The Other Quebec: Microhistorical Essays on Nineteenth-Century Religion and Society


278 pages
Contains Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-9397-3
DDC 971.4'6





Reviewed by Bruce Grainger

Bruce Grainger is head of the Public Services Department, Macdonald
Library, McGill University.


J.I. Little, a professor of history at Simon Fraser University, wrote
seven of the eight essays in this volume (the other essay is by
Marguerite Van Die). All but one essay have been previously published in
academic journals. The first four are grouped under the section title
“Religion, Family, and Gender,” while the last four are organized
under the heading “Religion, Social Reform, and Community.” Little,
whose work on religion and society in Canada is highly regarded, turns
his attention to the role of religion and its influence in the Eastern
Townships, an area bordered by the United States on the south side and
surrounded by French settlements on the other sides. The areas nearest
the American border were first settled by New Englanders beginning in
1792, with later settlers coming from Britain.

The essays compare and contrast various Protestant denominations
prevalent in the Townships. Religious affiliation was often remarkably
fluid during this early period, with individuals often having no
religious affiliations, no formal membership in a church, or attending
the services of more than one denomination. The letters of an Anglican,
genteel wife of a British naval officer reveal very different attitudes
from those evidenced in the letters of a Methodist businessman, the son
of a republican doctor from Vermont. Yet both display strong religious
faith and place great importance on love of spouse and family.

The first three essays in the second section examine the development of
the temperance movement, the school system, and the influence of
railways on an Adventist revival meeting. The last essay chronicles a
public scandal involving a Presbyterian minister, a leading businessman,
and the postal system. The findings of these “microhistorical”
essays, focused as they are on small areas, nevertheless can raise
important questions regarding the broad generalizations of other
historians. For example, the supposed link between fear of large-scale
Irish immigration and the growth of the temperance movement is
challenged by the fact that there were few Irish in the Townships as a
whole and that in the one heavily Irish county, the Irish participated
in all of the organized temperance societies.

The book includes a good index, photographs, and illustrations,
including an attractive historical painting on the cover.


Little, J.I., “The Other Quebec: Microhistorical Essays on Nineteenth-Century Religion and Society,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,