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Page 46 - Book Reviews: Louisbourg Portraits

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1982/8/1 (316 reads)

Louisbourg Portraits This book makes excellent reading and should not be missed • both in terms of the detailed informa? tion it provides and the pleasure of the writing itself. It will serve as a good school text as well as adult reading. No one need be put off by the thought that the book is too specialized or ac? ademic, because it is the opposite • it is an in? formed, imaginative presentation maintaining a com? fortable reading style throughout. In "A Note on the Sources," author Christopher Moore writes: "Eighteenth-century France was, for its time, a centralized state, and keeping the cen? tral authority informed demanded paperwork. Colon? ial authorities routinely compiled dossiers on ev? ery aspect of their responsibilities, not only by written reports but also in maps, plans, censuses, and statistical tables. They made copies of every? thing, for their careers might depend on what they wrote. Under royal persuasion, officials outside the administrative hierarchy acquired the same ha? bit: notaries routinely kept copies of the legal agreements they witnessed, priests diligently com? piled their registers of baptisms and marriages and burials, and the law courts preserved verbatim transcripts even of trivial cases. Record-keeping was in the nature of the society.... "At once a rather small community and a fully- fledged royal colony, lie Royale was particularly we;ll-documented. With fewer people in their pur? view, the record-keepers could be more detailed than usual, and with clerks, courts, and notaries close at hand, people availed themselves of the services offered. "Louisbourg ended not in pillage and flames but in orderly capitulation, so its records went into ex? ile with the record-keepers. They eventually found their way to what became the National Archives of France. In the twentieth century the advent of mi? crofilm photography made them easily available in Canada. The result: though most of the people of lie Royale were illiterate, and though there sur? vive very few diaries and almost no personal cor? respondence, most individuals who lived in eight? eenth-century Louisbourg for any length of time can today be named and identified, even (in vary? ing degree of detail) described. "Such sources made Louisbourg Portraits possible. By attending to them I have not had to Invent a single character, episode, or event. Louisbourg Portraits is history: there is no line of dialogue that is not taken from a document, and I have not had to transpose events in time or place. Events described in Louisbourg Portraits happened; the people to whom they occurred existed; and the rec? ords have long been available to scholars. Where I have speculated on motivation or attitude or emo? tion, I have tried to make plain both the specula? tion and the historical evidence that supports it." Good story-telling is always difficult, but it's especially difficult when you have almost too much information. Moore moves nimbly through an amount of information that would have tripped up a lesser person. He uses the stories of his central charac? ters as an opportunity to share with us the con? text of their dally lives, thus fleshing out a gen? eral portrait of life along the quay, in the drink? ing houses, at the fish stages and on the sea, in the warehouses, homes, and barracks. This book is highly recommended. LOUISBOURG PORTRAITS; LIFE IN AN EIGHTEENTH-CEN? TURY GARRISON TOWN by Christopher Moore. Published by MacMlllan of Canada. $19.95. 24-HOUR SERVICE Owiied and Operated by Syl MacDonald Baddeck Ambulance Ltd. 2'-2200 Fully Trained, Experienced Personnel You can get what's needed -- And plenty more -- At George's Laundromat & Store GEORGE'S ENTERPRISES & LAUNDROMAT BADDECK CHICKEN CHALET Soutlets to servelfou- C.B. Shopping Plaza. Sydney Riyar Sydney Shopping MaM, Prtnca St. Blowara St.. North Syonay Starling MaH, QIaea Bay PhimmarAva.. NawWatarford BRIAND'S CAB visit Cape Breton TO • RS 564-6161 see the beautiful aSOT TRAIL 564-6162 (46)
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