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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘imperialism

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

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  • Language Log reports on the transliterations of “Trump” into Chinese and Chinese social networks.
  • Marginal Revolution shares Jill Lepore’s argument that modern dystopian fiction deals with submission to the worst, not resistance.
  • At the NYRB Daily, Tim Flannery notes how Trump’s withdrawal from Paris is bad for the environment and for the American economy.
  • Peter Rukavina’s photo of stormclouds over Charlottetown is eye-catching. (I have not heard of “dark off” myself.)
  • Savage Minds announces a MOOC ANTH 101 course starting tomorrow.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that Putin can afford to be aggressive because he is not constrained by Communist ideology.

[AH] What if French Canada survived past 1763?

Detail, The Death of General Wolfe (1770)

Early in January, before my trip to Montréal, I went to the Royal Ontario Museum where I saw–among other things–the museum’s copy of Benjamin Wolfe’s painting The Death of General Wolfe. This famous tableau’s depiction of the death of James Wolfe, the commander of the victorious British forces in 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham that saw the fall of French Canada and the end of New France but who barely lived to see the end of the battle himself, is literally iconic. This moment marks the end of one empire and the expansion of another.

Was the end of New France inevitable? Quite a few fans of alternate history suggest that it was. In perhaps the classic few, the value of France to colonize its North American territories nearly as thoroughly as England (and later the United Kingdom) did theirs ensured that, ultimately, New France would be overwhelmed by the colonists. Some even go so far as to argue that New France was a failing colony, that the failure to expand French colonization much beyond the Saint Lawrence valley demonstrates a fundamental lack of French interest. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was irrelevant.

I’m not sure that I buy this. Conceivably there could have been more French settlement in New France, perhaps with a bigger push under Louis XIV, but it isn’t clear to me that France in America was a failure. New France’s economy was built substantially on trade with indigenous peoples and not on (for instance) the plantation colony of many British colonies, making increased French settlement irrelevant at best and potentially harmful at worst. As it was, French Canada was actually a dynamic society, the St. Lawrence valley becoming home of a colonial offshoot of France with outposts stretching far west into the basin of the Great Lakes and, not incidentally, managing to hold off conquest by the British for nearly a century and a half. New France was not nearly as populous as the Thirteen Colonies, but that no more proves that New France was a failure than (say) the fact that Spain’s Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata was less populous than Portuguese Brazil means that the Spanish colony was a failure. At most, there was underexploited potential. If French Canada has since largely contracted to the frontiers of modern Québec, it is because successive British administrations have taken care to hem it in.

Had the Battle of the Plains of Abraham gone even slightly differently, there could have been a French victory. The end of the Seven Years War could have seen the French flag continue to fly in Canada. Even if Canada had fallen, that it would be kept by Britain was by no means preordained: Had Britain preferred to keep the valuable French sugar island of Guadeloupe, or had the French government different priorities, Canada might have been restored to France in the peace.

What would this surviving French Canada have been like?

It’s certainly possible that a continued French presence in Canada would have helped discourage the Thirteen Colonies from rebelling against the British Empire, especially if it was perceived as a threat. It’s not clear to me that this would automatically be the case, especially if New France had been weakened in the conflict, demilitarized and/or territorially diminished. Perhaps, in this timeline, the Americans might revolt against Britain in anger that their interests were neglected in the settlement of the final peace. We might not see a conflict like the War of American Independence, but then again we might. If this war, or another great power Anglo-French war does come about, then France will face the same cascade of dysfunctional public financies than in our history triggered the revolution.

What will become of Canada in all this? I can imagine that it might, or might not, receive more attention from France. I suppose that, if history runs along the lines we are familiar with up to the French Revolution, Canada might be in an interesting position versus the metropole. (A French kingdom in exile?) It is imaginable that a populous French Canada might stay French, especially if the Americans are allies and Britain has interest elsewhere. The case can be made that French Canada could survive, within borders not wildly different from that of modern Canada, into the 19th century.

Here, I’m stymied. It is not easy to imagine the development of French Canada as a French territory for the simple reason that France had no colonies of settlement like (for instance) Britain had Canada. French Algeria eventually became a destination for European immigration, but most of these immigrants came from elsewhere in the western Mediterranean (Spain and Italy particularly) and they arrived in a territory that never stopped being overwhelmingly Arab-Berber and Muslim in nature. New Caledonia, in the South Pacific, also received substantial numbers of settlers relative to the native population, but the absolute numbers were low. There is no close parallel, not in the second French colonial empire, to a colony like Canada, a vast semi-continent with a substantial population mostly descended from French colonists.

I do think France could certainly colonize Canada as thoroughly as Britain later did, especially if France enjoys stability and peace. Franco-Canadian relations were broken by the Conquest and only began to pick up again a century later, as the French became dimly aware that the Canadiens survived. In a timeline where the relationship between France and Canada was never disrupted, Franco-Canadian relations would be far more intense. Trade and investment flows aside, we might see well see substantial amounts of French immigration to a prosperous Canada, and more immigrants coming from outside France, just as in the case of Algeria. The details depend critically on the borders of this Canada and its relationship to its neighbours, but I see no reason why French Canada could not be successful.

Even if–a big if–French history remains largely unchanged up to the mid-19th century, the existence of a large, populous, and growing French Canada will eventually change the French polity rapidly. How will the millions of Canadiens be represented in French political life? A populous American branch of the French empire will have very substantial consequences.

What do you think?

Written by Randy McDonald

May 16, 2017 at 11:59 pm

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • blogTO notes the amazing spike upwards in temperatures for this weekend.
  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of some stark war memorials of the former Communist world.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze reports on brown dwarf HIP 67537b.
  • The LRB Blog looks at Donald Trump’s interest in a Middle Eastern peace settlement that looks as if it will badly disadvantage the isolated Palestinians.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen reflects on his reading of Julius Evola and other hitherto-marginal writers.
  • The NYRB Daily notes the potential health catastrophe that could result from Donald Trump’s anti-vax positions.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer suggests that the corruption marking the relationship of France and Gabon over that country’s oil is finding an echo in the Trump organization’s involvement in Filipino real estate.
  • Torontoist calls for regulation of road salt on grounds of its toxicity.
  • Transit Toronto looks at the various scenarios for King Street.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russia’s economic growth will lag behind growth elsewhere for the foreseeable future, and looks at protest in St. Petersburg over the return of an old church to the Orthodox Church.

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • blogTO notes the Distillery District’s Toronto Light Festival.
  • Border Thinking Laura Agustín looks at migrants and refugees in James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia.
  • Centauri Dreams suggests that Perry’s expedition to Japan could be taken as a metaphor for first contact.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a report about how brown dwarf EPIC 219388192 b.
  • The LRB Blog notes the use of torture as a technique of intimidation.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at China’s very heavy investment in Laos.
  • The NYRB Daily examines violence and the surprising lack thereof in El Salvador.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw touches on the controversies surrounding Australia Day.
  • Transit Toronto reports the sentencing of some people who attacked TTC officers.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that a Putin running out of resources needs to make a deal.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • blogTO notes the continued rise in rental prices for apartments.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at a time in the Earth’s history when there was a lot of atmospheric oxygen but not much life.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting there is an authentic lack of gas giant planets beyond 10 AU.
  • Itching for Eestimaa notes the British politicians who favoured the recognition of the Soviet annexation of the Baltics, and notes that those imperialist times of old are back.
  • The Map Room Blog notes that Trump voters tend to prefer Duck Dynasty and Clinton voters preferred Family Guy.
  • Marginal Revolution notes California’s ban on funding travel to jurisdictions which discriminate against people on grounds of sexual orientation or gender.
  • Peter Watts describes a trip on hallucinogens.
  • The NYRB Daily shares Masha Gessen’s concerns about the threat of moral authority.
  • Spacing links to some article about improving bike infrastructure.
  • Window on Eurasia warns of a new consolidation of Russian federal units.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Beyond the Beyond shares Voltaire’s critique of early globalization.
  • blogTO reports on how TTC streetcars are failing earlier than expected.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talks about her trip to Philadelphia to see art.
  • Centauri Dreams talks about discovering streams of stars connecting the Sagittarius dwarf spheroidal galaxy to the Milky Way.
  • Crooked Timber talks about Donald Trump as a president with or without precedents.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze talks about the fate of exomoons in white dwarf systems.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog takes a sociological perspective on fake news.
  • Language Log mourns the death of pinyin inventor Zhou Youguang.
  • The LRB Blog talks about the pleasures of incomprehension.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money talks about Vietnam as a maritime power.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that seasteading is set to have a go in French Polynesia.
  • Window on Eurasia argues Russia is too weak to keep a post-Soviet sphere of influence, and suggests Russia is set to be dominated by China and so needs a Western alliance.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO notes that TTC tunnels will get WiFi in 2018.
  • Border Thinking’s Laura Augustín shares some of Edvard Munch’s brothel paintings.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the latest science on fast radio bursts.
  • Dangerous Minds shares some of the sexy covers of Yugoslavian computer magazine Računari.
  • Dead Things looks at the latest research into dinosaur eggs.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that a high surface magnetic field in a red giant star indicates a recent swallowing of a planet.
  • Language Log shares an ad for a portable smog mask from China.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money takes issue with the idea of NAFTA being of general benefit to Mexico.
  • Torontoist looks at the history of Toronto General Hospital.
  • Window on Eurasia is skeptical about an American proposal for Ukraine, and suggests Ossetian reunification within Russia is the next annexation likely to be made by Russia.