A Step Past Revisionism: The Evolution of Quebec's Print Media and Post-Revisionism

By Maio, Andrew R. | Journalism History, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

A Step Past Revisionism: The Evolution of Quebec's Print Media and Post-Revisionism


Maio, Andrew R., Journalism History


Since the 1970s, Quebec historians have taken a revisionist approach to the province's historical writing, but a transition occurred in the 1990s and post-revisionism became the vanguard. Quebec's print media industry had been ignored by revisionists because it did not support their thesis. This study uses post-revisionism to demonstrate the limits of the revisionist approach by analyzing how the print media were modernized in Quebec. It begins by chronicling Quebec's and Canada's media historiography, and then the Canadian media industry and early twentieth-century Quebec history is addressed. Finally, reformers and publications that laid the foundation for the modern print media industry in Quebec are examined. As it shows, post-revisionism gave a chance for a less restrictive history of the print media industry to emerge.

The methodological approaches that historians have taken when writing about Quebec's history have dramatically shifted over the past century. These approaches have paralleled the province's social, political, and economic development. The latest methodological shift occurred in the 1990s when historian Ronald Rudin challenged the established historical perspective of revisionism, unleashing a new wave of methodology known as post-revisionism. Since then, post-revisionist historians have been applying his methodology to interpret subjects previously ignored by revisionists. One subject that has yet to be updated using Rudin's post-revisionist model is the modernization of the print media industry in Quebec. In examining the print media industry through the lens of post-revisionism from its antecedents to the 1960s, revisionist historians overlooked how the print media industry evolved because the topic would have undermined their thesis that Quebec developed much like other Western societies.

To understand why revisionists avoided assessing the evolution of Quebec's print media industry, the historiography of the province must be chronicled. Furthermore, the leading literature on media history in Canada will provide the necessary foundation to assess how the print media industry modernized in Quebec.

During the twentieth century, the history of Quebec's historical writing was synonymous with the evolution of French-Canadian nationalism. Two of the most influential people in die first half of the twentieth century who espoused this ideology were Henri Bourassa and Abbé Lionel Groulx. Bourassa envisioned a panCanadian nationalism that called for both the end of Canadian subservience to the British empire and cooperation and coexistence between French- and English-speaking Canadians while respecting the duality of the religious and linguistic rights of the two races. Groulx's traditional nationalism, meanwhile, aimed to ensure the survival of French-Canadians on an English-speaking and Protestant continent. The specific values of this worldview were French Canada's rural origins, the French language, Roman Catholicism, mistrust of the outside world, and the patriarchal family. Moreover, they expressed their ideas most comprehensively in publications such as Le Devoir, Le Nationaliste and L'Action, Francane}

After World War II, liberal intellectual opposition transformed French-Canadian nationalism and how historians studied Quebec history. A new generation of historians asked themselves why in the post-World War II period were French Canadians economically and politically weaker than English Canadians? Historians had varying ideas about how to modernize Quebec and its institutions, and they organized themselves into two schools of thought: the Montreal School and the Laval School.2

Originating from the University of Montréal, the Montreal School consisted of historians such as Guy Frégault, Maurice Séguin, and Michel Brunet, who followed in the footsteps of Groulx. They argued that an updated form of nationalism was required to meet the demands of contemporary Quebec society, asserting that the province's inferiority was due to external factors such as English-Canadian domination and arguing that Quebec had never fully recovered after the "Conquest" in 1760.

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