The library holds many items relevant to the history of the Nouvelle France (New France) prior to the English conquest of 1759-1760. Highlights include several sources predating the fall of Quebec, published collections of archival sources, federal and provincial legislative reports, and early histories of Canada and New France.
A majority of the French Canadian material is collected primary source material published in archival periodical series including the Quebec Archives Report and in academic journals including Recherches Historiques.
French language sources printed before 1800:
Several notable items in the collection predate the capitulation of New France to British forces in 1759/60. The first, the Histoire de l’Amerique Septentrionale (Paris, 1722) by Claude-Charles Bacqueville de la Potherie, examines the history and culture of the Iroquois Indian Nation and its relationship with French settlements along the St. Lawrence River. The second work, Pierre-Francois-Xavier de Charlevoix’s Histoire et description générale de la Nouvelle France (Paris, 1744), also describes the history of New France, though it places greater emphasis on the environmental factors that shaped colonial development. Charlevoix emphasizes the natural resources found in the various territories of Canada and Louisiana, often with an eye on their usefulness for Europeans. Charlevoix was a Jesuit priest who travelled extensively throughout North America in an unsuccessful mission to reach the Pacific Ocean via intercontinental waterways. He was moved to write a biography of Marie Guyart (see Missions and Jesuit Histories below) as an act of thanksgiving following the wreck of his ship off the coast of Florida in 1722. Based upon notes from Charlevoix’s extensive travels as well as twenty years of research in Paris, the Histoire et description générale represents an early attempt to synthesize a description of the natural resources and ecology of the North American interior with a history of New France.
Jeanne-Françoise Juchereau’s Histoire de l'Hôtel-Dieu de Quebec, 4 vols. (Montauban [France], 1751) is another French Canadian resource from the colonial collection published before 1759. The IHR copy is the only copy available in UK libraries. Juchereau was the Mother Superior of the Hôtel-Dieu (hospital) in Quebec from 1683 and was heavily involved in provincial politics throughout the late 17th and early 18th centuries. She was renowned for her commitment to her patients during the 1688, 1703 and 1711 influenza and measles epidemics. These events are well documented in the Histoire de l'Hôtel-Dieu. (For more information on the Hôtel-Dieu and DJuchereau’s life see: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/juchereau_de_la_ferte_jeanne_francoise_2E.html)
Mission sources and Jesuit histories:
The collection is particularly strong on the topic of the establishment of Jesuit missions among the indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes region and the St. Lawrence corridor in the early 17th century. The majority of this material constitutes published primary documents, including journals and correspondence, and is mostly in French.
- Bressani, Francesco Giuseppe, Relation abrégée de quelques missions des pères de la Compagnie de Jésus dans la Nouvelle-France (Montreal, 1852).
- Relations des Jésuites, 3 vols. (Quebec, 1858).
- Sagard, Gabriel, The long journey to the country of the Huron (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1939).
- Sagard, Gabriel, Histoire du Canada (Paris, 1866).
- Melancon, Arthur, Liste des missionares-jésuites: Nouvelle-France et Louisiana, 1611-1800 (Montreal, 1929).
- Odoric-Marie Jouve, Dictionnaire biographique des Recollets missionnaires en Nouvelle-France, 1615-1645 - 1670-1849 (Montreal, 1996).
- Francesco Giuseppe Bressani, Relation abrégée de quelques missions des pères de la Compagnie de Jésus dans la Nouvelle-France (Montreal, 1852).
The Ursuline Convent of Quebec provided education and charitable assistance in the early years of the colony. The library holds several significant French-language items relevant to the study of the early activities of the order in Canada. Founded in 1639 under the leadership of Marie Guyart, later Mother Marie of the Incarnation (1599-1672), the primary function of the convent was the instruction of Huron girls in the Catholic faith. (For more details on Guyart’s life and the founding of the Ursuline Convent of Quebec see: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/guyart_marie_1E.html).
In its early years, the Convent educated Indian women from the vicinity of Quebec and Montreal but gradually expanded its remit in the century after Guyart’s death to include girls from the settler community of New France. Many graduates went on to establish religious orders and institutions throughout the province of Quebec, including the convents of Trois Rivières and Roberval. Though, like many of Quebec’s buildings, the convent was damaged during Wolfe’s bombardment of the city in 1759, the order and the school survived the province’s transition to English rule. The school established by Guyart and her peers exists now as the École des Ursulines, a girls primary school attached to the original convent.
One of the jewels of the IHR’s Canadian collection is a 1681 Parisian edition of Marie Guyart’s Lettres de la Venerable Mere Marie de L’Incarnation. It is one of two copies of this work in the UK (the other is held in the national collection at the British Library). The letters are addressed to, among others, prominent French Ursulines, Jesuit mission leaders in North America (including her mentor Father Poncet de la Rivière), and her students. While the letters mostly focus on devotional and religious topics, they also shed light on the hardships experienced by the sisters in establishing the convent and on day-to-day life in early Quebec. As such, they, along with the previously mentioned sources, Charlevoix’s Histoire et description générale and Juchereau’s Histoire de l'Hôtel-Dieu de Quebec, are invaluable resources for students of early Canadian history. In 1724 Charlevoix published a biography of Marie Guyart (Vie de la Mére Marie de l’Incarnation, Institutrice et première supérieure de Ursulines de la Nouvelle-France), who he had met in Florida following his failed expedition to the Pacific.
Early accounts of Protestant Canada and English-language religious histories and resources relevant to the study of Quebec:
Government in New France, 1608-1760
The IHR library owns a large collection of material relating to the legal history and government of French North America from the early 17th century to the fall of New France in 1760. The majority of this material is printed in French and was published by the Quebec archives in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Resources include early civic ordinances for Quebec City and Montreal, the rulings of the Supreme Council of New France, and the official correspondence between the various provincial governors and the Supreme Governor for North America.
- Inventaire des ordonnances des intendants de la Nouvelle-France [1705-1760]: conservées aux Archives provinciales de Québec, 4 vols. (Beauceville, 1919).
- Inventaire des jugements et délibérations du Conseil supérieur de la Nouvelle-France de 1717 à 1760 (Beauceville, 1932).
- Jugements et délibérations du Conseil souverain de la Nouvelle-France: publiés sous les auspices de la Législature de Québec, 6 vols. (Quebec, 1885-1891).
- Lettres de noblesse, g̋enealogies, érections de comtes et baronnies insinuées par le Conseil souverain de la Nouvelle-France, 2 vols. (Beauceville, 1920).
- Ordonnances, commissions, etc., etc., des gouverneurs et intendants de la Nouvelle-France, 1639-1706, 2 vols. (Beauceville, 1924).
- Nouvelle-France: Documents historiques. Correspondance échangée entre les autorités françaises et les gouverneurs et intendants. Vol. I. [1620-1685], (Quebec, 1893).
Papers and Correspondence of Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil-Cavagnial, Marquis de Vaudreuil (1698-1778)
Vaudrieuil’s correspondence during his tenure as the governor of French Louisiana (1742-1753) and Governor-General of New France (1755-1760) reveals much about the administration of French North America in the decades before the Seven Years’ War. In particular Vaudreuil’s letters cast light on the difficulties colonial leaders experienced in their attempts to secure funds and military assistance from their superiors in Paris.
- Henri Raymond Casgrain, ed., Lettres du Marquis de Vaudreuil au chevalier de Lévis (Quebec, 1895).
- Extraits des archives des ministères de la marine et de la guerre à Paris: publiés sous la direction de l'abbé H.-R. Casgrain ... Canada. Correspondance générale, mm. Dusquesne et Vaudreuil, gouverneurs-généraux, 1755-1760(Quebec, 1890)
- Bill Baros, ed., The Vaudreuil papers: a calendar and index of the personal and private records of Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, Royal Governor of the French province of Louisiana, 1743-1753 (New Orleans, 1975).
New France beyond Canada:
New France extended far beyond the Atlantic Canadian provinces. At its height, it encompassed the territory of Louisiana, which included the Mississippi River Valley and the strategically important port of New Orleans. French influence also stretched north and westward into the prairie regions of what is today central Canada and along the shores of Hudson Bay. The fur trade was the commercial mainstay of New France through the middle decades of the 17th century. The need to maintain isolated trading posts deep in the continental interior in order to secure a constant supply of pelts for the European consumer market ensured that French influence in America extended far beyond the population centres along the St. Lawrence River. The IHR collection includes many important examples of published sources from Canadian, French and US archives in both English and French relevant to the study of greater New France, including the Mississippi Valley territories prior to their annexation by the US with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
- Pierre Heinrich, La Louisiane sous la Compagnie des Indes, 1717-1731 (Paris, 1908).
- Archives Nationales (France), Inventaire des Archives coloniales: correspondance à l'arrivée en provenance de la Louisiane, 2 vols., (Paris, 1976-1983).
- Georges-Bathélemi Faribault, Catalogue d'ouvrages sur l'histoire de l'Amérique: et en particulier sur celle du Canada, de la Louisiane, de l'Acadie, et autres lieux, ci-devant connus sous le nom de Nouvelle-France / avec des notes bibliographiques, critiques, et littéraires. En trois parties (Quebec, 1837).
- Etienne Martin de Vaugine de Nuisement, Journal de Vaugine de Nuisement (ca 1765): un témoignage sur la Louisiane du XVIIIe siècle (Quebec, 2005).
Archival and primary sources for French Louisiana translated into English:
French language histories of New France, including Louisiana and the Mississippi Valley: