People, State, and War Under the French Regime in Canada

A book by Louise Dechêne, translated by Peter Feldstein.

Louise Dechêne, translated by Peter Feldstein

Covering a period that runs from the founding of the colony in the early seventeenth century to the conquest of 1760, People, State, and War under the French Regime in Canada is a study of colonial warriors and warfare that examines the exercise of state military power and its effects on ordinary people.

Overturning the tendency to glorify the military feats of New France and exploding the rosy myth of a tax-free colonial population, Louise Dechêne challenges the stereotype of the fighting prowess and military enthusiasm of the colony's inhabitants. She reveals the profound incidence of social divides, the hardship war created for those expected to serve, and the state's demands on the civilian population in the form of forced labour, requisitions, and billeting of soldiers. Originally published posthumously in French, People, State, and War under the French Regime in Canada is the culmination of a lifetime of research and unparalleled knowledge of the archival record, including official correspondence, memoirs, military campaign journals, taxation records, and local parish records. Dechêne reconstructs the variegated composition and conditions of military forces in New France, which included militia, colonial volunteers, and regular troops, as well as Indigenous allies. The study offers an informed and ambitious comparison between France and other French colonies and shows that the mobilization of an unpaid, compulsory militia in New France greatly exceeded requirements in other parts of the French domain.

With empathy, sensitivity to the social dimensions of life, and a piercing insight into the operations of power, Dechêne portrays the colonial condition with its rightful dose of danger and ambiguity. Her work underlines the severe toll that warfare takes on the individual and on society and the persistent deprivation, disorder, fear, and death that come with conflict. (From McGill Queen's University Press)

People, State, and War Under the French Regime in Canada is on the shortlist for the 2021 Governor General's Literary Award for translation. The winners will be announced on Nov. 17, 2021.

Louise Dechêne was a history professor at McGill University. She wrote several books on early Canadian history, including Power and Subsistence: The Political Economy of Grain in New France and Habitants and Merchants in Seventeenth-Century Montreal. The French-language edition of Habitants and Merchants in Seventeenth-Century Montreal won the Governor General's Literary Award for French-language nonfiction in 1974. She died in 2000.

Peter Feldstein is a translator and interpreter from Montreal. He won the Governor General's Literary Award for French-to-English translation in 2014 for Paul-Émile Borduas: A Critical Biography by François-Marc Gagnon.

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