Theme and Subject Matter in Francis Parkman’s <i>The Old Régime in Canada</i>
Edgardo Medeiros da Silva
School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lisbon, University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies
‘There are no political panaceas, except in the imagination of political quacks’. These are the words used by the American historian Francis Parkman (1823–1893) to suggest that the English and French settlements on the North American continent had been quite different from their onset and were quite possibly bound to remain as such in years to come. His History of France and England in North America (1865–1892) provides us with a historical account of the colonization of New France which sheds some light on the colonial beginnings of New England as well. Like all Romantic or literary historians of the time, Parkman had a story to tell, novelistic in style and all-encompassing in theme and subject matter, which in this particular case is as much about France’s status as a colonial power as about England’s. Drawing on part four of his History, entitled the Old Régime in Canada (1874), this paper examines the failure of France to establish the basis of a well-regulated political community in North America in the context of the Anglo-French rivalry for the control of that continent. It aims to determine to what extent Parkman’s historical narrative on New France also gives us an insight into New England’s history; what does it tell us about the political culture of both colonies? and what vision, if any, of America/of the Americas does it offer us?
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