The Summer of 1744: A Portrait of Life in 18th-Century Louisbourg


119 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-660-11263-9




Reviewed by Ian A. Andrews

Ian A. Andrews is a high-school social sciences teacher and editor of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association’s Focus.


The reconstruction of a portion of the eighteenth century fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island has been one of the most ambitious projects of its kind ever undertaken in Canada. The planners for Parks Canada chose not an era but a specific year, 1744 (the summer before this military and fishing centre was captured for the first time by the combined efforts of New Englanders and British), as the pivotal one around which to concentrate their gigantic task. As a result, visitors to Louisbourg find not only an eighteenth century French town, but a town faithfully reconstructed to a particular year. What was happening in and around this outpost of New France in 1744? This is the subject matter for a short narrative by A.J.B. Johnston, a staff historian at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Park. Using for illustration a cleverly chosen series of period maps and portraits, photographs of historical animation on the site and detailed pictures from artist Lewis Parker’s two recent paintings of life in the port and town of Louisbourg, Johnston has endeavoured to place the reader within the historical context provided — The Summer of 1744. In accomplishing this, he has succeeded splendidly.

Following a month-by-month chronological approach, Johnston begins with a wider world scene before dwelling on the specific happenings in Louisbourg. Britain and France had declared war on each other early in 1744, and this factor greatly influenced the thoughts and actions of the Louisbourgeois. The provisioning of the colony, control of the surrounding seacoast, attending to British prisoners, the effectiveness of privateers, and planning for raids into Acadia became major topics while everyday quarrels, births, christenings, and deaths still took place and were duly recorded by the colonial bureaucrats of King Louis XV. This historical booklet is well documented and contains a comprehensive appendix listing a calendar of events as they concerned Louisbourg in 1744. It is easy to read and understand while at the same time it provides insight into the often turbulent lives of eighteenth century colonials and illuminates the roles they were forced to play when their founding countries went to war.


Johnston, A.J.B., “The Summer of 1744: A Portrait of Life in 18th-Century Louisbourg,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,