Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shattered Obsidian: A Historiography of the Conquest of Mexico by Tristan Johnson

The conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards to this day reigns as the example of the true beginning of the colonization of the Americas. For the centuries since these fateful few months, authors have tried to document what exactly took place in 1519. The cruelty and brutality became to some an example of the horrors Europe had imposed on colonized people; to many others a heroic tale of the superior Spanish conquest over the misguided childlike natives. To explore the historiography of this event we have to cover nearly 500 years of writing beginning with the body of works by Bartholomé de Las Casas and the many years of debate over the legitimacy his interpretations. We then move to the changes of this interpretation as authors began to try and justify the conquest by the Spanish. And eventually we find in the wake of World War Two and the explosion of cultural and social history a complete revisioning of the study of the conquest looking at angles previously unexplored and growing the field exponentially. Lastly, we look at modern research and the exploration of what caused a mere 600 Spaniards to conquer a nation of millions with such ease.

In April of 1519, Hernan Cortes landed at the spot of what would today come to be called the city of Vera Cruz. Within a matter of days the ambassadors of Moctezoma kept a line of communication between the Spaniards and the throne of Tenochtitlan. Their arrival and their lack of a city of origin made them an extreme disruption to the tributary empire that the Aztecs built. Cortes’s arrival had begun from the months at Vera Cruz to the march on Tenochtitlan to break down the social order of the Aztec empire. By the time the Spanish arrived in Tenochtitlan in November, they had already forged their alliance with the Tlaxcalan's, long time enemies of the Aztecs. Moctezoma then exchanged gifts with the Spaniards, likely as a way to show off his power. Cortes upon receiving these gifts interpreted it as a sign of submission to the king of Spain. Cortes’s strategy began to shift once he received two large disks made of gold and silver. Once they arrived in Tenochtitlan, Moctezoma gifted them with gold and rare feathers; at this point the Aztecs had documented “they lusted for it [the gold] like pigs”. The Spaniards also came clothed in iron, a mysterious practice to the Aztecs. When they saw the Spaniards’ horses they likened them to large angry dogs. The Mexican natives gave a respect and admiration for the courage of horses they never extended to their masters. As conflict broke between them, the Aztecs learned the Spanish did not fight fairly, attacking unarmed and sleeping men or mutilating emissaries. The Mexicans found that the Spaniards did not follow their proper idea of warfare. The Spaniards would kill from a distance with the use of crossbows and canon artillery, or retreated from battle. They employed methods of starvation and attacked soldier and civilian alike. The Spaniards eventually captured Moctezoma and held him hostage. Cortes upon returning from a conflict with other Spanish forces returned to an incident in which several Spaniards had slaughtered unarmed Aztecs dancing in a sacred ceremony. The Spaniards were driven from the city; many were killed in an event the Spaniards came to call the ‘Noche Triste’. In the uprising that caused this evacuation, Moctezoma was killed. Believing the Spanish defeated, the new rulers felt safe until smallpox ravaged the great city, the Aztecs having no experience with plague or diseases on this scale. Within a year the Spanish returned to Tenochtitlan with their new allies and after a four month siege, the city of Tenochtitlan had fallen. With this came the fall of Mexico to the Spanish conquistadores.[1] This of course is one of the most modern interpretations however of the conquest, and it comes after many debates over the centuries.

The first written popular historical account of the conquest of Mexico was by the Dominican friar Bartholomé de Las Casas. Much of the historiography of the conquest relies on his works and the verdict on Las Casas himself. In 1542 (published in 1552) he released his first historical account of the Latin American conquest called A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies.[2] The documentation of the conquest of Mexico as well as other areas of Latin America was written less as an objective amoral approach to record the events of the conquest, but read as a plea on behalf of the natives of the West Indies.

Despite returning to Spain, Las Casas remained an advocate for the rights of the natives of Latin America. One of the actions Las Casas is most famous for is his debate with Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda where he defended the natives against the accusations of barbarism and a natural inclination to servitude. This debate resulted in the publishing of the book The Second Democrates, or reasons that justify war against the Indians. This publication resulted to be the final verdict of the public policy towards the natives and made the established history that the natives of Latin America were naturally inclined towards slavery and that the conquest was justified. It set the president on the case of ethnocentricity and racist interpretation of Aristotle’s ideas on politics.[3] Las Casas published a work attacking these premises in a book called Apologética historia sumaria (A Brief Apologetic History). He continued to write in defense of the natives until his death in 1566.[4] His depiction of the conquest of Mexico shaped the next four centuries of Historiography on the subject.

Las Casas’s depiction of the conquest of the new world and the conquest of New Spain in particular is called today the ‘black legend’.[5] In his work An Account, Much Abbreviated, of the Destruction of the Indies he begins his section on the conquest of New Spain with the moral plea right away. His first sentence on the Conquest of Mexico is “In the year 1517 New Spain was discovered, and in that discovery great atrocities were wrought upon the Indians and not a few deaths committed by those who did discover it.” He framed the actions of the Spaniards towards the natives as evidence of a loss of the Christian way of life and without any dignity. He depicted the cities and kingdoms of the Natives around Mexico City as just as rich and fertile as the kingdoms of Spain. He then documented what were the first popular record of the conquest and the story of Moctezoma and Cortes.[6] Strangely, Las Casas does not mention very specific things that are considered today essential parts of the conquest of Mexico. He did not refer to Cortes by name, he ignored the allegiance with the Tlaxcala people, he did not mention La Malinche and he did not reference anything about the culture of the Aztecs. In essence the purpose of the writings of Las Casas seems geared towards creating a stereotype of the Conquistador and emphasizing their brutality while leaving the natives as a pure, noble people. There were large omissions on the allegiances made and in the end remains woefully incomplete. Many questions such as how the Spaniards managed to defeat the Aztec empire are not even asked.

This black legend was propagated quickly through Europe, thanks largely to the printing press. By the end of the 16th century the account had been translated many times and spread across Europe. Protestant nations in Europe took this account as a justification for their settlement in the Americas and to demonize the Catholics.[7] The widespread impact of this work generated centuries of debate over the lifelong works of Las Casas. The majority of historical writings on the Conquest of Mexico from the time of Las Casas until the mid-19th century were based on his writings.

The renaissance saw little change in the historiography of the conquest of Mexico. For nearly two centuries the record was more or less still that of Las Casas. This began to shift with the romantic period of the mid-19th century. This new approach to the history of the conquest took up a notably pro-Spanish slant that persisted until the mid-20th century. This time period is called the ‘white legend’ and primarily existed amongst English Historians.

This change in perspectives is exemplified in several historians one such example is William H. Prescott. In his work Conquest of Mexico, there is an addition of much more detail such as the Tlaxcalan’s and Cortes’s ability to translate via Malinche. At the time of his publication in 1843 there was little in the way of scholarly writings on the conquest of Mexico and therefore his works added much needed details to the narrative of the time.[8] Though it is very present in his works, especially in his Monumental History of the Conquest of Peru he shows a significant pro-Spanish bias. In the Conquest of Mexico he downplays much of the violence of the Spaniards and while using the at the time relevant idea of historicism, he still implies that the conquest was justified by the bringing of European civilization to the new world.

Another Historian while he did not focus on Mexican history but became an example of this movement was the Historian Francis Parkman. His works on the conquest of North America is another example like Prescott of an apologist history of the European colonization of the new world. Parkman, like Prescott had the idea of a superior Christian society righteously conquering the pagans of the Americas. Though natives in Parkman’s works were romanticized and made into heroes, they were always portrayed as hopelessly in combat against the growing superior white civilization in their land.[9] The history of this time downplayed the cruelties and created a more romantic view of imperialism by the Spanish. Though there is still evidence of an anti-Catholic slant in these works, there is still the strong influence of the popular Social Darwinism of the time regarding the Spanish and the natives. Las Casas in this time was marginalized as a misguided, naïve writer who exaggerated the negative aspects of the Spanish conquest.

As the 20th century began these positions got more extreme. As historicism began to become an antiquated position and relativism took a dominant role, there began to be even stronger and surprisingly more confident approaches to the Spanish conquest. One such author who is known for his outright defenses of Spanish cruelties is Arthur S. Aiton. In his paper Real Hacienda in New Spain Under the First Viceroy Aiton defends some of the most brutal acts of the Spanish Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza. These actions included during the Mixton war using cruel forms of punishment such as firing natives out of cannons.[10] Aiton describes the actions as a necessary means to punish the natives by using fear. Aiton is an example of the White Legend as it moved into the relativist period and reflecting the tone of some academics in the interwar period. Bailey W. Diffie and Lewis Hanke did not dismiss the writings of Las Casas, but even used them as examples of Spanish benevolence to further the white legend. Diffie and Hanke and the revision of the White Legend were considered the last stage of this period. Though this was still an example of apologetic writing on behalf of Spanish imperialism,[11] the perspective would come to change by the end of the Second World War, reinventing the entire perspective of Las Casas and expanding the field exponentially.

Las Casas was ‘redeemed’ after the Second World War by authors Juan Friede and Benjamin Keen when they published the book Bartolomé de las Casas in History: Toward an Understanding of the Man and His Work. Published in 1971, this is considered the grand piece that reanalyzes the works of Las Casas and in the introduction of the book states that the reputation of Las Casas has never been higher.[12] It is an example of a Historical figure being lionized by the changes in outlooks of people over time. This change is likely brought on by the changing attitudes towards racism and colonization that exemplifies the post-World War II era. After this point, while Las Casas has been placed in his historical context and his role in other fields like political science and theology are still discussed, he is rarely used as a primary source for the conquest of Mexico.

In this post-World War Two age there was also a growing interest in social history. Approaching the conquest this meant a renewed interest in native perspectives. One such example is the works of Charles Gibson. Over his time as a Historian he published many works on Latin American history with a perspective of the natives kept close at hand. On the conquest of Mexico he published the book The Aztecs Under Spanish Rule where he describes in detail the cruelties and violence done towards the natives of Mexico in the conquest. His perspective also took into account the survival methods of the natives of Mexico and how they learned to cope with Spanish rule.[13] Works like this continue even today with a notable Modern example being the work of James Lockhart such as The Nahuas After the Conquest. In The Nahuas After the Conquest Lockhart even refers several times to the works of Charles Gibson as he crafted a history of the conquest and post-conquest world using solely Nahuatl sources.[14] This combined with the explosion of discoveries of Aztec artifacts in the latter half of the 20th century has led to an increased interest in Aztec culture. Differentiation in cultures in the historical narrative by Historians in this time became more detailed and the natives were no longer referred to as ‘Indians’ but cultural groups such as the Maya, the Apache, and the Nahuas.

This leads to the modern point in which there appears to be a division in the narratives that Historians choose to follow today. The focus seems to be on either the writings of native resistance and adaptation to conquest; an angle that requires close analysis of Nahuatl sources and the growing archaeological evidence that compared to other cultures has been unearthed fairly recently. There is another angle that chooses to focus on the destruction of the natives which by nature requires more analysis of European sources and on the colonial system the Europeans built in the new world. Most recently this field has started to question why the conquest of Mexico happened so easily, analyzing the politics of Cortes and the spreading of disease as well as the differences in technologies. Some Historians chose to shift from finding the details of the conquest and through analysis find out why exactly the Spanish had such a remarkable advantage over the Mexicans.

For most of the historiography of the conquest there was next to no literature on the reasons the Spanish defeated the Aztec empire with such ease. For most, the explanation given by Cortes in his letters on the alliance with the Tlaxcalans seemed sufficient. Though in recent times, there has been more broad looking attempts to find out why places like Mexico found themselves so technologically behind and so prone to conquest by the Europeans. The most recent efforts to uncover the underlying reasons for the conquest of Mexico is best summarized by the author Jared Diamond when he published his book Guns, Germs, and Steel in 1997. By the title it is not surprising his determination for the reasons the Mexicans fell so easily to the Spanish came down to the inventions of gunpowder and steel as well as European diseases. What Diamond set out to do with his book was to determine why Human civilizations technologically progressed at different rates.[15] His main argument is that the technological dominance of Eurasians has not to do with ingenuity but a natural luck and opportunity passed on geography. In essence, a series of preconditions helped the Eurasian people to progress as they did. He argued that the development of agriculture and sedentary societies is the first major step towards an advanced civilization and that Eurasia with the animals and plants available was the best suited to have powerful agricultural potential. Eurasia also had access to useful protein-rich animals as well as beasts of burden to increase the potential work force of their civilization like the donkey or the horse. He contrasted this with the available fauna of Mesoamerica which had nothing in the way of beasts of burden larger than a dog and the only rich food crop maize took much longer to selectively breed into the useful crop it is today.[16] He made a large argument over the domestication of the large animals, and how the sheer size of Eurasia allowed for the greatest chance to have the most docile large animals in the world. While South America only had two and the rest of the world had none. He argued that proximity to these animals crossed over many different diseases making Eurasians the most exposed to disease while in areas like Mexico lack of closeness between animals and Humans meant that very few diseases took root.[17] Some major criticisms of this book include accusations of an environmental determinist outlook and have been called a euro centrist historian for his giving credit to Europeans for Asian and Middle-Eastern inventions.[18]

The question of why the Mexicans were conquered with such ease by the Spaniards is now debated between many factors. While the field has branched out and learned a considerable amount in just the last half of the 20th century, there are still many questions left to answer. The importance of each of the major factors like disease, technology, and strategic alliances are still not fully determined and other established ideas like the mistaking of the Spanish for Quetzalcoatl are being called into question as post-hoc rationalizations.[19] Along with the growing wealth of archaeological evidence still being dug up around modern day Mexico City, the mysteries about the conquest of Mexico are still yet to be solved.

Works Cited

Aiton, Arthur S. "Real Hacienda in New Spain under the First Viceroy." The Hispanic American Historical Review 6, no. 4 (1926): 232-245.

Blaut, James M. "Environmentalism and Eurocentrism." American Geographical Society 89, no. 3 (1999): 391-408.

Carrasco, David. Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire: Myths and Prophecies in the Aztec Tradition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Clendinnen, Inga. Aztecs: an interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1997.

Friede, Juan. Keen, Benjamin. BartolomÈ de las Casas in History: Toward an Understanding of the Man and His Work. Chicago: Northern Illinois University Press, 1971.

Gibson, Charles. The Aztecs under Spanish rule: a history of the Indians of the Valley of Mexico. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964.

Las Casas, Bartolome. An Account, Much Abbreviated, of the Destruction of the Indies. Franklin W. Knight, Andrew Hurley trans. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2003.

Lockhart, James. The Nahuas After the Conquest: A Social and Cultural History of the Indians of Central Mexico, Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992.

McDonnell, Michael A., Moses, A. Dirk. "Raphael Lemkin as historian of genocide in the Americas." Journal of Genocide Research 7, no. 4 (2005): 501-529.

Parkman, Francis. Pioneers of France in the New World. 25 ed.

Prescott, William H. The Conquest of Mexico. New York: The Book League of America, 1934.

University of Pennsylvania. "Cultural Readings: Colonization & Print in the Americas." February 3, 2003.http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/rbm/kislak/viewers/black.html (accessed March 19, 2011).

[1] Clendinnen, p. 267 - 273

[2] Knight, p. xxix - xxx

[3] Ibid, p. xxxi - xxxiii

[4] Ibid, p. xxxiii

[5] University of Pennsylvania

[6] Las Casas, p. 28 - 38

[7] University of Pennsylvania

[8] Prescott

[9] Parkman

[10] Aiton, p. 235

[11] McDonnell, Moses, p. 517

[12] Friede, Keen, p. i-xx

[13] Gibson

[14] Lockhart

[15] Diamond, p. 13 - 32

[16] Ibid, p. 85-92

[17] Ibid, p. 193, 194

[18] Blaut, p. 392 - 403

[19] Carrasco, p. 148 - 175

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

La Quête pour la Souveraineté: Québec’s Nationalist Movement by: Tristan Johnson

Since the 1960’s, the Québec nationalist movement has been a major movement, heavily discussed by both Québec and the rest of Canada. The movement has shaped Canadian politics from constitutional reform to the very unity of Canada itself. The movement declares Québec as a nation, a group of people unified by a common history and culture. Their goal is to preserve the customs and language of the French speakers of Québec as well as increase their living standards and economic standing through means ranging from protest to forming their own political parties. For the sake of understanding this movement, there are some key questions to ask. Where did the movement come from? After forming, what directions did it take to become such a powerful movement? And with the 1995 close referendum on separation failing, is that movement now finished?

While some sources claim that the idea of Québec nationalism date as far back as the 1920’s,[1] or even pre-confederation;[2] many see the beginnings of the Québec nationalist movement most familiar today with the Quiet Revolution of the 1960’s.[3] The Quiet Revolution was a time period of the 1960’s and 70’s where the province of Québec went through severe economic changes, reduction of the church’s power, and social reformation within the French speaking population.[4] This was brought about by the competition between two reformative groups of Neo-nationalists and Liberals who had gained popularity after the Second World War.[5] The neo-nationalist movement sought to eliminate the old church-based nationalism of the past and enter a new focus on language rights and political autonomy. They no longer perceived their culture as sticking to traditions, but instead open to new innovations and shared political ambitions.[6] Around 1960, inspired by the decolonization happening in Asia and Africa at the time, the federalist pro-independence oriented Québec nationalists began to grow in number.[7] But how did this neo-nationalist idea evolve?

During the great depression of the 1930’s, the inequality between French and English speaking Québecers became much more obvious and after the Second World War, the French-Canadian youth began to criticize the way Québec managed itself in terms of education, politics, and economics. This criticism and discussion surrounding it is today considered the first Quiet Revolution. The old nationalism, the striving for a “refrenchification” of Québec had many currents of anti-Semitism and a mission for the “French-Canadian race” had become unpopular by the end of the Second World War and nationalists at the time sought a new movement to address the concerns of their inequalities.[8] In the 1950’s the young nationalists and working class nationalists began to become sceptical of the traditionalist leadership of their movement. Criticism of the church dominance of the movement became more and more commonplace. The traditionalists were also criticized for not really acknowledging the rapid urbanization of the 1950’s and ignoring industrialization. Urban industrial working nationalists began to also turn on the traditional nationalists due to this. The traditional movement also focused heavily on justifying their nationalism from a historical perspective and a juridical perspective. This however was not shared by the majority of nationalists at this time, mostly concerned with Canadian policies of language and educational rights. By this time the traditional nationalist movements of the first half of the century were considered outdated and in need of new leadership. In retort, traditional nationalists such as André Laurendeau argued that the movement was not political in nature. At this point the neo-nationalists led by Laurendau sought to abandon the outlook of their traditional past as well as disconnect French-Canadian nationalism from the Catholic Church.[9] “It was the full acceptance of an increasingly secular, democratic, and open society that forced neo-nationalists to redefine nationalism as an ideology of socioeconomic change and of individual and collective liberation for the French-Canadian people.”[10]

In the 1960’s the topic of language became the dominant discussion of the day. Fearing assimilation, the question of language divided Québec between the positions of a bilingual Québec versus a French Québec.[11] Confrontation broke out between a shrinking French-Canadian population and a growing immigrant population that chose English integration for the education of their children. Threatened that French might become a minority language in Québec, the nationalists pushed for change and eventually passed Bill 63 which offered choice of language classes, but incentivising French language schooling. Considered not enough by the nationalists, the pressure continued and eventually the incumbent Bertrand did fall in 1970 and the new Premier Robert Bourassa who promised a need for French to be the common language of Québec. He passed Bill 22 in 1974 declaring French as the official language of Québec and sought to keep it the primary language in the workplace. Only students with the ability to pass an English test would be able to get an English education, while any others had to enter into French schools.[12]

While the question of the formation of the Québec nationalist movement actually dates back to before confederation, the nationalist movement of this half of the century has its roots in the time of the Québec Quiet Revolution. Great changes in social policy pressured a new nationalist movement no longer reliant on the church for guidance and instead became more of a political force, dedicated to increasing the economic and political condition of Francophone Québécois. So in the early 1960’s the movement evolved and in its first few years managed to pass some language based legislation and really improve the lives of the Québec Francophones. Language education becoming defaulted to French for immigrants who could not speak English was also a victory for preserving French as the first language of the province. These early successes for the movement allowed for the movement to grow and diversify, the nationalists began to branch off in different directions and result in major events in the evolution of the nationalist movement in the 1970’s. Anger over Bill 22 would radicalize parts of the movement and eventually lead to the election of the Parti Québécois and the 1980 referendum.

The Evolution of the Québec nationalist movement after its formative years in the 1960’s was an interesting combination of division and some radicalization. Major changed affected the movement leading up to the referendum of 1980. The 1970’s began with the flames of radicalization. The Front de libération du Québec or the FLQ had existed since the 1960’s with a series of bombings centered on the Montréal area. The group claimed that it was a revolutionary force willing to die for the independence of Québec.[13] In 1963, the first victim of the FLQ had been killed by a time bomb. As more victims either died or became crippled by the random FLQ bombings, the group took a stance of blaming the occupying forces and in the case of Sergeant Walter Leja, the FLQ said that the patriotic public should be fine with the death of a member of the enemy.[14] By 1970, the bombings had caused five deaths and four injuries.[15] The FLQ had been modeled off of the Belgian resistance of World War II and the Algerian National Liberation Front. A man named Georges Schoeters led the front and is considered the “father” of the FLQ.[16]

The climax of the FLQ’s actions in the October crisis of 1970 had taken authorities by surprise when British diplomat James Cross was kidnapped and attempted to be used for blackmail purposes.[17] In the middle of negotiations when the FLQ began to be giving the signs of giving in to negotiations, they kidnapped Pierre LaPorte who would later be found murdered in the trunk of a car.[18] The actions were denounced by most nationalists and this isolated group did not at all represent nationalism in the 1970’s. It was a sign that the movement was diversifying as it grew into different directions with different challenges.

A large part of the nationalist movement from the Quiet Revolution all the way to the referendum of 1980 was a challenge of trying to find a cohesive message and identity. One idea prevalent for most of the 1960’s included the idea of Québec nationalism as maximizing the independence Québec could have under the confederation of the British North America Act. During the time period, Québec had gotten many powers associated more with an independent nation-state than a province. In the 1970’s the idea of true independence began to spread throughout the movement. These ideas clashed within the PQ and when the party won a majority government in 1976 there was a degree of anxiety from the massive changes Québec had been through during the previous decades with the Quiet Revolution.[19] Founded in 1968, the PQ formed as the product of a merger of the Ralliement National and the Mouvement Souveraineté-Association. The idea of sovereignty-association became very popular among nationalists as it seemed rather ambiguous and nationalists of various opinions could feel it satisfied their goal. The PQ was also aided by the leadership of the very popular René Lévesque who led the PQ to their 1976 victory. The Party was also very popular amongst the young baby boom generation of the 1970’s. The PQ had managed to mix several factions of separatists including those against separation with the more activist members seeking either separation or sovereignty-association.[20]

The election of the PQ had been the first time a sovereignty party had been elected to become the government of Québec. It was then the proposal of sovereignty-association was put forward to Canada. It would allow Québec to have its own laws, taxes, and international relations and yet a common economic association with Canada complete with currency. The question had to be given to the people of Québec via referendum. The referendum had been called and was set for the date of May 20th, 1980. It led to one of the most heated battles of public opinion in Canadian history particularly between the PQ leader Levesque advocating for the yes position while opposing him the provincial Liberal leader Claude Ryan. Ryan had received much funding to run his campaign to keep the referendum from being passed. They appealed to Canadian solidarity and the risks of sovereignty. The federalists promised a new federal position and reform for Québec. On Election Day, the voter turnout of 85% voted no on sovereignty-association with 59.6% of the vote. Though, when breaking down the voting demographics the votes turned out to be turned by the voting power of Anglophones and ethnic minorities who all had voted resoundingly against sovereignty, while the Francophone vote was a no vote, but much closer in margins. Though winning a decisive victory again in 1981, the Levesque government quickly ran into trouble and popularity fell. The recession of 1981 forced the PQ to cut several programs and put the government at odds with unions and workers. After the failure of the PQ to gain victories during the drafting of the constitution and the resigning of Levesque; the Liberals eventually pushed the PQ out of power in the 1985 election.[21]

After the formative years of the 1960’s, the nationalist movement began to grow and evolve in different ways as it freed itself from the leadership of the church. The increasing political nature of the movement led to a much more public realm nationalism that spans from political power like the election of the PQ to majority, and the radicalization of members such as those involved with the FLQ. The movement was growing and with it its aspirations; the PQ once elected had moved towards the first referendum in 1980 on sovereignty-association. Though the referendum was defeated, this did give a sort of ultimatum to Ottawa and meant that the nationalist’s grievances would need to be looked at in a much more serious light.

The return to power of the PQ did not happen again until the 1990’s and by 1994 the plans were in motion for another referendum. The decision to push another referendum had been inspired by the failure to pass constitutional reform via the Charlottetown Accord.[22] Though the polls did not show a favour to the separatist cause, the leadership was handed to the political trusted by many Lucien Bouchard. The campaigning really began for the proposed referendum in September of 1994, at first the federalist side held a solid lead on the public opinion polls yet this was not for long. The yes campaign focused on things such as the politics of identity, the inflexibility of the federation and addressed issues of economic damage from separation. One of the early strategies of the PQ included asking the government of France for recognition after the referendum which actually played a role in the French presidential election. Another preparation involved securing Québec a place in NAFTA. During the campaign, Bouchard had contracted a normally fatal illness and when the news announced that he would recover, there was a huge pouring of sympathy to the nationalist cause.[23] By August of 1995, the opinion more or less tied on the question of separation. While the Federalists campaigned on the same ideals, hoping the undecided voters would vote for the status quo when cornered. The separatist side attempted to polarize the people of Québec and by September neither side had really achieved their goals.[24] The campaigns continued to stay neck and neck with the side coming out on top changing on a nearly daily basis until election day when by the tiny margin of 49.4% yes and 50.6% no.[25] The close margin of the referendum made some think that separation was inevitable and that it would provoke another referendum before too long. The small victory was likely caused by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s promise of constitutional reform if Québec would stay in the nation and it won the tiny victory,[26] but was this just delaying the inevitable?

News reports in the weeks after the referendum spoke of the result showing that Québec’s separation would be inevitable. Again as with the 1980 referendum French speakers came out with much more support for separation than Anglophone and Allophone Canadians[27] and the demographic research turned out to be quite depressing for federalists across the country:

The elderly are disproportionately federalists. They are dying;

Youth votes are disproportionately separatist. They continue to join the electorate;

The youth who supported "yes" in the 1980 referendum appear to have supported "yes" in the same percentages in 1995. They did not become more "conservative" (i.e., federalist) over time;

Immigrants strongly support federalism, but immigration is declining; and

Federalists continue to leave Québec. If the roughly 200,000 Anglo-phones who have left Québec since the mid-1970s had remained, the 1995 "no" margin would have been much stronger.[28]

The prospects seemed quite sure that it would be a matter of time before Québec got itself a new seat in the UN and went on its own merry way. Yet, this has not happened yet, in fact the movement has been losing steam. For example, in the 2007 Québec elections twelve years after the referendum the PQ holding third place in number of seats in Québec’s provincial parliament.[29] A poll of Québecers on the topic of sovereignty in 2009 showed that 74% of Québecers do not believe separation would happen. The poll also showed that 54% of those polled clearly stood in favour of staying in Canada while 34% were clearly in favour of sovereignty.[30] The movement has indeed cooled off. The movement however seems to not be dead as some might claim; the fact that the nationalist party of Québec still holds 28.32% of the popular vote and the poll from 2009 shows that most respondents claimed they still felt unhappy with the current Canadian constitutional status shows definite signs that the movement is likely just dormant and a large enough event or leadership that threatens Québec enough could bring the topic of referendum back into the news again.

Stéphane Dion had compiled a bunch of predictions from the think tanks and academics from around the world to try and put a hypothetical outcome had that vote turned into a victory for the separatists. The outcome was largely fit into two major camps called by Dion “impossiblists” and “inevitablists”. Both thoughts predicted a major economic crisis for Québec and Canada as foreign investment and the process of transition would cause the dollar to drop rapidly. They both also predicted that the result of the yes vote would likely be extremely contested and issues over the rights of the Federalist minority and the position of natives would cause territorial disputes and Québec would likely not have the same borders the province has today. The only major difference being that the impossiblists predicted that these hardships would cause Québec to eventually decide against leaving the nation or at the very least call another referendum while the inevitablists predicted that the two nations would try to quickly settle the issues with separation to prevent a crippling economic crisis in both nations.[31]

The nationalist movement made a huge breakthrough since the early days of separating from the church to become a movement of political and social change for Québec. The formation began in the 1950’s and 60’s with the great increase in social programs and the decline of the church’s role in Québec society. The movement quickly flourished, increasing the economic condition and standard of living for Francophone Canadians. The language of Québec remained as primarily French. As the movement grew, it moved into larger areas be it the radical elements like the FLQ or the political ambitions of the PQ as it became elected to form Québec government. The movement resurfaced again in the 1990’s in response to failed constitution reform in the form of not just a sovereignty-association, but a separation referendum that by a mere 54,000 votes were able to stop Québec from leaving confederation entirely. Was this defeat the end of nationalism? Likely not, but it would take a major event or a long period of bad events to bring the sleeping beast back to life today.

Works Cited:

Behiels, Michael D. Prelude to Québec's Quiet Revolution: Liberalism versus Neo-Nationalism, 1945 - 1960. Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1985.

CBC, "Québec Votes 2007." CBC News. http://www.cbc.ca/Québecvotes2007/ (accessed November 10, 2010).

Clift, Dominique. Québec Nationalism in Crisis. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1980

Durocher, Linteau, Ricard, Robert, Québec since 1930. Robert Chodos and Ellen Garmaise, trans. Toronto: James Lorimer & Company, Publishers, 1991.

Québec: State and Society. Alain G. Gagnon. Toronto: Methuen Publications, 1984.

Jones, David T. "An independent Québec: Looking into the abyss." Washington Quarterly 20, no. 2 (1997): 21-37.

Laponce, J. A. "The Québec Sovereignty Referendum of 1995: how not to manage a multinational polity." Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies 26, no. 1 (1999): 103-120.

Morf, Gustave. Terror in Québec: Case Studies of the FLQ. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company Limited, 1971.

Pelletier, Gerard. The October Crisis. Joyce Marshall trans. Toronto: McClelland and Steward Limited, 1971.

Québec Media Inc., "Separation unlikely: Québec poll." Edmonton Sun. June 10, 2009. http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/canada/2009/06/10/9746701-sun.html (accessed November 7, 2010).

Trofimenkoff, Susan M. Action Francaise: French-Canadian Nationalism in the Twenties. Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1975.

Young, Robert A. The Secession of Québec and the Future of Canada. Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1998.

[1] Trofimenkoff, p.3

[2] Gagnon, p. 2

[3] Ibid, p. 3

[4] Linteau, Durocher, Robert, Ricard, p. 307 - 316

[5] Behiels, p. 271

[6] Lintear, Durocher, Robert, Ricard, p. 499

[7] Ibid, p. 500

[8] Behiels, p. 20, 21

[9] Behiels, p. 46 - 48

[10] Ibid p. 59

[11] Linteau, Derocher, Robert, Ricard, p. 436

[12] Ibid, p. 442 - 444

[13] Morf, p. 2 - 5

[14] Ibid, p. 8 - 10

[15] Pelletier, p. 79

[16] Morf p. 20

[17] Pelletier, p. 87

[18] Ibid, p. 93 - 101

[19] Clift, p. 86 - 88

[20] Linteau, Durocher, Robert, Ricard p. 524, 525

[21] Linteau, Durocher, Robert, Ricard, p. 536 - 539

[22] Jones

[23] Young, p. 265 - 267

[24] Ibid, p. 280

[25] Ibid, p. 265

[26] Ibid, p. 311

[27] Jones

[28] Ibid

[29] CBC

[30] Quebec Media Inc.

[31] Young, p. 312 - 319