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Home > History

Quebec : a past that is still alive

Once upon a time...thousands of years ago...
HistoryThe discovery of Quebec is officially attributed to Jacques Cartier in 1534, but, thousands of years before his arrival, more precisely around 40,000 BC, people have crossed the frozen Bering Strait to settle on the American continent. These people travelled south and established different communities. Then, some of these communities chose to go back north to establish on the territory that is today occupied by Quebec and Canada. These people, the Natives, were then the first inhabitants of the province of Quebec.
Many years later, that is to say in the 9th and 10th centuries, Vikings attempted to explore the land. They stopped in Newfoundland and on the coasts of Labrador, east of Quebec. Some pretend they would have come all the way to Quebec, but no traces of their exploration have been found yet.
Jean Cabot, orHabitation John Cabot, explored the territory during his journey in 1497. He was the first explorer to leave written traces of his journey in North America. No proof of the exact place where he berthed was ever found, but some say he would have stopped somewhere between Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.
In 1534 and 1535, Jacques Cartier took possession of the territory in the name of the King of France. He then put up a cross in Gaspé, which you can still see today. He is the first known explorer to have travelled along the St. Lawrence River and to have encountered Natives. Cartier thought he found the road to India and Asia. During his second journey in 1535, Jacques Cartier went to Stadacona (Québec City), Hochelaga (Montréal), and he stopped in Trois-Rivières on the way back. This trip was of a great benefit to the King of France, since Cartier discovered numerous rivers he thought were leading to Asia, which encouraged the king to invest more money into exploration travels.
A colony is established

Samuel de Champlain was the next explorer to come to Quebec in 1603 to explore the territory, and he returned in 1608 to officially establish a colony in Québec city. That year, 28 people settled for winter in the “Abitation”, but only 8 people survived. Champlain also explored the St. Lawrence River all the way to Ottawa, as well as the great lakes Huron and Ontario and the north-east coast of the United States. In 1609, at the boarder of Quebec and the United States, he discovered a lake to which he gave his name. In 1612, he gave Île Sainte-Hélène the name of his wife.

Religious communitySeveral years later, in 1634, Laviolette founded Trois-Rivières, thinking that the site would be suitable for fur trading. He was right, since the Saint-Maurice River, located in a north-south axis, would facilitate the trappers’ job, who needed to go up north for hunting. They could then easily take the furs back to Trois-Rivières by the same route. A few years later, the first female religious community settled in Quebec in 1639. The Ursulines founded schools for young girls, to whom they taught during several years.
Paul Chomeney, Sieur de Maisonneuve founded Montréal a few years later, in 1642, with the help of Jeanne Mance, who helped to the colony’s survival. The religious communities played an important role in the establishment of different colonies on the territory. They helped educate new comers and inhabitants, as well as Natives. Some communities founded hospitals to cure the sick.
The great changes

Nouvelle France Plains of AbrahamAbout a century later, the English and the French each had attempted to colonize New-France with the highest number of inhabitants possible. Unfortunately for the French, the English were higher in number. In 1759, a major battle took place on the field that is known today as the Plains of Abraham. The English were well organized and defeated the French, who were less in number and less organized. The French then had to live under the rules of the English, and most of all use their language that most of New-France inhabitants did not understand. Luckily, the Quebec Act was signed in 1774. This law gave Quebec its current territory and, among other things, restored the French civil law in the province.

Throughout the years, the inhabitants lived under the seigniorial regime, and large estates were built. Religion took more and more power in the province, but in the 1960s, the révolution tranquille (quiet revolution) changed great many things. Numerous social, political and economical changes happened in Quebec, which gave birth to today’s culture in Quebec.
Old QuebecToday, Quebec is a united province, but its inhabitants also have a distinctive culture that is different from the rest of Canadians because of their French origins as well as the French language they speak. Quebec has taken an important market share in the world thanks to its large industries and its important commerce with the United States. To visit the province of Quebec means exploring a vast territory and meeting charming people that only wish to show you how proud they are of they have established.


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