Quebec: A Historical Geography

Article excerpt

History Serge Courville, Quebec: A Historical Geography, trans. Richard Howard (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2008), xiv + 338pp. Cased. £102.95. ISBN 9780774814256. Paper. $34.95. ISBN 9780774814263.

This is an English translation of a book first published by Serge Courville in 2000, which he has updated with an afterword. It is a comprehensive survey of the historical geography of Quebec from the earliest times to the present day.

Courville suggests that Quebec was relatively sparsely populated in the early period of settlement by the Aboriginal First Nations. He shows that while the early French settler population was very small in numbers, their diseases decimated the First Nations of modernday southern Quebec. The French also fought wars with various First Nations in southern Quebec, which further reduced their numbers. The Aboriginal population did not start growing again until the twentieth century.

Most of this book is devoted to the historical geography of the European immigrant population of Quebec. There is a detailed analysis of the evolution of land settlement from the colonial period to the present day with many useful maps and diagrams. Courville also provides an in-depth analysis of the demographic development of Quebec's European population, including its relatively high rate of reproduction until the 1960s. However, farming Quebec's arable land proved to be very challenging for the early French settlers and continued to be so for the Québécois during the first century of British rule. Rural Quebec was unable to absorb its rapidly expanding population. There was substantial migration to Quebec's cities and beyond the province to New England in the United States. …