]

From Cartier, Happy Canada Day!

[I’m back from my holidays in Europe, and just in time for Canada’s birthday and Montreal’s moving day too so please excuse the repost, while I unpack, recover, and join the fray. Hope you’re having fun too!]  “Canada,” Pierre Elliott Trudeau is supposed to have said, “is a country built against any common, geographic or […]

From Lionel Groulx, The Death of a Race

The stations of the Montreal Metro system are not named after people. They are named after streets and places, which themselves may or may not be named after people. So when people call for Lionel-Groulx to be renamed after Oscar Peterson, they are actually calling for the street to be renamed. There is no Peterson […]

From Laurier, Canada

Canadian Confederation was a marriage of convenience performed under the shotgun of the U.S. Civil War. The country created by Macdonald and Cartier existed on paper but was one dominated by English imperialists often hostile to a suspicious French-speaking minority, themselves more dominated by a local Catholic clergy than their English neighbours. Ten years after […]

From Cartier, Pax Canadiana, or Confederation

“Canada,” Pierre Elliott Trudeau is supposed to have said, “is a country built against any common, geographic or historical sense”. Prime Minister from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984, Trudeau was a smart man: he did not to say that it made no political sense. He also had the good sense not […]

At McGill, Cholera’s Death Carnival

A big welcome to all my new readers and followers since Marian Scott’s piece in the Gazette. I hope you’ll feel free to ask questions, give advice, offer corrections, and above all enjoy the posts. And with posts in mind, here’s this weeks. In recent years fears of global pandemic have hardly been out of the […]

From Place d’Armes, a Picture of Awful and Thrilling Beauty

On 25th April 1849, a group of Montrealers set out from Place d’Armes and burnt their country’s parliament to the ground. The army and police did little, despite warnings. Afterwards, among those arrested was the editor and owner of the Gazette. In 1849, the effects of the previous decade’s Rebellions were still vividly felt, and […]

On the Blog, Some Updates; On the Fridge, Some Magnets; On Facebook, a Page

This week I have been fortunate enough to have had a number of conversations with Marian Scott, of the Gazette. She has put me straight on a number points and the posts on Peel and Henri-Bourassa have been updated accordingly. In the case of Peel, I say that the street was opened in 1845. This, […]

On Peel, A Call for Annexation

Last week I looked at Louis-Joseph Papineau, the leader of the 1837 Lower Canada Rebellion who was exiled in France, largely at the behest of his fellow rebels, when the Rebellion failed. On his return to the newly re-named Province of Canada in 1845, he found a changed system of responsible government, which his former […]

Papineau – un canadien errant

And, I’m back! And with the pressing concern of the moment being keeping the T-1000 that is Mitt Romney out of the White House, I have been starting research on another Proteus, this time from Montebello, the politically fecund seigneurie on the banks of the Ottawa River. It was from Montebello that Henri Bourassa, the founder […]

Henri Bourassa – Between La Fête Nationale and Canada Day

When Mark Twain visited Montreal he famously remarked that ‘This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn’t throw a brick without breaking a church window’. The rest of his anecdote is less well known. He was told that a new church was going to be built. Where would the […]

Place des Arts, Montreal Normal and the October Crisis

Much has been made of the student protests that have been taking place here in Montreal. Too much. They do not require the invoking of the (in any case defunct) War Measures Act to bring them to an end, as one commenter suggests here. Nor, indeed, do they need special legislation like Loi 78, which […]

On Sherbrooke, A Cool Head

Some wars end in clear victory for one side and an equally clear defeat for the other. Among these are the Napoleonic Wars and on the clear defeats of Napoleon at Borodino in 1812 and Waterloo in 1815 hang the monster novels of Tolstoy (War and Peace) and Thackeray (Vanity Fair) as well as the […]

LaSalle

In the history of New France there is perhaps no figure more colorful than René-Robert Cavalier de La Salle. Born in Rouen, France, in 1643, he was educated by the Jesuits and temperamentally unsuited to religious or indeed any other settled life. In 1667 joined the Compagnie de Cent Associés and headed to Quebec. So great was […]

Berri-UQÁM – Where protests and history happen

You will have perhaps heard about the student protests which have been dominating Montreal this spring and summer. Each night since February students have been demonstrating against the provincial government’s proposed increase in tuition fees. You may have seen pictures of violence and confrontations with the police downtown and heard that at one point a […]

Radisson’s account of extreme nature

Montreal has been reminded of the power of nature. This Tuesday, summer was interrupted with a downpour which flooded basements, transformed tunnels into rivers, sewers into geysers and elevators into waterfalls. Canada, of course, is not unknown for its extreme weather, but it is never more extreme than in winter, and during the winter of […]