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Quebec 400

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La nouvelle France 1608-1763

Quebec – that is, the city and its environs in the St Lawrence Valley – was one of France's key imperial assets throughout the period of French dominance in Europe and the Atlantic world. The city was the capital of a continental empire that stretched from Fort Tadoussac in the north, across the Great Lakes, all the way to Fort Prudhomme and Fort Maurepas on the Gulf Coast of present-day Louisiana.

One of the pioneers of early settlement in Quebec was Samuel de Champlain. An accomplished explorer, as well as the first governor of the Laurentian Valley and Stadacona (by now an abandoned Iroquois settlement where he founded the City of Quebec on 3 July 1608), and Canada's first major mapmaker, Champlain was known as the 'Father of New France' due to his formative influence on the region.

The name 'Quebec' in fact derives from a Mikmaq word ('Kébec') meaning 'where the river narrows', and it was this easily-defended strategic feature which drew Champlain and his men to the location.

The trade in animal fur accelerated the early growth and development of Quebec. From the middle of the 17th century, a series of commercial companies were formed in the St Lawrence Valley by merchants from various cities in France.

From Quebec, missionaries and "voyageurs" (adventurers) explored the interior of North America, using river canoes, establishing fur-trading forts along the way, and discovering a vast inland water-system that included the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes, and Hudson's Bay.

Soon after its settlement, the region and city began to take on the distinctive features of pre-Revolutionary France, with its complex administration, aspiring bourgeoisie, powerful clergy, and military prowess.

Architecturally, many of the city's most characteristic features, including its massive fortifications and citadel, were constructed as part of the French authorities' attempts to repulse English invasion. The ramparts that are such a prominent feature of most plans and views of the city were built under the direction of the French royal engineer, Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry, and were completed in 1749.

In spite of the fortifications, however, the French were unable to monopolise Quebec throughout the era of 'New France'; in fact, the city changed hands three times before the eventual British victory in 1759.

This rich history is reflected in many of the British Library's early travel reports and maps from New France, many of them produced by missionaries and printed in Paris for a predominantly French readership.

981.d.21. Samuel de Champlain. Voyages de la Nouvelle France occidentale, dicte Canada.  Paris, 1632.
C.32.h.9. Samuel de Champlain. Les Voyages de Sieur de Champlain... Paris: Berion 1632. © Copyright The British Library Board
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G.4260. C.125.de.2. Francois Du Creux. Historiae Canadensis seu Novae Franciae. Paris: Sebastien Cramoisy, 1664.
C.125.de.2. Francois Du Creux. Historiae Canadensis seu Novae Franciae. Paris: Sebastien Cramoisy, 1664. © Copyright The British Library Board
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1052.a.8. Louis Hennepin. Nouveau voyage d'un pais plus grand que l'Europe. Utrecht, 1698.
1052.a.8. Louis Hennepin. Nouveau voyage d'un pais plus grand que l'Europe. Utrecht, 1698. © Copyright The British Library Board
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278.f.36. Jean-Louis Hennepin. A new discovery of a vast country in America between New France and New Mexico. London, 1699.
278.f.36. Jean-Louis Hennepin. A new discovery of a vast country in America between New France and New Mexico. London, 1699. © Copyright The British Library Board
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G.15867-69. 979.a.24,25. Louis Armand de Lom d'Arce [Baron de Lahontan]. Voyages dans l'Amerique septentrionale. Amsterdam, 1705.
G.15867-69. 979.a.24. Louis Armand de Lom d'Arce [Baron de Lahontan]. Voyages dans l'Amerique septentrionale. Amsterdam, 1705. © Copyright The British Library Board
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.15867-69. 979.a.24,25. Louis Armand de Lom d'Arce [Baron de Lahontan]. Voyages dans l'Amerique septentrionale. Amsterdam, 1705.
979.a.24,25. Louis Armand de Lom d'Arce [Baron de Lahontan]. Voyages dans l'Amerique septentrionale. Amsterdam, 1705. © Copyright The British Library Board
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Maps 70620.(1). Nicholas Bellin. Partie occidentale de la Nouvelle France ou Canada. Originally published and produced in Paris, Nuremberg, and London, 1745.
Maps 70620.(1). Nicholas Bellin. Partie occidentale de la Nouvelle France ou Canada. Originally published and produced in Paris, Nuremberg, and London, 1745. © Copyright The British Library Board
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Introduction: Quebec 2008
Discovery of Canada and Quebec
La Nouvelle France 1608–1763
Siege of Quebec and Seven Years War 1756–63
Lower Canada
Tercentenary 1908
Early 1900s

 
 
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