Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Les Français des paw-paw

Le nom des locuteurs de français du Missouri, les "paw-paw French",
se réfère à ce fruit, le paw paw.  On disait que ces habitants étaient
tellement pauvres qu'ils s'en nourrissaient presque exclusivement. 
Photo: Wikipedia.
Il y a quelques semaines le site web de la chaîne Al Jazeera publiait un reportage de Bridgit Bowden sur le "paw-paw French", une variété de français encore parlée dans un petit coin du Missouri mais dont les locuteurs se font aujourd'hui rares. 

Vous pouvez lire l'article original ici, ou encore jeter un coup d'oeil au résumé que en a fait quelques jours plus tard.

Plutôt que de commenter sur le sujet moi-même, j'enverrais la balle à un autre blogueur, grand voyageur des vieux Pays des Illinois celui-là, Joseph Gagné

Joe : ta reaction?



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Louisbourg on TV

This weekend the French television channel France 3 will be broadcasting a new 52-minute documentary entitled "Louisbourg, un rève d'Amérique", co-produced by France Télévision / Eliocom / Megara Films.

Now, if only I knew how to view France 3 -- legally -- from North America...



Jugements, arrêts et délibérations du Conseil souverain

Registre no 1 des arrêts, jugements et
 délibérations du Conseil souverain de la
Nouvelle-France (18 septembre 1663 au
19 décembre 1676), f. 2.  Photo: BANQ
L'accès aux jugements, arrêts et délibérations du Conseil souverain de la Nouvelle-France, conservés à Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (cote TP1,S28), est désormais plus facile que jamais. 

Cela fait une dizaine d'années environ que BANQ verse de manière ponctuelle des descriptions sommaires et des images numériques à la base de données Pistard, disponible sur son site Web.  On vient maintenant d'intégrer l'ensemble des notices que la Société Archiv-Histo avait jadis transcrites et qu'elle diffusait par l'entremise d'une série de CD-ROM qui se vendait à prix d'or.  La démarche de BANQ, qui promet un accès gratuit aux intéressés, ouvre un potentiel de recherche exceptionnel pour les historiens et les généalogistes. 

Merci, BANQ!



Sunday, January 19, 2014

Thoughts on the New Year's Levee

Thanks to the New Year's Levee, New France edged its way into the mainstream Canadian media quite a bit over the holidays.  Across the country, the governor general, lieutenant governors, municipal officials, police and military officers hosted these customary meet-and-greets with the public.  See for example here,  here, here, or here.  Seeing as January is quickly flying by, I'd better get a few words down on the subject.

In announcing these levees or reporting on them afterwards (more people dropped by Toronto City Hall to see the grotesque Mayor Rob Ford, for example, than had during the previous year's levee), many a journalist alluded to their historical origins.  But for someone who knows something about the history of New France, though, it was tantalizingly confused and confusing, as one could variously read that the New Year's levee was brought to Canada by Charles de Montmagny, governor of New France, in 1646, and/or that it originated with Louis XIV (so, several decades later) and was then brought to the colony by the French governors.  Is there anything to either explanation?  Might the levee's historical trajectory be a little more complicated than either explanation suggests?

The Journal of the Jesuits, a manuscript log of the years 1645-1668 that complements the published and far better know Relations, seems to be the source for the claim that the levee originated with Montmagny in 1646, for it tells us that on January 1st of that year, "On salua Monsieur le Gouverneur, sçavoir la soldatesque avec leur arquebuse; item les habitans en corps." 

I'll point out that the fact that comparably detailed chronicles of daily activities do not stretch further back in time does not constitute basis to call this a first, but merely a first recorded.  Notwithstanding, this description vaguely resembles the levee as we know it today: soldiers and civilians showing their respects to a figure of authority, viz. the governor, on New Year's Day.  But wait!  The emphasis should be on the vaguely, as the Journal then goes on to say that Montmagny and other notables in turn took the time to visit the Jesuits. 

New Year's Day, indeed, was in Old and New France a day on which people visited each other and exchanged gifts (following French tradition, and until relatively recently in French Canada, this, rather than Christmas or Christmas eve, was the time for gift-giving).  The governor received a measure special attention fitting his office, but he was by no means the principal or sole host of the day.  Neighbours and relatives would visit each other to extend their wishes for a happy new year.  All of this well-wishing was overlaid on and around a religious occasion, the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. 

What about the possible Louis-Quatorizian origins of the levee, then?   As far back as Charlemagne, apparently, French monarchs would meet with familiars as they got out of bed and readied themselves for the day.  The practice took on an increased importance under Louis XIV, whose tightly scheduled day grew to feature an elaborate rising (levée) and retiring (couchée) ceremonial.  Around 7:30, the first Valet de Chambre would awaken the Sun King, and the First Levee would begin.  Doctors, familiars and a few favourites would enter in succession into the monarch's bedchamber as he was washed, combed and shaved. The Grand Levee then followed, with a second set of visitors entering while the monarch was dressed and had breakfast.  The number of people who attended this ceremonial is estimated at around a hundred, all male.  At 11:30 PM, the monarch's retiring was accompanied by an abbreviated version of the morning rigmarole. 

To understand how the practices described above meshed into what we would recognize as the Canadian New Year's Levee, we must take a detour by England.  As early as the 1670s, the court of Charles II adopted the Louis-Quatorzian fashion of the levée.  But, with its accute acent amputated, the levee evolved into a rather different ceremonial altogether.  At St. James Palace, the court levees were not a morning ritual but rather receptions, held later in the day and in suitable audience halls rather than the royal bechamber, at which officials and officers were formally presented to the sovereign.  By the mid-eighteenth century, this custom was being imitated by colonial governors in British America. 

What I take all of this to mean is that the New Year's Levee as we know it in Canada today can most accurately be described not merely as an extension of the French colonial practice, but rather as meshing of the old French-style New Years' Day visits with the English-style levee (which had French roots too, to be sure, but distinct and distant ones).  There's certainly more research to be done here, but I've done my part... at least until next year.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Le Montréal de Pehr Kalm et Madame Bégon

Pour les professeurs et les étudiants, le mois de janvier annonce la reprise des activités universitaires.  Nouveau semestre, nouveaux cours.  Certains professeurs ayant pris l'heureuse habitude de se servir de blogues comme outils d'enseignement, il nous est permis de goûter aux thématiques qu'ils proposent cette année.

Le cours qu'offre Léon Robichaud à l'Université de Sherbrooke, sous la cote HST 650 (Activité de recherche), me semble particulièrement intéressant.  Le contenu de ce cours varie à chaque année; cette année, Léon le consacre au "Montréal de Pehr Kalm et Madame Bégon".

Léon, pour les lecteurs qui ne le connaisseraient pas déjà, est spécialiste de la société et de l'espace urbain montréalais aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, mais aussi de la technohistoire, c'est à dire de l'informatique appliquée à la discipline historique.  Il est notamment l'un des architectes de l'excellent "La torture et la vérité: Angélique et l'incendie de Montréal", un site Web développé il y a quelques années dans le cadre de la série pédagogique des Grands mystères de l'histoire canadienne.  Léon est, par ailleurs, très sympa. 

Ceux d'entre nous qui n'avons pas la chance d'être étudiants à Sherbrooke en 2014 pourront tout de même suivre le progrès du cours dans une certaine mesure via le blogue ( et le fil twitter de Léon (@technohistoire).  Un avant-goût : le schéma qu'il a préparé afin de faire comprendre à ses étudiants l'entourage de Madame Bégon.

Schéma des relations entre les proches Marie-Élisabeth Rocbert
de la Morandière alias Madame Bégon.  (C) Léon Robichaud.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Commemorations in 2014?

Here at Charlevoix, we like to don
little party hats and talk about history.
While the hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War is sure to make this as busy a year as any on the commemorative front, occasions to insist on key moments in the history and heritage of New France will not be as numerous as in 2013. 

This year will  mark the 400th anniversary of the reoccupation of Port Royal (1614) a year after its destruction by Samuel Argall -- but I wouldn't be surprised if this goes unnoticed, like the anniversary of the destruction did this year.

On the other hand, two other foundations are sure to be celebrated.  In Quebec City, the 350th of the foundation of the parish of Notre-Dame de Québec (1664) will be remembered with decorous fanfare among the faithful.

Over in Natchitoches, Louisiana, there will some partying around the 300th anniversary of the community's foundation (1714) by Louis Juchereau de Saint-Denis.  The Fort des Natchitoches was the first  permanent colonial settlement in what would become the modern-day state of Louisiana (Mobile and Biloxi having ended up in Alabama and Mississippi, respectively, and New Orleans being beat by four years).

A couple of notable deaths and birth occurred in 1714, and ought accordingly to attract a little attention: Jeanne Le Ber, Montreal's first religious recluse, and the Acadian privateer Pierre Maisonnat dit Baptiste, an eternal thorn in the side of the New Englanders, both passed away that year; western explorer Pierre Gaultier de La Vérendrye meanwhile came into the world.

And what about 250th anniversaries?  While 1764 brings us beyond the confines of New France, one might point out that the eighteenth months allowed by the Treaty of Paris to Canadians wishing to leave the now-British colony came to an end in August of that year.  Exiled Acadians, meanwhile, were finally allowed to return to their former homes in Nova Scotia.  This was also the year of the negotiation of the Treaty of Fort Niagara.  Oh, and for the first time a newspaper was published in the former French colony : the Quebec Gazette / Gazette de Québec was published (I suppose that Charlevoix, as a bilingual blog, owes something to the first bilingual media outlet in Canada).

Look forward to more on these topics, and several others, in the New Year.