Skip to Main Content
Peasant, Lord, and Merchant

Peasant, Lord, and Merchant: Rural Society in Three Quebec Parishes 1740-1840

Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Peasant, Lord, and Merchant
    Book Description:

    How the family-based economy operated and how the household was reproduced over the generations through marriage, birth, inheritance, and colonization, together form a major focus of this study.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2763-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    (pp. xvi-2)
  6. 1 Introduction: seventeenth-century beginnings
    (pp. 3-19)

    There is a sense in which French Canada is a creation of European merchant capital. Crossing the Atlantic on the first great wave of imperial expansion, Frenchmen established settlements on the St Lawrence in order to engage in the lucrative trade with the native Indians of the country. Tadoussac was founded and, in the early seventeenth century, Quebec and Trois-Rivières, to collect beaver pelts and other furs which commanded attractive prices in Europe. Although the French Crown set up chartered companies in an attempt to harness the fur trade to the imperialist ambitions of the state, and the Counter-Reformation Church...

  7. 2 The peasant family household
    (pp. 20-47)

    Almost all the land in the eighteenth-century Lower Richelieu was in the possession of the peasantry. At the time of the 1765 census, there were two parish priests in the region and neither had any land. The seigneurs of Sorel and St Ours owned demesnes that were not much larger than a habitant farm and one shopkeeper possessed a lot of about the same size. Otherwise, cleared land belonged to the peasants themselves, subject of course to the lordship of a local seigneur. Moreover, not only did the land belong to the peasants, the great majority of peasant families possessed...

  8. 3 Generations of peasants
    (pp. 48-88)

    There is a dynamic to peasant life that is demographic, ecological, and economic. For the peasantry to survive, old and dying individuals must of course be replaced through procreation, but there can only be continuity of the basic social and economic organization if this biological process is contained within the framework of the family household. Hence, in order to understand the habitants of the Lower Richelieu, we must intrude into the most intmate aspects of their lives and observe them being born, dying, marrying, and copulating. ‘Reproduction,’ in its widest sense, involves much more than these matters alone, however. The...

  9. 4 Aristocratic ascendancy
    (pp. 89-121)

    Superimposed on the Lower Richelieu network of peasant households were power structures that demanded tribute and obedience, and ensured that some of the produce of habitant labour was diverted to priests, seigneurs, merchants, and officials. This is a fate that the habitants shared with peasantries the world over; throughout history, peasants have found themselves under the thumb of some sort of superior class. Their subjection can take many forms, some of them quite brutal and others more subtle; their overlords might be mandarins, priests, or feudal warriors; but the common experience of subsistence cultivators is domination and exploitation. For the...

  10. 5 The feudal burden
    (pp. 122-139)

    Were seigneurial and ecclesiastical exactions nothing more than a minor nuisance to the early Canadian peasantry? How exactly was wealth transferred from the agricultural producers to the dominant classes? Was the basis of appropriation fixed or was it at all changeable or arbitrary? Finally, how significant an impact did these feudal dues have on the habitant family economy? In attempting to answer these questions, I shall continue to concentrate on the more problematic seigneurial economy.

    The most important mechanism of transfer in most Canadian seigneuries was the ‘cens et rentes,’ an annual payment in money, produce, or labour, exacted on...

  11. 6 The country merchant
    (pp. 140-176)

    But seigneurs, clergymen, and habitants are not the only classes to be found in the eighteenth-century Richelieu valley and these ‘feudal’ aspects are not the only social and economic realities of rural life there. Money, buying, selling, renting, and hiring can all be found from the earliest European settlement. Indeed, a small merchant community began to emerge as a significant force in the region about the middle of the century. How did this growing bourgeois presence affect the peasantry? More generally, how did it affect the whole ‘feudal nexus’ described so far? Was merchant capital a force fundamentally at odds...

  12. 7 Habitant-voyageurs
    (pp. 177-193)

    Though they seldom set foot in Sorel, it was the Canadian fur barons, operating from their isolated northern posts and their mansions in Montreal, who eventually played a leading part in shaping the destiny of that parish’s peasantry.¹ This was in the late eighteenth century. Earlier, a commercial trail had been blazed into the mouth of the Richelieu by country traders such as Jean LeRoux dit Provencal, who had his headquarters there at the middle of the eighteenth century, and Samuel Jacobs himself, who had a store in the parish for a short time in the 1760s. By the time...

  13. 8 Turning the nineteenth century: development or crisis?
    (pp. 194-232)

    A ‘feudal’ peasant society? The expansion of capital and the commercialization of agriculture? Merchant economic offensives and habitant resistance? The topics broached so far bear upon many of the current preoccupations of Lower-Canadian historiography. Debate has raged passionately over the vagaries of the rural economy, and it has focused on the decades around 1800 when French-Canadian nationalist movements first made their appearance, in an atmosphere of crisis according to some, in a context of prosperity according to others. Most parties to the dispute seem to agree that rural life changed drastically about this time but their views on the nature...

    (pp. 233-253)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 254-298)
  16. Index
    (pp. 299-304)