By Peter McCambridge
On 07, Mar 2014 | In Literary translator | By Peter McCambridge
The History of Montréal
The History of Montréal
a history book
by Paul-André Linteau
Baraka Books, Montréal, 2013
“Linteau has succeeded in producing a short, punchy, popular history of Montréal.” – Quill & Quire
Montréal is intriguing. For centuries, people have written, talked, and sung about it, enthusiastically, romantically, even sullenly, but never indifferently. Surprisingly, no other recent book in English recounts the history of the largest French-speaking city in the Americas, likely the second largest in the world.
Throughout its long history, one of the key features behind Montreal’s je ne sais quoi has been its French roots. The French of New France became Les Canadiens, then French Canadians, and finally Quebecers over the years, but whatever they have been called, they have always played a crucial role in every stage of the city’s development. They have marked every facet of life in Montreal. They developed an original culture, constantly looking to bridge their French heritage and Quebec culture and the cultures of the many people from all over the world who have come to call Montreal home. They made their city the beating heart of modern Quebec.
For two and a half centuries, the city has also absorbed British and English-Canadian influences, and that interaction with French-speaking Montreal has created a society like no other. The sizable British contingent made a lasting contribution to the city, shaping its economy, institutions, and architecture. Then, the past century saw Jews and Italians—and later groups from all kinds of cultural backgrounds—make contributions of their own.
Another striking feature of Montreal’s history is its Americanness. Though European in origin, the city quickly adapted to the realities of life in North America. From the days of New France, Montrealers demonstrated a continental vision that they have kept ever since. They borrowed and benefited from the culture and technology of those around them—first the Aboriginal peoples, then their American neighbours to the south.
Montreal has therefore been—and continues to be—a welcoming city, a melting pot where diverse cultures feel right at home, a place where people from distant lands and diverse ethnic and social backgrounds settle down and live together. It is a city of dialogue and exchange, where people, ideas, goods, money, and technology circulate freely. Of course, many other cities in North America boast similar features, but something special sets Montreal apart, no doubt due to the French and English worlds it is home to. That’s what makes it such a fascinating city.
You can read more about the book and purchase it from the publisher here.