About this site
Statement of Mission and Goals:
This site began in 1997. Its first purpose was, and continues to be, to provide material of varied nature for the students registered in the course of HIS 951 - Quebec History, at Marianopolis College in Montreal. The course addresses Quebec history after the fall of New France; thus, it begins with the period of 1760-1763. Although a considerable amount of material, information, and tools for Quebec history exists in French, this is not always the case in English. From the beginning, it was my purpose to put into the hands of the students sufficient data so that they would gain as great an understanding of Quebec history, and of the Quebec people, as possible. When the site began, it came as a great surprise to me that there was a significant public outside of Marianopolis for the material posted here. There was evidently a need for serious academic material in English and the site seems to have fulfilled part of that need. In any case, I was frankly horrified at the low quality, and the general nature, of what was available about Quebec on the Internet. Thus, in posting material at the site, I keep in mind both the needs of the students and of the general public.
My perspective is that of an academic writer. It is not my purpose to entertain the visitors at the site, although I hope that navigating through it will be pleasant enough. It is my hope that they will find serious information on a wide variety of subjects. Ideally, I would wish to make the site "complete", that is that much of the pertinent information regarding important issues be found right at the site. It is with this view in mind that the site was constructed.
For most subjects that are tackled, there are (or will be) one or more texts written by the author and placed in the Readings category. These texts wish to impart knowledge, but especially to provide an interpretive framework on a significant question. In the category of readings will also be placed a number of historiographical essays that seek to analyse the debates between historians on an important issue, or to introduce a specific historian to the readers. The reader should be made to grasp that debate is an inherent part of the study of history and that historians provide different answers to the same question. My objective is to try to explain why that is so, giving support, when necessary and possible, to the views that seem to most accord with the facts as they are known presently. As well, the interpretive section is supplemented by a subdivision on Concepts and issues of Quebec history where complex questions, frequently of a methodological nature, are discussed. Many of the debates mentioned above occur because different methodological and conceptual approaches are used and this category seeks to explain some of these. Similarly, the interpretive section is supported by Biographies to inform the reader about the life of some of the most important characters of the history of Quebec. Two other categories share the characteristics of the Readings: Franco-American History - a section that developed out of the interest of Franco Americans for their past, and in recognition of the important diaspora of French Canadians, remnants of the great wave of emigration that flowed from Quebec in the period of 1840 to 1930 - and Federalism and the Constitution, which distills the essential part of a Handbook on Constitutional History written over the course of years for my students in the course of Canadian Constitutional History - HIS 942 - and in which the place of Quebec in the Canadian constitutional evolution is central.
The interpretive material is supported by statistical data posted in the Statistics and charts category. Over the years, this category should continue to receive substantial additions. In my opinion, it is important to put into the hands of the reader raw data so that further investigation can be independently pursued. It is for the same reason that the Documents, Maps, Pictures' sections are provided.
It is in the documentary section that the greatest substance of the site will be found. The purpose is to provide the student with the opportunity to fully investigate an issue by providing a significant cross-section of conflicting documents on it. The documents, where pertinent, are placed chronologically and are introduced to provide a context for them, when such a context is not self-evident. Many of these documents have been translated by the author, although it is not always possible to do so. Some documents appear both in English and in French when they are especially important, or to provide an opportunity to acquire the terminology used in both languages on an issue. A proper study of the history of Quebec cannot be done without developing, at a minimum, the willingness, and the capacity, to read in French. Wherever possible, the documents provide a very wide range of views and opinions. It is by confronting the contradictory views of participants, by subjecting them to analysis and applying critical thinking, as well as by being provided with support and independent data and concepts, that proper conclusions should be arrived at. Otherwise, one becomes prisoner of the views that are commonly held and a follower without really knowing why. If education is to have a purpose, it should be to liberate the mind, to unleash the capacity to question the commonly accepted views, to make reason and knowledge the basis of our decisions.
The documentary section is supported itself by a chronological category (a number of additions to this category should be made in the years to come). These chronologies can be very substantial and should provide the reader with the factual data necessary to analyse and judge the views expressed in the documents or elsewhere at the site.
Many of the more substantial texts, or collections of documents, are supplemented by extensive bibliographies, some of them annotated. These should allow the serious reader to continue the research into some of the best sources available in print form. While the Internet has opened much material to easy grasp, the day has not yet arrived when we can neglect what exists in the standard traditional literature. While I wish the site to be as complete as possible, it is an essential feature of the intellectual quest that the knowledge and the guidance of the many should be sought. For a similar purpose, an extensive, and forever growing, category of Internet sites in Quebec and Canadian history is also provided. Only sites that meet standards of scholarship are listed in that section.
Links between all these categories are made for easy navigation although in August 2000 the site was enriched by the addition of a search engine that should make it possible for the reader to find easily all the material pertinent to a subject. [Unfortunately, this feature frequently does not work properly]
In 2003, another section was added to the site: Encyclopedia of Quebec History. In this category, we seek to make available material written by others in the past and that can still be useful. With it, we wish to express our respect for the work of those who preceded us in writing about Quebec and Canada, and whose work is increasingly lost on the dusty shelves of libraries. There is no doubt that this section soon will become the largest at the site, if it not already so. Users of the Encyclopedia should read the editor's note regarding methodology before proceeding further as the encyclopedia must be used with care given the nature of the material reproduced there.
In the documents and encyclopedia sections, the site makes available historical material that may portray individuals or groups in a stereotypical or prejudicial manner. In most instances, this material dates from earlier decades or centuries and reflects the beliefs/views/culture of the people of the time. This material is reproduced at the site for study purposes only and its publication should in no way be interpreted as an endorsement of these views or stereotypes.
Lastly, a section entitled Mémoires/theses was added in 2008. In it, university dissertations are published or links are made to available theses that are found on the web.
Before closing this section, a last word on my perspective on Quebec and history. I do not belong to any particular school of history, especially of the type that has a ready-made perspective, model or answer for all questions that may be asked. I view a problem in history as one would approach a judicial case: the historian is the investigator, the prosecution and defence lawyers, the jury and the judge, all at the same time. Only when every role is played in an appropriate fashion can you be reasonably certain that truth can be arrived at; more than anything else, it is truth that the historian seeks. In my view, the historian has to nurture a healthy dose of doubt; it should take clear evidence to become convinced of the validity of a contention. I will admit to having iconoclastic tendencies and think that, when everyone accepts a particular perspective, then it is perhaps time to challenge the accepted view.
The Quebec history that interests me is one that concerns itself with political, social, economical and cultural forces. All elements are necessary if a dynamic view of the society is to be arrived at. It is also an inclusive one, although this may not be completely evident at the site presently. The site should be seen as work perpetually in progress, and not as a finished product. I have plans for hundreds of items to be added to it. I am currently working on a major piece on the regions of Quebec and their history. I have begun extensive research on the first nations in Quebec and some of this will be posted in the future. I am also at work writing a short historical note on each of the major cultural communities of Quebec. I also think that Anglophones are an integral part of Quebec; their views and concerns are already well represented at the site. Work is also fairly advanced on two collections of texts on the experience of women in the history of Quebec; one concerns the stuggle to achieve the right to vote, while the other examines views from the past on the role of women in society.
On the great national question of Canada that so divides the people of Quebec, I would primarily define my position as that of an independent critic. Too many people take sides and are not willing to examine the evidence carefully and objectively. I see great value in Canadian federalism but I admit to its flaws as well. I am neither a separatist, nor an anti-separatist. I am like many Quebecers, deeply committed to Quebec and sentimentally attached to Canada. That is why it is so difficult to make a decision about our future.
The writer, the editor, the translator or the transcriber of the material at the site, unless otherwise indicated, is Claude Bélanger. He graduated in the 1960's with an honours Bachelors' degree and an M.A. in history from the University of Ottawa. After pursuing doctoral studies in history at the Fondation nationale des sciences politiques of the Université de Paris and at the department of history of the Université de Montréal, he began his teaching career at Vanier College and at the Université de Sherbrooke. In 1973, he joined the staff of Marianopolis College in Montreal, teaching history. He was a teacher until 2004, whereupon he became head of the Social Science and Commerce department. Marianopolis is a private undergraduate co-educational institution. It enjoys a tremendous reputation as a serious academic institution. Between 2007 and 2011, he was the Associate Academic Dean at Marianopolis. He is now retired. In 1968, he co-authored a book entitled Le traité de réciprocité, 1854. His main areas of specialty are the 1930's and 1940's, youth movements, constitutional issues and Quebec intellectual history.
Damien-Claude Bélanger is an assistant professor of history at the University of Ottawa. A graduate of the Université de Montréal and McGill, his research interests include Canadian intellectual history and Canadian-American relations. His doctoral dissertation, Prejudice and Pride: Canadian Intellectuals Confront the United States, 1891-1945, was awarded the Joseph and Sandra Rotman Prize for its contribution to the understanding of public policy in Canada. The dissertation has recently been published by the University of Toronto Press. He is a founding co-editor of Mens, Quebec's journal of intellectual history and historical commentary.
Nothing at the site would have been possible without the technical knowledge of Cabot Yu. Cabot was a student at Marianopolis College where he won the Cleevely Memorial Prize in Canadian history. After graduating from the College, he did his undergraduate studies at McGill and completed his Masters degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Western Ontario. He is now working at the federal Department of Citizenship and Immigration in the Information Management Directorate. It was Cabot who first approached me in 1997 to begin the website; he promised to take care of the technical aspects. I am not sure that he fully realised what he was committing himself to. He did this for the love of Canada and for the spread and advancement of knowledge. There are very few who would have been willing to put in so much effort for so little recognition. He is too modest to provide a picture for the site! Cabot still provides technical assistance when called upon and he is the one who designed the template used for the site.
The day to day technical support for the site is now provided by Amy MacLean and Alex Wasylyk.Their expertise has made my work possible and the running of the site a smooth one. I am especially grateful for the support that I have received over the years from the authorities of Marianopolis College. They have put at my disposal programmes, support, equipment and server space so that the site can grow and function efficiently. I wish to especially single out Judith Stonehewer, head librarian at Marianopolis, who had the vision of integrating new technology to support the traditional means of education; she readily agreed to house my site on the library server and has always been supportive of my endeavors. Evan Berle, formerly head of computer services at Marianopolis, devised various ways to facilitate my work and accomodate my students who contribute to it. To Sisters Françoise Boisvert and Susan Cleevely I also wish to express my gratitude for their support over the years.
Data about the Site:
An estimated 5,000 pages are posted at the site as of the summer of 2010. It grows irregularly, in spurts, at the rate of about 50-100 pages per month. Projects/ideas that are already on the way to completion, or that are at the planning stage, should double the amount of text in the next two-three years. If visiting frequently, consult the "What's New" section to see what has recently been added.
As I revise this text, in August 2010, the site has been accessed more than 10,000,000 times since 2001; currently, it's pages are viewed around 1,750,000 times a year (over 12,000,000 hits a year). The largest proportion of these visits come from college or university students and teachers looking for material for lectures, seminars or papers. There has also been a significant contingent of dedicated genealogists. Most of the visitors come from Canada or the United States. However, there have been visits from over 150 countries in the past three years. Many visitors come to us referred by the many colleagues that have listed the Quebec history site, or from College or University repertories. Indeed, professors from several Colleges or Universities have used the site as "textbook" for their course. The site enjoys an excellent ranking in all the major search engines.
Among other places, the Quebec History site is indexed in the following repertories (or is in used in the following universities):
We invite your comments and suggestions about the site. Let us know what you were looking for and how the site was of help to you. Offer constructive criticism that will help us improve the site. Please e-mail.
© 2011 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College