Angelique And The Burning Of Montreal


Identify Your Topic By Thursday, September 21

Research Your Topic For Our Class History Workshop (Thursday, September 28)

Include Your Mini-Essay In The First-Half Portfolio (Due Tuesday, October 24)



The MissionTo use the 1734 Montreal fire and the subsequent trial of the slave Angelique as an entry point into exploring a particular question or theme associated with the history of New France.

Recommended Length

2-4 pages double-spaced

(30% of the First-Half Portfolio Grade)

The PurposeTo engage you as an active historian and thus to introduce you to the excitement and challenges associated with attempting to discern both truth and meaning from the study of the past.

IntroductionMontreal is in shock.  The date is not September 14, 2006 but rather April 11, 1734.  The night before a fire raged through the city, destroying some 45 houses and the Hotel-Dieu hospital.  Like the fire itself, rumours spread rapidly.  The slave Marie-Josephe dite Angelique, it is said,  is responsible for the disaster.  She soon will be tried, tortured and executed.

This assignment asks you to use the trial of Angelique as a focus for exploring some aspect of eighteenth-century New France.  Typically, a researcher would need to travel to a variety of different public buildings and archives to trace the story of Angelique.  But the designers of the "Torture and Truth" web-site have brought together an impressive series of primary documents that highlight the fire and trial.  Additional source material provides background context for better understanding colonial society, the institution of slavery and the mechanisms of the French criminal justice system.  You will be reading the  immersing yourself in these documents.

The ProcedureThe amount of material on the web-site may seem overwhelming.  The expectation, however, is not that you read all the sources provided but that you substantially dip into the on-line archive.  To do so effectively, it is important both to understand how the web-site is organized and to identify your topic relatively early into this exercise.

There are six main sections to the web-site: "Home," "The Burning Of Montreal," "Context," "Trial," "Aftermath" and "Archive."  The "Home" section provides an overview of the web-site.  "The Burning Of Montreal" offers information and documents about the fire.  "Context" situates the events of 1734 within a broader framework.  "Trial" includes the court records of Angelique's case.  "Aftermath" discusses the follow-up to the case and the ways in which its historical meaning has been framed in the centuries after 1734.  The "Archive" indexes all the primary documents, texts and images available on the web-site, though access to these materials is also available in a more organized form in the other pages on the site.

A good starting point for understanding the layout of the web-site can be found on the How To Use This Site page.

I would recommend the following strategy for completing this assignment:

1)  Do some preliminary browsing in .  Familiarize yourself with the site and attempt to identify what most interests you.

2)  Pick a topic.  This should be done by Thursday, September 21 (I will distribute a topic sheet on this day).

3)  Research your topic before the Thursday, September 28 class workshop.  Print off relevant material; highlight significant passages; and take some notes, jotting down both facts and your own thoughts as you proceed.

4)  Write up your mini-essay soon after the class workshop.  You should demonstrate that you have read extensively in the archive.  Your paper should include interesting quotations drawn from the source material, and should use historical detail to enrich your own analysis and interpretation.    

Some Possible TopicsListed below are some possible topics for your mini-essay.  Some are listed as questions while other are identified by theme.  Pick one of the suggested topics or choose one of your own design.  Then use the "Torture and Truth" web-site as your basic resource for writing a short paper on your topic.