This Week in History
The “National Historian”
For the week of Monday July 16, 2007
On July 19, 1844, François-Xavier Garneau was appointed Clerk of Québec, a position that provided funding for his ongoing research into the history of Canada. Garneau was born on June 15, 1809, in Québec to working-class parents. In 1823, lacking the money needed to pursue a classical education at the Séminaire de Québec, François-Xavier began working for philanthropist Jean-François Perreault, whose tutoring and extensive library allowed him to continue his education.
Garneau was first published in 1831 in France and when he returned to Québec two years later, he began publishing a number of his poems in newspapers. Married in 1835, the financial obligations of establishing a household forced him to work as a notary and cashier. However, the events of 1837 and the proposed union of the two Canadas re-awakened his calling as a historian. He opposed the Act of Union, as he feared for the future of the French-Canadian nation. Lord Durham’s assertion that Canadians were “a people without history and without literature” struck a patriotic nerve.
Garneau’s growing fame opened doors for him to new libraries in Quebec and abroad. Armed with this new knowledge, he refined his Histoire du Canada several times. This monumental work ensured him the title of “national historian.” François-Xavier Garneau was designated a National Historic Person in 1937.
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