Quebec Studies

Book Reviews

Quebec Studies (2001), 31, (1), 128–151.


128 Book Reviews Quebec Culture, History, and Politics MOOGK, PETER N. La Nouvelle France: The Making of French Canada— A Cultural History. East Lansing: Michigan State UP, 2000. Pp. 340. As an English-speaking Canadian graduate student in Quebec in the 1960s, Peter Moogk discovered that Quebec's cultural distinctiveness lies far deeper than the linguistic concerns that usually take the forefront in current debates. Moogk also realized that school textbooks and current popular histories of Canada typically dismiss the French Régime as "a colorful but inconsequential era ... an entertaining divertissement" (xiii). His purpose in writing La Nouvelle France was to correct certain misunderstandings, and to furnish a cultural study to complement existing political and historical works. Moogk's book seems primarily intended to help scholars and teachers of Canadian Studies to round out their knowledge of Quebec. Nevertheless, those who are already familiar with the history and culture of Quebec from a Québécois perspective are also likely to appreciate the extent of Moogk's research. The wealth of anecdotes and statistics derived from early legal documents will provide a welcome enhancement to most lectures, seminars, and assigned readings. To begin his study, Moogk alludes to seventeenth-century science-fiction— Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac's fantastic journey to New France—as a pretext for defining the geographical extent and diversity of France's preliminary colonial claim, which reached far beyond current political boundaries. A subsequent chapter, which focuses on Franco-Amerindian relations, includes familiar accounts of the hardships and sacrifices of early missionaries, along with unflattering contemporary reports of how Amerindians perceived Europeans and their doctrines. Moogk situates this section in the context of Louis XIV's ideal of creating a divine-right Utopia in the New World. The royal plan to convert large numbers of Amerindians to Christianity and assimilate them into New French society through marriage obviously failed. In chapters four and five, Moogk analyzes and documents the difficulties encountered by the French crown in recruiting settlers for New France. He cites Manon Lescaut's "cruel" punishment—exile to Louisiana—in Abbé Prévost's novel as an illustration of the colony's reputation in France. While there were enticements for adventurous peasants, such as freedom to hunt wild game and avoid taxes, Moogk demonstrates that many potential settlers, such as soldiers and indentured servants, made the journey reluctantly and returned to France as soon as possible. Les filles du roi are mentioned in this section, as one would expect, but some readers may be disappointed not to find a more extensive analysis of their role, and the roles of women in general. Next, Moogk examines records such as estate inventories, court cases, and marriage contracts in order to reveal how social hierarchies differed from those in Europe and how Canadians and Acadians gradually emerged as "definable and separate peoples" (176). In a brief section on language, Moogk comments on the "distinctiveness" of Canadian French, which was standardized by the early 1700s, whereas metropolitan French continued to evolve for more than a hun-

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