The François-Xavier Garneau Medal
Gérard Bouchard, Quelques arpents d’Amérique : population, économie, famille au Saguenay, 1838-1971. Montréal, Les Éditions du Boréal, 1996.
This book is a unique and major contribution to the history of Quebec, Canada and North America. It represents the summation of over twenty years of research on the Saguenay region and is one of the most important demographic studies ever undertaken in this country. Firmly rooting his analysis in a highly sophisticated theoretical base, Bouchard challenges and discredits a long-standing stereotype of Quebec rural society as homogeneously distinct from its North American neighbours due to culture and nationality. In an exploration of the diverse strategies used by large families in the Saguenay over several generations to pass on their assets, Bouchard succeeds in identifying similarities between this region and its North American counterparts. Of particular significance is Bouchard’s conclusion that Saguenay society was one of greater equality than previously appreciated, and that this rough equality was not disrupted by twentieth-century pressures or values. The painstaking family reconstruction, the emphasis on family as a major paradigmatic model, and the analysis of the experience of the Saguenay peasantry within the larger North American framework place Bouchard’s book at the centre of interpretive debates, and will demand the close attention of historians not only of Quebec and Canada, but also of North America. Elegantly written, Quelques arpents d’Amrique is richly deserving of the Franois-Xavier Garneau Medal.
Jonathan Vance, Death So Noble: Memory, Meaning, and the First World War. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997.
This excellent piece of scholarship makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the Canadian psyche in the aftermath of an horrendous war. It is the first book to move the study of the memory of war away from the anti-war critics to an analysis of photographs, trench journals, patriotic jingles, the vast outpouring of popular fiction, mass circulation magazines, war memorials and popular art.
This extraordinary array of materials enables Vance to explore how the war experience was preserved and memory constructed. He concludes that the memory of the war was sustained by the “myth” of gallant service, duty and honour. This process of rationalization was necessary during the war to sustain commitment and belief, and afterwards to allow for a reassurance that the sacrifices had not been made in vain. Vance argues that this effort to create a truly “national” past was not entirely successful either during or after the war as tensions between French and English Canadians lingered. Lucid, engaging, easy to read and firmly anchored in international studies of myth and memory, this is a superb addition to Canadian historiography.
Bettina Bradbury, Working Families: Age, Gender, and Daily Survival in Industrializing Montreal. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1993.
This is an original and influential analysis of working-class family survival strategies during the years when Montreal first became an industrial city. After establishing the economic, social and legal contexts, Bradbury provides a detailed study of the family economy, considering the work and role of all family members. She demonstrates effectively that survival depended as much on the informal labour of women and children as it did on wages. Bradbury succeeds in conveying a keen sense of daily life in Montreal in the late nineteenth century. She vividly illustrates how women, men and children ingeniously confronted, then responded and contributed to industrializing Montreal. Thoroughly researched and written in clear, cogent prose, this is a fundamentally important book.