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Michael Gauvreau

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The CHA Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History Prize

2006

Michael Gauvreau. The Catholic Origins of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, 1931-1970. Montréal and/et Kingston, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005.
In this highly original study, Michael Gauvreau, challenges much of the accepted wisdom on Quebec’s Quiet Revolution. Until now the Quiet Revolution has been portrayed as an essentially political movement in which secularists came to power because a monolithic and increasingly irrelevant Roman Catholic Church was too mired in conservatism and tradition to respond creatively to the modernizing forces in Quebec society. Gauvreau by contrast portrays the Quiet Revolution as primarily a cultural and social phenomenon with roots, as far back as the 1930s, in a remarkably ideologically diverse Roman Catholic Church. Based on detailed, extensive, and thorough analysis of the activities of Roman Catholic lay people and organizations, particularly those associated with Catholic Action movements, Gauvreau subtly explains how leading Roman Catholics attempted to critique and reform Catholicism beginning in the Great Depression. Between the 1930s and 1960, Catholicism responded creatively to the various intellectual currents, ranging from totalitarianism to individualism, to develop relevant but evolving perspectives on the proper roles of youth, women, families, and the state in a distinctively Catholic society. The Quiet Revolution, more than anything else, is a product of these forces. “The central emphasis of the Lesage government,” Gauvreau argues, “was to elaborate a new democratic culture by bringing Catholicism more firmly within the machinery of the modern state.” But he argues that the period after 1964 was sufficiently distinct that it might better be seen as a second revolution in which Quebec society participated in a trend common to all industrialized Western societies. The thrust of this revolution was “so wedded to an untrammeled individualism that its central implication, as far as Quebec was concerned, was the forceful rejection of a public role for Catholicism.”
Because this book offers such a dramatic and persuasive break with past scholarship, it will thrust the history of religion into the mainstream of Canadian scholarship. Because much of the reforming zeal that the book explores was aimed at youth and women this book contributes significantly to the history of youth, family, women, sexuality, and gender. And because Gauvreau also grounds his work in international literature and debates, his study should interest historians outside Canada, particularly those interested in the historical process of secularization.

Honourable Mention:
N.E.S. GriffithsFrom Migrant to Acadian: A North American Border People, 1604-1755. Montréal and/et Kingston, Canadian Institute for Research on Public Policy Administration, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005.
This book represents the culmination of the research career of the most prominent historian of the Acadians. Based on half a century of research in archives in Canada, England, Scotland, France, the United States, and Italy and upon a wealth of scholarly literature, Griffiths’ study offers a sweeping, sophisticated, and sensitive history of the Acadians from initial French settlement in 1604 to the deportation in 1755. A general history, this book not only offers a detailed reconstruction of the world the Acadians made for themselves in the New World, but also examines the Acadian’s relations with the Mi’kmq, and the explores the place of Acadia in the affairs of France, England, New England, and New France. Detailed and authoritative, this book will become the standard history of the Acadians for students and non-specialists, and the starting point for future research.