The latest in blog posts, news, and podcasts from the world of Canadian history.
Note From Andrea: Today we have another special post by Stephanie Pettigrew! Enjoy!
When I first started doing my research, the biggest problem I encountered was simply deciphering my texts. As many of you already know, I work on documents from sixteenth and seventeenth New France. In North America, there are far more resources available specifically for English etymology and paleography, the study of historic handwriting and handwritten texts. Christopher Moore contends in a recent blog post that paleography is dying a slow and painful death, and I don’t completely disagree with him; the growing dependence on crowd-sourcing transcription projects is a huge concern. But even when sources are transcribed for you, as a historian you are still expected to consult the original source. Several universities offer undergraduate courses in medieval English and middle English. One school that I attended even had a course on reading medieval Scottish handwriting (complete with its own textbook!). Leah Grandy also has already done some fantastic blog posts introducing the issue of paleography, which I highly recommend (“What Does That Say?!”: Getting Started with Paleography is particularly helpful!) While all of these are valuable resources, they aren’t really helpful when it comes to dealing with my documents. So in today’s blog post, I’m going to talk about some of the main challenges of working with early modern French written texts and provide you with some tips and tricks that will hopefully make this work a little bit easier!
Hi everyone! Stephanie here. I recently had the chance to attend the Canada Before Confederation: An Exhibition of Maps conference. The conference itself was held at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and we were surrounded by large model ships (and a giant squid) for all of our talks – I can’t think of a more perfect setting, considering most of the talks featured early modern European explorers and mariners. Organized by Lauren Beck, associate professor of Hispanic Studies at Mount Allison and editor of Terrae Incognitae, and Chet Van Duzer of the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the conference itself was the culmination of an enormous effort that involved organizing pre-confederation map exhibits across Canada as part of Canada 150. These maps were included in a book written and edited by Lauren and Chet. The volume was published by Vernon Books and includes full-colour images of the maps, essays contextualizing them, and amazing bibliographies, all of which I can easily see using as a teaching tool in the future. Oh, and the best part – these books were handed out for free to conference attendees! Handing out free books with pretty pictures of old maps is definitely the best way to get my attention at a conference, it turns out. (If you’d like to check out the book for yourself you can find it here.)
The conference was absolutely wonderful. But since most of you couldn’t be there with me, I put together this blog post so that you too can experience some of the fantastic presentations I saw! I’d like to thank Lauren Beck for going out of her way to invite me to this conference, Carolyn Prodruchny for sending me her and Alan’s paper, and Sarah Beanlands, for sending me her entire powerpoint presentation when I requested some images to include in this summary. This just proved once again how amazingly supportive the historical community can be! Finally, I’d especially like to think Elizabeth Mancke, my supervisor, for sponsoring my attendance at this conference. Ok, without any further ado, let’s get to the history!
Note: Except where noted, the images of this blog post are published with the permission of their creators. Please do not reproduce.
Welcome back to our monthly series, “Upcoming Publications in Canadian History,” where I’ve compiled information on all the upcoming releases for the following month in the field of Canadian history from every Canadian academic press, all in one place. This includes releases in both English and French. To see the releases from last month, click here.
***Please note that the cover images and book blurbs are used with permission from the publishers.***
N.B. This list only includes new releases, not rereleases in different formats.
Note from Andrea: When I found out that Stephanie is doing her dissertation on the history of witchcraft in early French Canada, I immediately started harassing asking her to do a special blog post about her work for Halloween. Because how super cool is that topic? And, kind person that she is, she has obliged. Enjoy!
I spent the first few years of my life in Cheticamp, Nova Scotia. After moving with my parents to Sydney, I channeled my teenage resentment into learning as much as I could about my real home at the library. This is where I first heard the story of the Cheticamp witches, in an old collection of Cape Breton ghost stories. Around the turn of the twentieth century, two warring camps in the village, the Acadians and the Jerseys, would take turns casting spells upon each other. The Jerseymen had their witch, and the Acadians had their “counter-witch.” When the Jerseys were displeased with someone in the community, they would respond with witchcraft, and the battle would begin. For example, if a fisherman didn’t come in with the expected haul, he might come home to find the family cow had stopped milking. He would call the “good” Acadian witch to solve the problem, and “unbewitch” the cow. There was one particularly amusing story of the Acadian witch getting particularly frustrated and enchanting a number of buckets to chase after the suspected Jersey witch.
I had never heard of any of this growing up, and my grandmother didn’t think it was important. Having grown up in a fishing family, I think my focus on the past worried her a bit. She wanted me to be a woman of the future, with an education and the ability to depend only on myself and nobody else. We did, however, live next door to the run-down Anglican church, which by my time was an extremely spooky place, and my dad has told me stories about using his shotgun to scare off Satanists. But since Satanists are not witches, I’ll move on.
Fast forward several years, and I came across a casual mention of the 1684 witchcraft trial of Jean Campagnard in Beaubassin, Acadie. I nearly jumped out of my chair. If you can imagine me yelling “WHAT!” and spilling my coffee everywhere, that was essentially my reaction. I had no idea that Acadia had ever had a witchcraft trial. None. And a passing mention in a book that I can’t even remember the title of now was not going to be it for me – I needed to read that trial. It turns out that Jean Campagnard was Acadie’s only prosecuted witchcraft case. An expert dyke builder from Aunis, he was accused of causing the death of his employer by blowing a mysterious substance into his eyes. My favourite part of the case is during the confrontation, when one of the witnesses has his testimony read out loud
“The witness states that he saw the accused spread mysterious seeds into the marsh while reciting an incantation and the next fall he had a terrible crop,” and Campagnard replied, “He doesn’t need magic to be a terrible farmer.”
So of course, this led me down the academic rabbit hole, and now here we are.
When most people think about witchcraft in early colonial North America, they immediately think of Salem, Massachusetts. In fact, those trials are so ubiquitous that I don’t even need to explain what I am talking about. But witchcraft and witchcraft trials were also relatively common in another part of early colonial North America: French Canada. However, these two locations had very different experiences with witch trials. So in today’s blog post, I am going to talk about the history of witchcraft and witchcraft trials in colonial French Canada and share some of my favourite stories!