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Dominique Deslandres


The CHA Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History Prize


Dominique DeslandresCroire et faire croire. Les missions françaises au XVIIe siécle (1600-1650). (Paris, Fayard, 2003)
Dominique Deslandres book, entitled Croire et faire croire : Les missions françaises au XVIIe siècle, deals with the evangelical work undertaken by the major French missionary orders. The authors intention with this book was nothing less than to revisit the history of the franco-amerindian meeting, taking into account the missionaries point of view, creating a kind of ethnohistory for them. By focussing on the cultural, religious and political elements of missionary life, Ms. Deslandres tries to reconstruct the particular context in which the phenomenon of the conquest of souls was defined and became fixed in that century. The author meets this challenge brilliantly.
For a long time, missionaries have been part of the imaginary history associated with New France. But rarely until now have they been studied with regard to their European origins and put into a perspective of global religious restoration. This is the task the author gives herself to. She examines French missionary discourse to see how it gives rise to real missions. Here, the use of a compared perspective proves judicious: the missions set up in the black Indies of the interior, that is in France, as well as those in America are described and analysed. French peasants or Amerindians, these domestic and New World atheists are the others to be converted. Throughout her exposition, the author shows an unquestionable erudition and succeeds in integrating anthropological theories and otherness. Written in an elegant and lively style, Dominique Deslandres work stands out as a reference not only for the history of New France, but also for the whole of the religious history of this period, in Europe as well as in North America.

Honourable Mention:
Peter PopeFish into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century. (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press and Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 2004)
Fish into Wine turns fisherfolk into settlers. Peter Popes bold and detailed re-interpretation of the history of the English colony of seventeenth century Newfoundland overturns old notions that the early European newcomers to Newfoundland’s shores harvested the sea, nothing more. As Pope demonstrates, among the thousands who came as transients to eastern Newfoundland in the seventeenth century, significant numbers came as permanent settlers as well. In helping recapture the past of these early Newfoundlanders, Pope combines exhaustive investigation of archival documents and printed sources, archaeological evidence, and genealogy as well as rich, finely-textured prose. Anthropologist and historian both, Pope deploys the tools of his disciplines to produce this highly readable, innovative study, one which places seventeenth century Newfoundland squarely in a trans-Atlantic context. As a window on the trading world of the seventeenth century fishery and on the lives of those involved in that fishery Pope’s work is unsurpassed. Not only do we better understand the day-to-day life in seventeenth century Newfoundland, but also to the intricate connections between the prominent families in Newfoundlandsuch as the families of Sir George Calvert, Lord Baltimore and Sir David Kirkeand the transatlantic economy. As a result, the Newfoundland cod fishery emerges as a well-capitalized resident and vernacular industry, tied to various vernacular markets in the North Atlantic world. Readers learn how a network of interpersonal and inter-familial contacts managed a complex exchange of cod from Newfoundland and wine from southern Europe and the Atlantic islands. Along the way Popes subtle and nuanced interpretations challenge many stereotypes and myths about Newfoundlands history. Peter Pope has done for the seventeenth century socioeconomic history of Newfoundland what Jerry Bannister (last years John A. Macdonald Prize winner) did for eighteenth century political and legal history: probe the roots of Newfoundland distinctiveness, shatter old myths, and place the unique colony more firmly in the context of British Imperial history.