Quebec City’s 400th, Empire

In the National Post Father Raymond de Souza reminds us that what is being celebrated this summer is truly remarkable: “Four centuries of stable settlement and the achievement of a vibrant, peaceable, prosperous French-speaking city … a bona fide historical success, a key part of the history of North America writ large, and Canada in particular.” We hear this kind of tribute too seldom.

Should Canadian scholars turn or turn again to imperial history? Why aren’t we the ones writing fat books about imperialism? Why are we leaving it to the Brits? Canada was the senior Dominion in the modern world’s greatest empire.

If/when we come to write those books let me suggest that instead of talking in the usual way about the impact of imperial rule on the dependencies, we use our perspective as one-time colonists to think of ways in which the effort to rule the dependencies affected the Metropolis. We might think about whether the attempt to incorporate a French-speaking province derailed British notions of cultural superiority.

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