Commemorations of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham: Attempted Conquest of a Public Memory

by Connor Percy

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ABSTRACT

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham took place in 1759 at Quebec City. It saw a faceoff between British forces and an assortment of French regulars and militia. The British perception of the Battle greatly differs from the French Canadian one which focuses on the irreparable damage to its traditional way of life, caused by the “Conquest”. Quebec’s nostalgia regarding its past however, boiled over during the controversy surrounding the 250th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 2009. Since Canadians in general have considerable difficulty defining themselves, Quebec’s commemoration of the past becomes significant as it represents some of the differences between the French Canadian psyche and that of the rest of Canada.

This article provides context to help explain Quebec’s nostalgic commemoration of the Conquest and discusses specific events that occurred following the Conquest. It will highlight French Canada’s bitter memory of the Battle’s aftermath and how it led to the struggles surrounding Confederation. In addition, the Constitution Act of 1982 itself subtly represents a symbol of French Canada’s plight. Le Moulin a Paroles was assembled as a response to the 2009 re-enactment. Its significance lies in the heartfelt literary sources it contains regarding the Battle. It is Quebec’s nostalgia regarding the Conquest that has, and continues to foster a romanticized reminiscence of the “Golden Age”. However, these sentiments also explain the undeniable adhesiveness between French Canadians as they have been forced to band together in the face of assimilation.

KEYWORDS

Commemoration; Nostalgia; Conquest; Battle of the Plains of Abraham

BIOGRAPHY

Connor Percy is currently a fourth-year Undergraduate student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. Since his first year at the Undergraduate level, he displayed an interest in the study of Quebec’s society, as well as the interface between French Canadians and the rest of Canada. This relationship is significant as it allows all Canadians to examine their country’s political, social, economic, and military history; as well as its future. Percy’s article entitled Commemorations of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham: Attempted Conquest of a Public Memory aims to explain an aspect of said relationship as it is unfortunately one which is too often overlooked in the perpetual evolution of Canada’s ethnic makeup.

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