The organizers of this conference, which is co-sponsored by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the Groupe d’histoire de l’Atlantique français, with the support of the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec, invite proposals for papers that examine the Québec Act/l’Acte de Québec from a range of overlapping perspectives.
Widely remembered in United States history as one of the “Intolerable Acts” that led to the American Revolution, the Québec Act outraged British mainland colonists for two reasons. First, the measure granted civil liberties to Catholic French Canadians. Even more galling, the legislation linked the Ohio Valley to the now British province of Québec, an arrangement that gave the Americans’ former enemies access to the very territories for which they had so recently waged a long and bitter war.
In Canada, colonial authorities saw the Québec Act as a pragmatic solution to the problems of governance. Despite the vocal objections of certain Anglophone merchants, it was obvious the British government would need the support of Francophone residents if it was to endure. Although the new political alliances forged by the constitutional provisions of the Act make it appear to have arisen from a local context, it was in reality the first of many inherently unstable compromises that were imposed to permit the Franco-Catholic population to develop under British institutions. In practice the Québec Act emerged as the initial manifestation within colonial society of the major religious, social, ethnic, and political tensions that would define the history of Québec in the centuries to follow.
From Great Britain’s imperial perspective, the Québec Act marked the first time that a Protestant empire had granted its French Catholic population civil privileges. More than another half century would pass before Parliament enacted Catholic emancipation in the United Kingdom, a statute it never fully implemented in Ireland. However selectively realized, was the Québec Act a first step toward the formulation of nineteenth-century British imperial ideology and policy? Did it envision, however dimly, an empire that was multiethnic and potentially universal rather than Protestant and Anglo?
Initially, the Québec Act appeared to offer North America’s indigenous population a more promising future by pledging that Britain would defend the Ohio Valley and its Native inhabitants from encroachment by settlers pushing westward from the seaboard colonies. Policies such as removing the sovereignty of the Ohio Valley from individual colonial governments and placing it firmly in control of Québec’s British imperial authorities were designed to strengthen commercial and cultural ties between the peoples of the Ohio and St. Lawrence valleys. Although the emptiness of this promise had become painfully obvious twenty-five years later, the possibilities first raised by the Québec Act—objectives pursued on the ground through continued Native warfare supported by British authorities—remain a fruitful site of exploration.
In these and in many other ways the Québec Act proved seminal for the peoples and nations within its ambit. The foremost objective of this conference is to explore, examine, and bring greater clarity to the contexts, meanings, and legacies of the Québec Act as perceived from a multiplicity of national and transnational angles of vision. A variety of historical approaches—political, diplomatic, social, constitutional, cultural, and religious—are encouraged.
Send a proposal of a one-page description of the paper and a brief c.v. containing telephone and email contact information to http://oieahc.wm.edu/conferences/quebec/cfp/index.cfm. The deadline for submitting proposals is October 15, 2012. All submissions will be acknowledged by email. If you do not receive an acknowledgment, please resubmit or contact Kim Foley (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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