Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Making of the Nations and Cultures of the New World: An Essay in Comparative History

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Making of the Nations and Cultures of the New World: An Essay in Comparative History

Article excerpt

Gérard Bouchard, The Making of the Nations and Cultures of the New World: An Essay in Comparative History, trans. Michelle Weinroth and Paul Leduc Browne (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2008), 448pp. Cased. $95. ISBN 978- 0-7735-3213-7. Paper. $29.95. ISBN 978-0-7735-3294-6.

In what he describes as an extended 'essay' (albeit one 400 pages long), Professor Bouchard portrays himself as an objective social scientist seeking to locate Quebec's history in the broader history of the New World. In reality, Bouchard is an historian with a mission to show that Quebec, like all other New World societies, should naturally have evolved into a new nation that rejected its European roots. It was prevented from achieving this goal by the Cession and by an élite which was obsessed with the preservation of Quebec's French and Catholic culture, until it was replaced with a modernising élite in the 1960s that now wishes Quebec to achieve its historic destiny as an independent nation. If all this sounds vaguely familiar, it is essentially the argument advanced by Quebec separatist historians from Michel Brunet onward. What Bouchard does is dress the argument up in pseudo-scientific garb (particularly in first two heavily jargon-laden chapters) and in the language of comparative history. The longest chapter in the book (which forms nearly a quarter of the text) focuses on Australia and gives us a simplified story of its long struggle to 'achieve autonomy by liberating itself from its British roots' (p. 249). In Bouchard's naive morality tale, 'disengagement was strongly pushed for below by the working people of the city and the bush in opposition to business and to part of the intellectual and political élites' (p. 252). This will come as a surprise to many Australian historians, who tend to stress the depth of British sentiment among working people in Australia. In fact, Bouchard's history of Australia is riddled with inaccuracies and the comparison that he attempts to make between Quebec and Australia is tenuous at best. …

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